If you have picky eaters in your family, you already know the signs of when they dislike a meal: a blank stare, a turned-up nose, the plate pushed away. Instead of getting upset with their pickiness and falling into familiar mealtime battles, try a new tactic. Ask:
“How can I make that better for you?”
This question seems simple, but it can work like magic to open lines of communication between you and your children, and can give kids a feeling of control to make the meal more enjoyable. It also may take the pressure off you, since you won’t have to guess what they want — which changes frequently, anyway.
Phrasing is key. Instead of a negative question — such as, “Why don’t you like it?” — a positive question allows for constructive problem-solving and innovative solutions that you create as a team.
Make It Better
The first time you ask “How can I make that better for you?” your child may not know how to answer. That’s OK. Here are some common complaints and suggested solutions:
- “The food is too hot.”
- Put the plate in the fridge for a few minutes or add ice to hot soup.
- “The food is too cold.”
- A quick zap in the microwave or a few minutes under the broiler will help.
- “The food is plain.”
- Use “sprinkles” to add pizzazz to plates: flax seeds, sesame seeds, slivered almonds, fresh mint, shredded coconut, nutritional yeast, cinnamon, or shredded Parmesan or cheddar cheese.
- “The food is boring.”
- Add a dip such hummus, guacamole, mild salsa or a yogurt-based tzatziki. A dollop of dip adds flavor and fun.
- “The food is too crunchy.”
- Lightly steam vegetables or add a sauce or spread to crackers or toast.
- “The food is too creamy.”
- Add texture to soup or yogurt with nuts, seeds, panko breadcrumbs, croutons, granola, diced vegetables or fruit
- “The plate has [fill in the blank] on it, and I don’t like it.”
- Something as simple as a speck of green herbs or a bit of diced red pepper can be enough to ruin an entire dish for a child. Give your child permission to put the offending food to the side of the plate.
WARNING: The solution that works today may not work tomorrow. The answer to “How can I make that better for you?” will often change but it will always lead to some answer. Whether it’s a sprinkle of cheese or removing the “green stuff,” a simple question can save you from troublesome mealtimes and ensure everyone enjoys what they are eating.
Proximal50 Life Center