I Was The Picky Eater At Holiday Meals. Here’s My Best Advice For You.

Inside: Worried your kid will only eat a roll at special holiday meals? You shouldn’t be. Here’s why.

When I was a kid at Thanksgiving, I didn’t eat stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, or even pie.

I ate a roll, maybe a few bites of turkey, and of course, my grandma’s famous Jell-O. (She mixed two flavors together. The resulting color wasn’t always great, but the taste was!)

As a registered dietitian and former extremely picky eater, I’m here to tell you this: If your kid only eats a roll at Thanksgiving, that’s okay.

It doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent.

It doesn’t mean your kid will only be eating a roll at Thanksgiving when they’re 25. As an adult, I now eat most Thanksgiving foods.

(Okay, green bean casserole still gives me the heebie-jeebies. But my plate is a whole lot more diverse than it used to be!)

I’ve come a long way!

The holidays can already feel like a time when your kids and your parenting are on display for everyone to observe (and maybe judge). 

But when you have very picky eaters, the thought of big holiday meals may make you squirm: Your kids refusing to eat the special foods your mother-in-law spent all day making, the disapproving looks from well-meaning relatives, your cousin’s perfect kids who seem to eat everything.

If you’re dreading those dinners, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Your kids shouldn’t be blindsided.

It makes sense to have a quick chat with your kids before holiday meals about what kinds of food they can expect to see, as well as whatever your expectations are (and be sure you and your partner are on the same page, so a disagreement at the table doesn’t add to the stress!). For example, you could reassure them that they won’t have to eat anything they don’t want to, but that a polite “no thank you” can go a long way.

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Or singled out.

When I was younger, I was embarrassed by my picky eating. I certainly didn’t want to be called out in front of a crowd about what I was eating (or not eating, as it were). And sometimes, the best offense is a good defense: If there’s a usual offender, talk to them in advance and ask them to avoid making comments, even if they say it’s just in fun.

Aunt Doris isn’t the boss of you.

Your relatives may think they have the answers–perhaps some form of “When I was a kid, we had to clean our plate or else!” But you’re the parent of your kid. Politely tell them you’re not worried about it (even if that’s not entirely true) and redirect the conversation.

Fancy butter

Holiday meals aren’t the end-all-be-all.

There are just a handful of holiday meals between Thanksgiving and the New Year, but more than 100 other meals your kids will be having during that same time. Having a roll for dinner one night is not going to send your kids into nutritional deficiency or slow their growth. If your kid’s semi-empty plate really bothers you, bring a dish you know your child likes.

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There’s more to love beyond food.

Yes, holiday meals have special family recipes and once-a-year dishes. But holiday gatherings are about so much more than food. Are your kids playing games with their out-of-town cousins? Spending quality time with grandparents? Making memories with your friends’ children? 

You deserve to enjoy yourself.

Trailing your kid around all day, plucking cookies from their hands and counting up bites of vegetables will no doubt wreck the day for you. Give yourself a break from thinking about your kid’s food intake and enjoy what’s on your plate. And have a dinner roll. Your kid’s right: They’re delicious!

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