Bella a bright eyed nine year old recently scoffed when her mother suggested a new pair of leather flats. “But mom,” she bemoaned, “I am a vegan, I don’t wear shoes made of animal hide.”
Trina, Bella’s mom, felt a deep pang of anxiety in her stomach. She wasn’t sure what was more surprising, the fact that her daughter actually seemed to know what a vegan is, or that her daughter, already a picky eater, was about to open a new chapter in “how to make dinner time difficult.”
Parenting a picky or particular eater can cause a parent much distress. What do you do when your daughter announces she will no longer eat meat and the rest of the family is real meat and potato lovers? Where do you turn when your son suddenly decides he doesn’t like chicken and pasta, the two foods you could always rely on him to eat? As your children get older they are more upfront about their likes and dislikes. Many children are more willing to taste new things. If however, your son or daughter has become more limited in his or her choices, mealtime can cause friction and fighting.
So how can you strike the balance between giving your child what he wants to eat and ensuring that he is healthy and well nourished? What follows are a few quick tips to take the mayhem out of mealtime:
1.) Partner with your picky eater. Work with your child to accommodate her finicky tastes. Make lists of the foods she will eat.
2.) Encourage him to accompany you to the grocery store. This outing will open his eyes to the multitude of different food choices available. This can also be an empowering experience for him; you are offering him the opportunity to truly making his own choices.
3.) Require her participation in meal planning. In order to avoid feeling (and acting) like a short order cook, encourage your fussy eater to make a menu. Pre-planning meals ensures that everyone eats enough at mealtimes.
4.) Cooking encourages communication, comradery, and quells complaints. Help your child take responsibility for his eating preferences by participating in the preparation. This is also a fun way to spend quality time with your child.
5.) Ask your pediatrician to talk with your child about healthy eating habits. If you are concerned that your child is not consuming enough nutrients in her diet, discuss the issue with your pediatrician. Sometimes a talk with a professional has a stronger impact than a conversation between parent and child.
With the help of a nutritionist, Bella’s mom was able to create a healthy menu for her daughter that respects her food preferences. Trina reports that she and Bella no longer battle over meal choices. In fact, Bella and her mom now spend part of the weekend trying out new vegan recipes. The whole family agrees that they like the cookie recipes the best.