5 Tips for Helping Your Picky Eater on Thanksgiving


Many of us look forward to the special holiday dishes that make their way around the Thanksgiving table, but for a kid who struggles with picky eating, this holiday meal can be overwhelming.

If you have a picky eater on your hands, this might create added stress for you, especially if you’re having the meal outside your home or unsure what might be available for your child to eat.

You may be wondering, “Will there be something there my child will eat?”, or, “What do I do if my child refuses to eat in front of everyone?” Picky eating can be tricky for both kiddos and parents to work through, especially around the holidays.

If you have a picky eater on your hands, don’t fear, mama! I’ve got some tried and true tips and tricks below that will help you and your little one navigate the Thanksgiving meal successfully - no tears, protests, or arguing involved! Check out these tips below to help your picky eater on Thanksgiving:

1.Find a Familiar Anchor Food

Among the food options available, find at least one food that you know your child is familiar with. This will serve as an “anchor food” on their plate and help keep them grounded among the sea of overwhelming food options. This can be as simple as a bread roll or cornbread, potatoes or sweet potatoes, or a familiar fruit or vegetable. Starting with a simple and familiar food can help put your child at ease and make trying other foods more inviting.

2. Keep It Simple and Servings Small

Once you’ve helped your child find their anchor food, help them select 1-2 additional more foods they might like to try. It’s important to keep their options simple and to start small. Remember that kids are easily overwhelmed by a lot of choices and may shy away from trying multiple things, especially dishes that are unfamiliar. While as adults, we might enjoy pilling on different dishes on our plate, kids can shut down with too many options and too big of servings. If your child feels unsure about having something on their plate, gently remind them that they don’t have to eat it if they don’t want to but it’s there if they’d like to try it.

3. Say Goodbye to the “Polite Bite”

Grandma may want to see her grandkids eating her made-from-scratch dishes, or if you’re sharing a meal with friends or relatives, you may want your kids to eat for the sake of being polite. But kids don’t work that way, and forcing them to eat something they don’t like or want to eat can backfire. Don’t pressure your child to try anything that they don’t want to, as kids tend to eat much better when they’re not forced to do so. As parents, set it and forget it - meaning, once the food is on your kids plates, leave it up to them to decide what they want to eat and how much.

4. Don’t Battle or Bribe

Remember mama, you are not a short-order cook, and your child shouldn’t expect to get a separate meal or dish if there’s nothing they want to eat. Don’t engage in battling with your child over food or try to appease them with other foods. Don’t bribe them with promise of dessert if they can make it through their plate of food. While the Thanksgiving meal is a big deal to most of us, it is just another meal. So at the end of the day, it’s not worth the stress. Bribing and battling can backfire and create distrust in the feeding relationship between you and your child.

5. Feed Regular Meals and Snacks

As adults, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that because a big meal is coming later in the day, we don't need to eat beforehand. Kids don’t function well this way, and not feeding regular meals and snacks early in the day can cause meltdowns come mealtime. No matter what type of meal you’re having, remember that your kid still needs to eat throughout the day. Stick to your normal meal schedule as best as possible and offer regular, balanced meals and snacks. This will help keep their blood sugar, energy and mood stable during the holiday.

Sticking to these basic tips can help both you and your picky eater not only survive the Thanksgiving meal but enjoy it, too!

If you have a picky eater on your hands, what tricks have helped you through the holiday season?