Teena D.'s 10-year-old son used to eat anything she served. Then one day he refused to eat dinner, settling into a frustrating and unprecedented pattern of picky eating. "What is a mother to do?" this Circle of Moms member laments.
When you're dealing with older kids who are — or who suddenly become — picky eaters, the rules are somewhat different. At this age, if your kids don't like what you serve, they can make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or scoop out bowls of ice cream or bags of chips. Sheila D. notes that this independence makes you less concerned about them starving themselves and more with the kind of nutrition they're getting. Her son, who also became a picky eater in his grade school years, "would make himself a flat piece of bread with peanut butter for almost every meal" if she let him.
Is there anything you can do? Here are four smart (and varied) approaches suggested by Circle of Moms members:
1. Try Serving Up New Things, Then Be Patient
If your child doesn't like one nutririous food, try another. Michele W. is a strong proponent of testing out a variety of healthy foods and seeing what sticks with her kids. "The rule in our house is you have to try it, in a decent amount and at least twice before you can decide whether or not you like it," she says. "I've found that [what] the kids say they don't like often changes once they are required to try it. I also like to make different dishes or casseroles and add new veggies or meats to them. Often the kids don't know what they are eating and most of the time don't even notice the new item. I've also learned to avoid answering the question "what is this" until after they try it, that way they don't have the opportunity to judge it based on the name or what others might have said."
Katie S. is another mom who endorses the strategy of sneaking in vegetables and other healthy foods: "With my 8 year old son, I started introducing new, healthy foods, one at a time and requiring him to at least try one bite of the new food. Slowly, but surely, he found foods that he liked and now he eats whatever I make him."
2. Eat What's Here or Go Hungry
If they don't want what's on the table, they don't get fed, is a mantra that many moms remember from their own childhoods. It's a struggle to get picky eaters to eat, but if they're really hungry the chances are better that they will cave in and eat. Michele W. adds: "I never cater to my kids. If they don't like what I've fixed, they know they have a choice: they can eat it or be hungry."
3. Focus on Foods That Matter
Sheila D. supplements her son's diet of peanut butter sandwiches "with protein bars and nourishment drinks." She also makes sure he takes a good multivitamin.
4. Don't Fight It; It Will Eventually Change
Tired of battling over food, many Circle of Moms members say they just let older kids eat whatever they want. Getting your grade-schooler to eat right is a question of will and "kids will try to be the winners," says Tammy Z., so the more you insist a child eat something, the harder they will resist.
Danielle H.'s 11-year-old daughter has always been a picky eater. She used to get mad and frustrated, but learned over time that it not only doesn't do any good, "it just makes her want to prove her point against me even more." She suggests that "If your child wants to eat peanut butter with fruit jelly on whole wheat bread every night for dinner," you let them. "Hopefully as they get older and their tastes start to change it will get better. For now, as long as they're eating and it's not just junk food all day, they'll be alright."
Carly C. agrees: "I find it best to not even mention the new foods [I'm trying to get my daughter to try] or her eating habits. I just stick it on the plate and keep my mouth shut."
Many Circle of Moms members point out that most kids not only survive but thrive even if they are picky eaters. "Kids have a built in survival radar," says Natalie B. "All three of my girls are skinny twigs and they eat like birds and then for one week they will eat like elephants, grow another inch and revert back to their picking. But they are growing and happy."
How do you handle your picky eater?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.