Picky Eaters’ Dinner!

From when they start to eat, it’s likley that your child is going to show signs of picky behavior at some point. We have learned that the best way to address dinner table drama is to not add fuel to the fire. Force feeding, berating our children’s eating habits and adding tension to the mix will only serve to make matters worse. Having a picky eater is hard enough, but trust us, adding guilt and shame to their budding relationship with food will not help them develop a healthy relationship with food (nor will it get them to eat any more). Not to mention the stress and anxiety this causes us as parents!

Try taking a step back and making meal time a way to teach kids (over the long run) about how to have a good relationship with food. Let them choose what they eat, let them (or help them) serve themselves. Ultimately when stress around the dinner table is low and they see that you or other family members are trying new foods, their curiosity will peak as well. Give children the opportunity to choose for themselves (this empowers them and eventually promotes a positive relationship with food over time). Some days your picky eaters will surprise you with what they choose, other days they’ll stick to cheese and tortillas. That is ok. This is about teaching them skills that will help them make healthy choices when they are older (and don’t have mom/dad around telling them what they need to eat).

The idea is to bring as many dinner options to the table. This does not need to be complicated nor does it need to be time consuming. In fact our favorite way of getting our picky eaters to come around is a good taco-style dinner. This dinner can be ready in less than 30 minutes (a true bonus for those busy weeknights!). Just chop your ingredients, arrange them in separate bowls with spoons for each bowl (to encourage your child to serve themselves) and set on the table. Not everything needs to be a condiment to go in the taco but have finger foods on the table that might be fun or add nutritional value to their day.

Make Your Own Taco Dinner

Serves 4.

Taco protein base
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb of ground turkey, chicken, lean beef or canned beans of choice (or a combination)
  • your favorite taco seasoning (we love using a combination of oregano, cumin, chipotle, smoked paprika, sea salt and pepper)
  • soft tortillas, hard taco shells or lettuce cups

In a medium skillet or pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent, careful not to let it burn (about 2-3 minutes). Add in the ground meat or beans (or combination) and seasoning and sauté until cooked through (about 10 minutes). Place in a serving bowl with the tortillas/shells or lettuce cups on the side, to allow everyone to serve themselves.

Options for toppings or sides

These are foods that have worked for us so choose what might work with your family or add any other ideas that you have on hand:

  • sliced or mashed avocado (see here for a great guacamole recipe)
  • shredded cheese (or cut-up stick)
  • diced tomatoes
  • sliced cucumbers
  • store-bought salsa made with natural ingredients
  • celery or bell pepper sticks
  • olives (pitted)
  • mixed baby greens or shredded lettuce, cabbage
  • bean salad (see here for our kidney bean salad recipe)
  • rice (leftover works well here, check out this Spanish rice recipe)
  • sliced apples or other sliced fruit
  • raw nuts/seeds
  • corn kernals
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