It's a scene that strikes fear in the hearts of picky eaters everywhere" a holiday gathering filled with overflowing casserole dishes, doting relatives wielding Jell-O molds, and the consumption of cranberry sauce being held tantamount to love.
My family loves to tell tales of my picky eating and often jokes about trying to get me to "just try a bite" of something on the holiday table. The truth is that holiday gatherings were downright terrifying to this picky kid. Here are 5 tips to help your picky eater survive the annual dinners, and preserve a little holiday spirit (and sanity) for everyone.
Explain the recipes
I'm sure your family has traditional holiday dishes that are served each year. You might look forward to Aunt Betty's famous green bean dish, or Uncle Bob's secret stuffing. To a picky eater, mystery meals are a frightening thought. Talk about what is likely to be on the menu, and explain what each dish entails. The ambiguity of "green bean casserole" can be daunting…so break it down to green beans with mushroom soup and crunchy onions. Knowledge is definitely power.
Review the menu
Try to eliminate surprises for your picky eater. Talk about what is likely to be on the menu, and identify what dishes are liked and disliked. For instance, if your picky eater looks forward to mashed potatoes, but shuns stuffing, you'll both know in advance what she'll choose. Similar to explaining the recipes, reviewing the menu eliminates the surprise (and stress) of unfamiliar food.
Bring "safe" foods
Bringing a dish to contribute to the holiday spread? Be sure to prepare something that you know your picky eater will like. In the chaos of holiday meals, the only thing worse than a picky child is a starving child, so ensure that there will be at least one safe dish by preparing it yourself.
Be your child's advocate
There's no need to invent allergies* or apologize for your child's food choices. You may want to call the hostess ahead of time to explain that you want to keep your child's eating preferences low-key. Be prepared, and willing, to back your child up when he/she says "no thank you" to parts of the meal. Most of all, don't allow friends or relatives to use guilt to force your child to eat.
Let your child enjoy the holiday spirit
This is not the time to enforce the "no deserts until you eat your broccoli" rule. In the spirit of the holidays, let your child indulge in a few sweets, regardless of what their main meal was comprised of. A slice of pie should be a celebration of the holiday, not a reward for "good" eating.
I'm sure that you want your child to remember the family, friendship, and magic of the holidays, not tension-filled meals. I'm living proof that the holiday dinners can be enjoyable affairs…with no force-fed cranberry sauce disasters.
*If your child really does have allergies, be sure to check out How to Survive a Thanksgiving Away When Kids have Food Allergies right here on Parenting Squad.