Don’t Let Picky Eating Ruin Your Holiday

There are many ways to ruin a holiday, and one big way is a fight at dinner time.  I cannot speak for everyone, but I love holiday dinners and I love to enjoy my family.  Fighting over who eats what is not my idea of a fun dinner.


And that’s how picky eating strikes.  That one kid (or adult…) who refuses to eat anything, even though you’ve dutifully prepared 17 individual dishes.  Yes, most of us have been there.  But don’t let it ruin your holiday this year!

Baloo is my super picky eater.  He has always been this way.  He was picky when we started with baby foods and he’s been picky ever since.  I’ve read every book, every article, talked to doctors, therapists, etc.  We have tried and tried and tried.  None of the traditional advice has changed anything.  So I’m rewriting the book (literally).

But this article isn’t about the normal every day family dinner.  Holiday dinners are different and it’s okay to break the rules…a bit.

1.  Make one dish for everyone.

This isn’t always doable, especially when you’re serving a large amount of people.  But if possible, make sure to cook at least ONE dish for everyone.  For Baloo, we usually include chicken nuggets with holiday dinners.  This serves two purposes.  First, he does not feel defeated the moment the dinner begins.  If Baloo looks around the table and sees nothing he wants to eat, he just shuts down.  If there is one thing he will eat, he is much more likely to at least try a few more foods.

Second, even if he doesn’t eat everything, he at least eats enough that he is full and not cranky.  Cranky kids at the holiday table are not fun for anything.

2.  Be patient. 

This is easier said than done with you have well-intentioned family around.  They will give you so much advice on how to feed a picky eater, or that you shouldn’t give in to their whims.  If necessary, warn people ahead of time not to pressure your picky eater.  This is one meal – if all they eat is pie its not going to kill them.

3.  Don’t even bother with it!

To feed off the last one – who cares what they eat at ONE meal!  Just don’t mention it to them at all and let them eat what they want.  It’ll be a special treat for them.

4.  Let them be involved in the holiday dinner planning.

This doesn’t always work with Baloo because sometimes he thinks he will try something but once he’s sees it he rules it out.  However, many people have success by letting their children be a part of the planning process.

5.  Be ready with distractions.

Baloo finishes eating before pretty much everyone else.  And then he gets bored.  Sometimes we can involve him with conversation, but sometimes he just needs a distraction.  At Thanksgiving I has specially prepared some more of my fun printables for the boys.  When they finished eating, they worked on printables while the adults talked.  Everyone was happy!

6.  Avoid restrictions.

Holiday dinners are not the time to say “try one of everything” or “you must have 3 bites for dessert”.  I understand that these methods can be very successful for some kids at regular meals, and if it’s not stressful for your family, by all means continue with it!  But if it’s a stressful event every evening, just skip it for this one meal! 

Holiday dinners are already super stressful.  Don’t make it harder than it needs to be!

2 thoughts on “Don’t Let Picky Eating Ruin Your Holiday”

  1. I love this! One of my kids is a very restricted eater too. With tons of people around for Thanksgiving, she tends to eat even less. So I make sure to have some things she will eat available too. I also started making homemade mac and cheese as a holiday entree a couple years ago because I noticed a fair amount of nieces and nephews not crazy about the sides offered. I tell the adults the mac and cheese is mostly for the kids. It disappears quickly and the kids are excited about it.

    1. I’m so glad I’m not alone in this!! We lean towards the gentle parenting side and I’ve never felt comfortable with the “let them starve idea”. Of course it’s different on regular days. We break all the rules on holiday dinners.
      I just wish my kids would like things like Spaghetti Os and Mac and Cheese! Those were my favorites as a kid and they hate it.

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