How I Lost the Battle but Won the Mealtime War

Have you ever had to leave the dinner table to go cry out the frustration from your picky eater not eating what you’ve slaved over for the past 2 hours yet again?! Me too. My oldest child could quite possibly be the pickiest eater on the planet. I’m talking if the color of her mac-n-cheese is off just a little bit she swears it tastes different. Or if the ratio of peanut butter to jelly is not right she requests a new sandwich be made (politely of course). And forget about casseroles because her food cannot be all mixed together!

We Have Tried Every Approach

We have tried the “go to bed hungry!” approach. We’ve tried the “ignore her not eating” approach. We have tried the “make her food into fun shapes and designs” approach. We’ve also tried the smoothie approach but once she caught me sneaking vegetables into the blender she was done. I’ve read blogs, articles, parenting books, and talked to friends about what they do for their picky eaters to try and come up with a game plan in conquering Logan’s pickiness.

Nothing seemed to be working. I was stuck and worried sick about her not getting enough nutrients to fuel her body. She would go to bed hungry before eating something that looked “gross” or that she just flat out didn’t want to eat. I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve shed over this battle.

Somewhere along the eight years of dealing with this I finally had to just let it go and listen to what my instincts were telling me. I had to stop over analyzing her eating habits and turning a molehill into a mountain because I was getting nowhere doing that. Besides, I knew that her taste buds would eventually evolve and that she would mature and not eat like a five-year-old for the rest of her life.

Learning to Let Go and Take a Step Back

I feel like we finally made a breakthrough when I understood that getting her to eat a well-balanced meal was going to require some give and take. Meaning, I give in a little so that in turn she would be more willing to take a chance on new foods. I can’t tell you the exact moment it happened but, when I realized that Logan was becoming severely stressed every time I set a plate down in front her I knew that I needed to step back and take a hard look in the mirror.

It is truly amazing how our children have this unknowing ability to teach us some real-life lessons. I remember thinking to myself mealtime should be fun and a time where we can come together as a family. As hard as it is for me to admit this, mealtime in our house had become stressful and unenjoyable. Therefore, I made the decision to let go.

Getting Back on the Right Track

With this in mind, I gave in and simply made Logan’s favorite foods for a while. I did not ask or make her try any new foods during this cool down period. I needed to regroup and figure out how to get us on the right track. At this point, it was more important to relieve her anxiousness because as long as her mind was in a bad place I knew we wouldn’t get anywhere. Equally important I needed to get my mind right as well.

Once my mommy instincts were telling me that Logan and I had reached a good place emotionally I calmly started introducing one new food item on her plate during dinner time. Our new motto was, you don’t have to like it but you have to try it. She even had the option to spit out the food if she couldn’t bear to swallow it. We always encouraged her to keep an open mind but giving her this option was extremely instrumental in helping to ease her nerves.

I celebrated her every time she tried a new food. Positive reinforcement is how I parent because it works! I didn’t introduce a new food every night, as my focus was to keep the stress level down but a few times a week was where I started. I reintroduced foods she was somewhat familiar with and made sure to keep meals simple. The main goal moving forward was to get her to be more open-minded.

Do What Works Best for You

In the past, I put unnecessary pressure on myself about what I thought mealtime in our home should be like instead of putting that energy into figuring out what would work best for our family. I would compare and even be envious of other children who were good eaters. Seriously…what a waste of time!

Every child is different and every family is different. What this entire experience taught me was to put my energy into things I can control and to not sweat the small stuff. Kids are remarkably intuned with their parents’ emotions, it’s scary. Logan picked up on my anxiousness like a ninja. I set the tone and boy did I set it wrong.

We made a complete transformation once I let go and regrouped. I focused on solutions that I felt best to fit Logan and that our family could successfully implement. Some people might say I lost the battle to my picky eater but I know that I won the war at mealtime.

Make it FUN: The Best Advice

The top three best advice I came across and implemented in my quest to win back mealtime was simple as this…

  1. Keep meals simple
  2. Keep portions SMALL -a full plate of food is overwhelming to a small child.
  3. Let your child make their own meals -obviously, age-appropriate meals and with proper supervision. Logan is eight years old now and doesn’t require supervision when pouring a bowl of cereal. In giving your child this independence they will gain a sense of pride and eagerness to eat what they’ve made.

We won’t be going to college with them so they are going to need to know the basics. Better to start teaching them young.

Lastly, don’t think for a second that now our mealtime is perfect and my kids eat everything I cook. Yes, we have come a LONG way but I’m going to keep it real and say that some days my kids basically snack ALL DAY. They have breakfast and then the rest of the day is filled with healthy snacks and a PB& J thrown in at some point. It’s all good. Not going to sweat the small stuff!

Side note here: I want to share with y’all this really fun plate a dear friend of mine found when I was in the trenches of our mealtime war. I bought three of the same plate to avoid fighting amongst my three children but they have several different themes you can choose from. We love them!




© 2018 Christine Johnsen. All Rights Reserved.