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How to Plan a Balanced Thanksgiving Meal for Picky Eaters

The holidays are upon us and with them often come big, holiday meals.   These meals typically include long standing family traditions and often times the food can be a source of a major break down for a picky eater. We know that Thanksgiving can be extra challenging for parents of picky eaters.  In order to prevent dinner from turning into a battle zone, check out these tips below to keep your Thanksgiving dinner fun for all!

 

Prepare something your picky eater eat will.  Choose at least one food you know your child will like and make enough to imply that anyone can eat it, even if it’s unlikely that they actually will.  This allows you to have something your child will eat without sending a message that he or she has their own special food.   This way, your child is guaranteed to eat something during the meal and it also shows your child you care about his or her preferences when planning meals. 

 

Prepare your child.  Let your child know that you plan to offer at least one protein, grain, vegetable and fruit and tell them about any foods you are definitely planning on including (such as a turkey as a protein and stuffing as a grain).  Make a few dishes ahead of time that your child will see Thanksgiving day on the table one at a time and let them try them during a normal family dinner.

 

Involve your child in meal planning.  Kids are much more likely to eat foods that they have helped planned themselves.  Ask your child if he or she has any ideas for the other food groups.  For example, “What type of vegetable do you think we should include?”  Then together, find recipes that use those foods as ingredients.  

 

Invite your child to help with meal prep.  When kids help to cook food, they will often sample what they are preparing which helps to make them more likely to eat their masterpieces later.   Ask your picky eater to help you work behind the scenes washing vegetables, mixing ingredients or putting together a fancy cheese tray. 

 

Use food bridges.  Once a food is accepted by your picky eater, find similarly colored, flavored or textured “food bridges” to expand the variety of foods your child is willing to eat.  For example, if your child likes pumpkin pie, try including mashed sweet potatoes on his or her Thanksgiving plate.  

 

Give holiday foods fun names and make the food smell, taste and look delicious.  We know it sounds silly, but studies have shown that kids are much more likely to eat “Magical Mashed Potatoes” or “Superpower Sweet Potatoes” over plain-old mashed potatoes.  Many times, kids have made up their mind about a food before actually trying it.  By adding a “cool” name and making the dish smell, takes, and look delicious, you’re already increasing the odds that your child will try it.  For example, when preparing a veggie tray, try arranging the veggies in the shape of a turkey. 

 

Don’t make it a battle.  Focus on enjoying your time together with family or friends.  Try not to worry if and what your child is eating, you have done your job.  Go easy on yourself and your child and celebrate this day of gratitude.  

 

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