The One Strategy That Helped My Picky Eater (Sort Of)

The One Strategy That Helped My Picky Eater (Sort Of)

Last night, my son ate (and loved, might I add) the meatloaf I made. I secretly baked in minced carrots and onions, so with bated breath, I casually watched him devour the meal without so much as a fuss or acknowledgment of the tiny specs of orange that would usually send him into a maniacal dinner table meltdown. 

I had won the dinner duel in a rare triumph as the underdog. 

As the burden of “what’s for dinner this week” melted away, I sighed with relief and secretly patted myself on the back.

But the next night, he hated the meatloaf and refused to eat it. 

And so here we were. He had taken back his dinner table crown, leaving me with nothing but crumbs. 

Dealing with a picky eater is my biggest frustration as a mom. I have never been picky when it comes to eating. I understand that people, especially children, have a sensory or texture aversion to certain foods, but I can’t wrap my head around it. 

The One Strategy That Helped My Picky Eater (Sort Of)

My daughter is much more adventurous. She’ll at least try new foods. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her mind-boggling distastes – I mean, what kid doesn’t like fruit?!

I have tried all the picky eating tricks. Make something differently to see if they like it one of those ways. Make it 21 times before they decide whether they actually like it or not. Put dessert on the dinner plate. Don’t make a big deal about eating or not eating. I have even tried to understand the root cause of this particular pickiness – perhaps it’s his nighttime mouth breathing, a deficiency in certain essential minerals and vitamins, or the utensils were just too big for him. 

I have tried the whole gambit, and quite frankly, I give in sometimes – serving air fryer chicken nuggets and cheesy noodles, nary a veggie in sight. I feel guilty but am exhausted and can’t think of another way to cook broccoli. At this point, I don’t even want to eat another floret, no matter how much it’s covered and smothered in butter and cheese. 

There has been one shining light in the dreaded dinner debacle.

Of all the things I have tried to get my son to eat, there has been one thing that I immediately noticed that made a difference. A few months ago, at my wit’s end and desperate enough to buy a picky eating online course, I learned to sit at the table together during meals. Not that I didn’t know this before, but I admit I wasn’t practicing it. My kids ate at 4:30. My husband doesn’t get home until 6:30. So, it never occurred to me to sit down and eat the early bird special with my kids. Instead, they sat at the island while I hustled and bustled in the kitchen, hovering over them, barking orders to eat or else (or else what, really?), and ultimately caving into making a whole separate dinner for the picky one.

The very first time I sat down with my two kids at the actual kitchen table and ate the same meal I had made for them, there was no whining. There were no yelling matches about what was on their plates, what mounds of food were touching, and that, God forbid, a green food had made its way near the protein. 

The One Strategy That Helped My Picky Eater (Sort Of)

We talked about their day at school and played our new favorite dinner game, “Would you Rather.” My son tried everything on his plate (even if he only licked the veggie). He didn’t eat it all, not even close. But when there are no food tantrums during supper time, that is a win in my book!

Of course, I still deal with a picky eater most nights out of the week, but just sitting down at the dinner table as a family on their level has helped ease the tension. It is less stressful when they ultimately don’t end up eating a meal I am so sure they will love.

It also leads to conversations that can only happen when everyone is seated together at the dinner table, conversations that I will cherish and remember long after the picky eating phase has passed. 

Alexis Marino
Alexis and her husband moved to Lafayette in 2019 when she was 5 months pregnant with their first child. Now, they live in Broussard with their 4-year-old son, Cam, and 2-year-old daughter, Marlo. Having grown up in New Orleans and living in Baton Rouge for over a decade, Alexis is happiest on this side of the Basin. Alexis loves all things Acadiana - from the never-ending events and festivals to the vibrant culture. She is the content specialist for a local startup and a contributing writer for Acadiana Lifestyle Magazine. When she isn't interviewing locals or brainstorming her next article, Alexis is most likely reading about nutrition and healthy living, having a dance (or paint) party with her kids, or sending her husband links to vacant lots (probably out of their budget) to build her dream home. Follow Alexis on Instagram.


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