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How To Deal With A Picky Eater On Thanksgiving

If serving your child broccoli results in a whining refusal to eat a single morsel, then you likely have a picky eater on your hands. This not an unusual predicament on its own, but you may worry about your kid’s picky tendencies becoming front and center on Thanksgiving day, when food is the star and there are plenty of witnesses (erm, family members) around. Is there a tactful way to deal with your little picky eater on Thanksgiving?

Holidays come with a lot of pressure as-is, and when your child wrinkles her nose at your Aunt Doris’ famous green been casserole without so much as a single bite, you may fret a bit while trying to keep the family peace. But you are far from alone: a 2010 study in Eating Behaviors found that picky eating habits affect up to 50 percent of children. Although the behavior may embarrass you, it’s likely the rest of your family has encountered plenty of picky kids before. But if you’d like to make sure Thanksgiving dinner is as enjoyable as possible for your family — and of course your child ‚ here are some ways to prepare your kid for Turkey Day. Your kid may not enjoy every part of the holiday feast, but she just might find a new favorite among the many dishes. And if she just has a plate of chicken nuggets instead, well, that’s okay too.  

1. Get Your Child Involved

To take the mystery out of food preparation, let your child pitch in with food preparation. Simple tasks such as peeling carrots or stirring a saucepan will let your child get involved with what happens behind the scenes. Even the Huffington Post recommends getting your kids to help out in the kitchen, because they are more likely to eat food that they help prepare.

Furthermore, you can follow this advice from Today and let your kid make her own plate. You may of course want to check that she’s not just loading up on cookies, but if she prefers the green bean casserole over scalloped potatoes, there’s no real harm in letting her choose the sides she prefers. And, if we're being honest, there’s probably at least one dish on the table that you would hate to take on for a second helping.

2. Don't Pressure

Remember that your child probably can’t go toe-to-toe with the grown folks in terms of helping sizes. Like KidsHealth advises, make sure portions are kid-sized to keep the amount of new foods from becoming overwhelming. Really, just a spoonful or two of stuffing may be enough to start her off.

Also St. David's Center for Child & Family Development suggests including at least one favorite dish so she has a standby on hand, as . Remember that most kid-friendly dishes will go over well with the adults at dinner, too. (I mean, who doesn’t like baked macaroni?)

3. Encourage Experimentation

Although you don’t want to force-feed you child a turkey leg, Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to encourage culinary experimentation. You might want to implement Real Simple’s three-bite rule (or even one-bite) for testing out new flavors. Yo could also try the New York Times’ plan of attack for picky eaters by “bridging” new foods with old favorites. For instance, if your child is a big fan of mashed potatoes, you can explain that the sweet potato casserole is really similar texture-wise. It might help dispel some wariness around the new dishes.

Overall, with these tips in mind, you can get through Thanksgiving with a picky eater and (hopefully) avoid any major meltdowns. Who knows? Maybe by next year at this time, your child will be requesting a second helping of turkey and stuffing. 

Images: Monkey Business/Fotolia; Courtesy of WoodleyWonderWorks, Francois Karm, David D/Flickr