Katie Workman is the author of the cookbooks The Mom 100 and Dinner Solved!, which help parents navigate their kitchens to create great meals for the whole family.
What advice do you have for parents of picky eaters? A few things that I have found helpful over the years is serving things in smaller portions. Putting a big piece of fish on a kid’s plate is very intimidating. If you cut the fish into nice 2-inch strips, suddenly it becomes a little bit more manageable. Try your hardest not to let it become a battle of wills. There’s a lot of things kids don’t have much choice in in their lives. The one thing they can say no to is what they’re going to put in their mouths.
Tips to keep it healthy? I keep healthy food accessible for my kids. I keep an enormous bowl of clementines on the kitchen counter all winter long. One thing that I’ve always done since my kids were little—and it still works—is right before dinner when you know they’re going to ask for a snack, all I do is silently put out a bowl of sliced bell peppers or baby carrots or some veggie or fruit slices. I slide it across the table without speaking while they are doing homework and they will start mindlessly eating.
What should parents do when they feel tempted to order take-out again? There is a satisfaction that comes with making your own food and knowing you can make your own food that is so pleasurable. When you cook for your family, you’ve thought about what they would like, and if you’ve gotten your kids involved, they have this incredible pride of ownership. There are lots of beautiful life skills that come with cooking. There’s math: doubling recipes, following steps, and sequencing; working with somebody and collaborating; figuring out timing; and all sorts of sensory things. Then of course there is science, and so much creative freedom to experiment with flavors. You can ask your kids, when following a recipe, “This says ‘salt to taste,’ why don’t you add a pinch and taste it and see if you think it needs more.” That is a much more appealing way to ask a child to try something.
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