The One Thing to Remember When Dealing with Picky Eaters

updated Sep 30, 2020
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Parents will go to extreme lengths to get picky eaters to eat something. When my boyfriend was a kid, for example, he would only eat pizza — nothing else would suffice — so his mom resorted to creating pizza-like dishes. Chicken Parm suddenly became “pizza chicken,” and it was finally OK for him to eat.

Sound familiar? Trying to feed a picky eater feels like a never-ending, thankless task. You can do everything “right” and still end up with a kid who won’t touch anything on his plate. So, what are you supposed to do? Kitchn has covered a lot of different strategies over the years, including this smart vacation tip, recipes ideas that have helped, and throwing a peer pressure party.

But the smartest thing I’ve heard recently comes from a recent episode of the Didn’t I Just Feed You podcast, that our very own Associate Food Editor Meghan Splawn runs with her friend (and Kitchn contributor!) Stacie Billis. They’ve dedicated three episodes of their new podcast to talking picky eaters, and in the first episode (listen here!) and there’s a pretty small but important reminder for struggling parents.

Listen to the episode: Is Picky Eating Real? from Didn’t I just Feed You

There are a lot of juicy tips to pull out from Meghan and Stacie’s conversation about picky eating. In the first episode of the picky eater series, Stacie talks at length about how we shouldn’t pathologize picky eating, because it really can just be a normal phase that happens for children. The pair also talk about seven tips to help you deal with picky eaters, and the fifth tip really stuck out to me.

“Keep in mind that even picky eaters have rights,” Stacie says in the episode. “Sometimes it’s not just because they’re picky; sometimes they just don’t like that [food], and they never will.”

“And that is OK,” Meghan chimes in.

What a good reminder! I think it’s easy to forget that picky eaters also have legitimate opinions when it comes to what they eat. Just because they don’t like broccoli doesn’t mean that it’s a phase or something to do with them being a picky eater. They can just legitimately not like broccoli!

When I talked to Meghan about this a little further, she noted that just acknowledging your kids tastes can go a long way. It can be as simple as: I made dinner with broccoli tonight because the rest of us like broccoli, but I know it’s not your favorite, and we’ll have [insert vegetable they like] tomorrow night.

Let’s just hope pizza isn’t something your kid somehow doesn’t really love. Because that would be kind of devastating.

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