BY CHRISTINE JORDAN, EdS, LMFT
Q: Cooking dinner for my family is so stressful. My kids are picky and never seem to want what I have cooked. If my kids don’t like what’s for dinner, I make them something else like chicken nuggets and macaroni. I feel like a short-order cook. Please help me to prepare one meal that everyone will eat.
A: Feeding a family is challenging. Your idea of wanting to prepare one meal for everyone is right on track. However, know that it is okay if kids don’t like every meal you prepare. Your goal as a parent is to help them learn to like a variety of foods and to be able to make do when their favorite foods are not offered. You can help your children to do this by being considerate without catering. Here are a few tips to stop being a short-order cook.
- Be considerate. Offer one or two foods at each meal that you know your picky eaters will eat. If you are not sure your kids will eat the new chicken dish you prepared, offer a starch and fruit you know they like.
- Offer variety. Include four to five foods at a meal. Offering a protein, starch, fruit and/or vegetable and milk provides options. Try to include foods you want your kids to eat. Kids will eventually learn to eat the foods you provide. Give them a chance to learn to like new foods by making them a part of the meal.
- Make food tasty. Don’t be afraid to use oils, fats and spices. Food should taste good and be satisfying. Broccoli might be more appealing with melted cheese or roasted in the oven with olive oil and garlic.
- Avoid substitutions. Avoid offering a back-up plan for your kids, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or chicken nuggets. When kids have a substitution to dinner, they are less likely to be curious and try unfamiliar foods.
- Trust your kids. Offer each meal without the pressure to try. When parents pressure kids to eat, they are less likely to learn to like these foods. Kids will get curious and try foods you offer and eat yourself. Research shows that kids learn to like the foods they see their parents eating.
Brenner FIT (Families in Training), a pediatric weight-management program at Wake Forest Baptist Health Brenner Children’s Hospital, helps families create healthier lifestyles together. Brenner FIT Kohl’s Family Collaborative offers free cooking, nutrition and parenting classes. Visit BrennerChildrens.org/BrennerFit for our current class listing. Register by calling 336-713-2348 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.