Picky Eater Problem Solved - The 'To Eat or Not to Eat' Method
Let It Go.
That means no fighting, coercing, bartering, yelling, tears, tantrums (yours as the parent of course), forcing - none of it. You prepare the picky eater's plate the same way you do anyone else's plate. Then they simply have the option to eat, or not to eat - that is their question. Some people have the 'No Thank You' rule which is simply that they try a bite of everything on the plate and if they don't like it they may be done with their meal after a polite 'no thank you.' If dessert is being served that evening, anyone who finishes their meal may participate. Easy as that.
Now, I recently read an article about meal-time battles and the author argued against the old adage of 'cleaning your plate' simply because we want our kids to eat intuitively and stop when they are satisfied - not full. This sounds like a good philosophy to me (this well help them start to learn moderation for the sake of their health later on as well). So start small and seconds can be an option. We ourselves have also recently adopted the philosophy that seconds can be had once everyone at the table has enjoyed and finished their first serving (this is basic training for our ravenous teenager that shovels his food as if it were going to jump off his plate and run away; it is a horrific site to behold as the one sitting across from him - I shudder to imagine him on a date if he doesn't learn to slow down!).
I do encourage my picky eater to try what is on his plate and sometimes it works and it sometimes it doesn't. I've spent enough time in the dinner-time trenches that I no longer want it to interfere with my enjoyment (and digestion) of my meal as well as continue to create resentful feelings regarding dinner time for him. This 'eat or don't eat' method also means that as I am not a short order chef; I prepare one meal for the family and if you don't eat it, you are done for the night. This is okay I promise (I've talked to my pediatrician and therapist about this). This can be managed by finding snacks for them to enjoy throughout the day so they can still meet their caloric meals. You can also give them a night where they get to choose their favorite meal for dinner (and I say breakfast for dinner is a great way to go with my homemade pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs and a smoothie). Regardless of how you offset this, there are no snacks or anything else before bed. You simply say in accordance to their complaining, "I'm sorry you are hungry - I know how grumbly my tummy is when I miss a meal! I'll bet you are super excited for a yummy breakfast!"
Now I know you are worrying about their growth. Let me also share this with you - I myself wouldn't touch any fruits or vegetables (except apples with peanut butter or cinnamon) until I was in college. True story and my mother would attest to that. I would pick through her casseroles and leave bowls of soup untouched. Ironically, I'm trying to get my kiddo to adopt the art of 'picking' but he is also horribly adverse to sauces or slurries. Oh well. Amazingly enough in the last couple of months I've broken through some barriers by having a 'shake tasting' afternoon. I bought several sample packets of protein powders and meal replacements and we added things to get the taste right and we acted as if we were evaluators. Then I started making him smoothies for breakfast throwing in some fruits and veggies where I could (until then, a benign-tasting greens powder is a great way for them to get some greens into their diet). One morning I let him watch me throw some kale into his shake and he immediately started to panic. This just so happened to be the 'Grasshopper' shake and I asked him laughing, "Well, how do you expect it to get its green color?" And to my amazement, he drank it. And loved it.
Never stop experimenting and never stop offering. Have variety and always be a good model eater. And rest assured that they will probably turn out healthier than you in the end. My dear neighbor and friend mentioned that her son grew up on bologna sandwiches because he wouldn't eat her dinners; she offered that he could eat her meal or make his own. Now as an adult he eats everything and anything. As for me, I myself eat everything - including many a food most people haven't heard of before. It will work itself out in the end and at that point, at least you and your kiddo will still be friends. Why let food come between a good relationship?
Do you have a picky eater in your household?