Not sure on How to Handle Picky Eaters at the Holidays? Or the comments that come from family and friends when your child doesn’t eat much at the dinner table? Sally, who is a mom and Registered Dietitian, let us know how she deals with picky eaters over the holidays.
“Is she only going to eat bread?”
That’s the comment my friend got time and again about her young daughter from friends and relatives at holiday dinners. The question might’ve been well-meaning, but it was also aggravating.
Holiday gatherings, especially sit-down dinners with extended family and friends, can be stressful when you have picky eaters. Comments and questions about what your child is or isn’t eating, even if they’re coming from a place of concern, make it even worse. Plenty of folks have no problem offering up their own parenting advice at the table (“My kids weren’t allowed to leave the table until they had a bite of vegetables!”).
As a dietitian and former picky eater myself who often ate only bread, here’s my advice on how to deal with picky eaters over the holidays:
Set expectations with your kids. Talk about what they can expect at the holiday dinner. Will they be sitting with the grown-ups? Will the meal be a buffet, served family-style, or will a plate be set down in front of them? What kind of foods might be available? If you have an extremely picky eater, unfamiliar foods and pressure from family members might be an especially stressful combo. Let them know they won’t be forced to eat anything they don’t want. Communicate what you expect from them too– for instance, that they’re polite at the table and say “thank you” or “no thank you”.
Talk to family members first. If you feel comfortable, approach your sister or mother-in-law in advance, either before the gathering or before you sit down to the meal. Explain that you greatly appreciate their concerns about your child but to please avoid commenting on what they’re eating.
Have your comeback ready. Come up with a polite but firm response that shuts down conversation about your child’s plate and changes the subject. “He had something to eat earlier so we’re not concerned, but tell me about that amazing reindeer tie you’re wearing, Uncle Pete!”
Bring something safe. Offer to bring a side dish or recipe you know your kid likes and that others can enjoy at the gathering too, even if it’s simply a fruit tray.
Don’t let it get to you. What your child eats at Aunt Linda’s dinner isn’t going to make or break your child’s health, and it says nothing about your fitness as a parent. Most of all, don’t let comments or judgemental looks from family members change how you handle your mealtime approach. In other words, avoid the impulse to micromanage your child’s plate, nag them to try grandma’s pumpkin pie (unless they want to!), or monitor how many bites they take. If you have a spouse or partner, make sure they’re on the same page too.
As for my friend whose daughter only ate bread at holiday dinners, she now happily eats turkey and mashed potatoes too. She just needed time and space to figure it out herself.
Do you have a picky eater? Here are a few more helpful articles on picking eating: