Make Meal Time Easier for Both You and Your Fussy Eater

The life of a fussy eater and his parents can be downright daunting. You know it’s only a phase, but you’re tired of cleaning up Cheerios/mac and cheese/spaghetti from the floor while attempting to calm your suddenly manic toddler. This hasty rebellion might be your child’s way of showing independence and testing the limits of your authority. Don’t let him have the control. You are the adult here.

To ensure that happier faces at the dinner table, here are some tips to make meal time easier for everyone.

Keep a Schedule

When it comes to young children doing anything, there should always be a schedule — sleeping, eating, whatever. Kids need to eat every three to four hours, so it’s up to you to plan ahead and have snacks ready when hunger strikes. By feeding healthy snacks like carrots, cheese and crackers, and trail mix at the right times, kids will be less cranky (happy tummies = happy kids).

Invite Dips to Dinner

One time-honored trick for when kids won’t eat their veggies: experiment with dips. Ranch dressing is a child-approved favorite to liven up boring vegetables. Try it with carrots, broccoli, snap peas, tomatoes and cauliflower (not sure anything can help him like cauliflower at a young age, though). Kids also love dunking veggies in hummus, cucumber dip, avocado dip, yogurt-based dips, marinara and salsa.

Cook Together

When kids have a hand in dinner, they are often more willing to eat what they have prepared. Take them through the entire process from choosing produce and supplies at the grocery store or farmers market to mixing ingredients and setting the table.

Get Silly

Have fun! Give your meals and food silly names. Call broccoli florets "dinosaur food." Use cookie cutters to turn bread squares into stars and cheese slices into moons. Name a dish after your child if she helped create it. Announce to the rest of the family that they're having “Erica’s Eggs Benedict” or “Steven’s Special Spaghetti Sauce.” Also, turn food into faces or animals. suggests making a baked potato pal by topping half a small potato with peas for eyes, halved cherry tomato for a nose, green beans for a smile and some grated cheddar as the hair.

Be Prepared

If your young'un is in a burp-up, spills-a-lot or throws-it-all stage, keep plenty of large burping cloths on hand. The last thing you want to do is roll out a bunch of paper towels in the middle of dinner to clean up after a fussy baby. It’s not only pricey, but your food will get cold. All that work for nothing. Place oversized burping cloths across baby and on anything nearby that might be victim to the gruel.

Allow Life’s Little Pleasures

Don’t deny your kids of little treats every now and again. It’s tradition to have popcorn at the movies, ice cream after the big game and pizza on Friday nights. Generally, you eat as healthy as you can, but keeping treats forbidden makes them more appealing. So, give in when on vacation and let Grandma give them Froot Loops for breakfast.

Be a Role Model

This should probably be number one on the list, because it's the most important thing of all. Kids emulate their parents no matter what. If you are always on a diet and eating strangely, they will want to do the same and think it is normal. It's best to eat the same things as your child at the same time. Always be aware of what type of message you are sending to your kids through your own eating habits.