The following post is from Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD and Liz Weiss, MS, RD from Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen and is the fourth guest post in the Breaking Picky Eaters series. Thanks so much to both of you for sharing!
Picky toddlers and preschoolers are nothing out of the ordinary. But what do you do if your finicky eaters never outgrew their pickiness? How many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bowls of plain pasta with butter can a mom possibly make, and is it even possible to get teens and tweens to grab for nutrient-rich fruits and veggies instead of the all-too-common pizza and chips?
We recently recorded a podcast show on The Science of Picky Eating and wrote a blog post to go with it. After the show went live, a listener asked the following question:
“My children are still picky at the ages of 16 and 13. I read this blog and listened to the podcast and probably made all the mistakes listed. I was a very picky eater as a child and it looks like my children inherited the same behavior. I’m ready to make changes but it seems the ones mentioned are for younger children. I am interested in anyone’s experience with teenage picky eaters.” — Terry
Janice and her tween, Leah, plan the weekly menu together. They look through cookbooks (including our newest book, No Whine with Dinner), food magazines, and online recipe sites. Feel free to use our free 7-Day Meal Planner to keep track of your favorites.
We posted Terry’s question on our Facebook page, and the tips for getting picky teens to be more adventurous came flooding in. Here are just a few of the clever ideas that have worked wonders for families:
- Menu Plan: Assign your teens one night each week when they’re responsible for planning and preparing the family meal. When teens “own” the meal, they’re more likely to try it. Give your teens a budget, and let them keep any spare change. For inspiration, try theme nights such as Mexican, Italian, Thai, or Locally-Grown and provide some healthy guidelines.
- Recipe Makeovers: Take baby steps to better nutrition by giving pizza, tacos, chicken fingers, mac ‘n cheese, French fries, and other teen faves a healthy makeover. Hooked on French fries? Make a batch of sweet potato fries instead. Making mac ‘n cheese seven nights a week? Cook up your own using whole wheat blend pasta and a low-fat cheese sauce.
Liz’s 15-year-old son, Josh, doesn’t like avocados but he loves guacamole. Last summer, he made guacamole from scratch and even learned how to remove the pit with a chef’s knife. Close supervision recommended!
- Ninja Teens: When preschool and grade school kids help out in the kitchen, they’re often given simple tasks like mixing up batters or whisking together dry ingredients. Invite your teens into the kitchen for some more challenging culinary lessons to really whet their appetite. Teach them how to hold and handle a chef’s knife, offer some lessons on cooking in a pressure cooker, or roll up your sleeves and make a mess making meatballs. Get them comfy in the kitchen so they get comfy trying new foods.
Twelve-year-old brother, Simon (right), gobbles up Josh’s guacamole creation, and his friend tries it too!
- Positive Peer Pressure: Rely on external motivators (AKA peer pressure) to encourage your teens to go outside their culinary comfort zone. Invite friends over for dinner once a week, or sign your teen up for a cooking class with a few friends. When they see other kids eating a new food they may be more inclined to give it a try.
|Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD and Liz Weiss, MS, RD are The Meal Makeover Moms, and together, they’re on a mission to help busy families eat a healthy and delicious diet. Their latest cookbook, No Whine with Dinner (M3 Press, 2011) features 150 healthy, kid-tested, mom-approved recipes and 50 amazing secrets for getting picky eaters to try new foods … especially vegetables. For credible nutrition advice and easy, affordable family recipes, visit their award-winning blog, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen or listen to their weekly radio podcast, Cooking with the Moms.|