Are your kids picky eaters? We’ve got some around here too, so we get it. But instead of your standard “how to get picky eaters to eat more foods” post — though we have lots of those too — I wanted to let you know maybe you don’t need to sweat it so much.
Mealtime battles can try the patience of any parent, so I’m here to offer hope, acceptance, and a lot of silver linings. Because turns out, there are some real advantages to having little picky eaters at the table — both for them and for you.
1. Picky eaters save you money.
This sandwich is delicious.
If your kid would like one, it will cost a whole lot more than the children’s menu hot dog.
Food is sort of our family hobby. My kids are not picky in the traditional sense, meaning they bypass the kids’ menu at restaurants, and that isn’t cheap.
This is not a humblebrag by the way, it’s a reality.
So don’t get me wrong; we love that our vacations can center around food, because a little culinary adventure makes it fun for me too. And I’m glad I don’t have to make separate meals for the kids at home. But the truth is, sopressata and provolone picanté on ciabatta is a lot more expensive than peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat. And that $6 all-inclusive chicken fingers kids’ meal that comes with two sides and a glass of milk is definitely more reasonably priced than anything else on the grownup side of the menu.
2. Picky eaters make you a more creative cook.
Just as a good chef enjoys the challenge of cooking for people with allergies and other dietary challenges, picky eaters force you to get creative in the kitchen.
At the very least, you’ll learn subterfuge, because you’ll be able to sneak vegetables into just about anything. And hey, you may end up with some creative food art for your Instagram account too!
Related: 7 creative ways to pack vegetables for school lunch so that kids actually try them.
3. Picky eaters make grocery shopping a snap.
There’s only one shape of pasta your kid will eat? Congratulations, you just saved yourself 20 minutes arguing about pasta shapes during every single grocery run with your kids.
(Yes, it may take you a little more time to only find bananas with no dark brown spots, but we kind of all do that anyway, right?)
4. Picky eaters may learn to cook earlier than other kids.
One of the many rules that parents of picky eaters like to go by at mealtime: “You don’t have to eat what we’re having, but then you’ll have to make something else yourself.” In fact, this is our editor Liz’s rule with her own selective kids, and guess what? Now they cook!
It may start out with sandwich making or boiling water for pasta, but it will definitely evolve from there.
This doesn’t just go for meals at home, either. When my own children switched to a new school and refused to take leftovers in their lunchbox, we insisted they make their own lunches, and they did just fine. There are a lot of advantages to letting kids make their own lunches and I discovered that firsthand.
Besides, as kids start cooking for themselves, they may learn to experiment a little more, and even discover some new foods they like.
Maybe if you’re extra lucky they’ll even start cooking for you. Wouldn’t that that be nice?
Related: Getting kids in the kitchen: A helpful guide to teaching kids cooking skills by age.
5. You’ll avoid parenting hubris and the inevitable downfall that comes after
If you’ve been a parent for more than five minutes, you know hubris will get you every time. Did your child start using the potty before all others? Guess who’ll wet their sleeping bag on the school camping trip. Is your baby charming in restaurants? And did you brag about it to other parents? Bam. Here come the toddler restaurant tantrums.
Pride before a fall and all that.
All I’m saying is, kids with challenges of any kind keep us humble as parents, and that’s a good thing.
Besides, no one wants to hear you humblebragging about your kids’ incredible palettes. (Oh woe is me, I just can never keep enough kale in the house!)
6. You’ll have opportunities to bond with other parents.
We naturally tend to connect with parents who are going through similar parenting challenges that we are — IEP testing, divorce, school bullies, you name it. Picky eating definitely counts among them.
Your kid won’t eat food that touched other food on the plate? Rest assured, they’re not the only one. Same lunch every single day at school for the entire school year? I bet it’s not just your kid. When you find other parents in the same situation, you can get together and talk about it, you can probably laugh about it, and you may even be able to trade tips and tricks.
In fact, invite that family over to dinner one night. It’s a great excuse to serve spaghetti with butter and “no green stuff” to the kids without feeling embarrassed or making excuses.
Related: The funniest tweets about picky eaters from parents who know
7. Picky eaters remind us to love our children as they are.
It’s unlikely you did anything to make your child a picky eater — it’s just who they are.
Hey, science supports me on this.
And we all know that when you become a parent, you learn to love your children for who they are, through late nights and tantrums, wet beds and skinned knees, math struggles and the “I have to go to school wearing a superhero cape everyday” phase.
And yes, same goes for the phase in which they need the crusts cut off their sandwich, or refuse to eat yogurt unless it’s that one particular brand in that one particular container and only that one particular flavor.
Look, I get that it can be frustrating when you’re racing to get out the door in the morning, and the one apple you have remaining for today’s lunch box has a single bruise on it rendering it entirely 100% inedible. But a discriminating palate may just one aspect of their personality, and if you can learn to accept it and parent your kids through all situations from a place of love (as Stacie puts it) your relationship will be better for it.
8. Picky eaters will give you some great stories…eventually.
My own sister survived life right into her early twenties on bananas, yogurt and Cheerios. Now? She eats nearly everything.
Similarly, one day, your picky eaters will grow up and you’ll get to (gently) rib them for the days they refused what is now their #1 favorite food. And as we all know, embarrassing our kids from time to time is one of the greatest joys of parenting.