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Parents Share The 10 Tricks That Cure "Picky Eaters" For Good

Caitie McCabe

What's the hardest thing about being a parent? Just take your pick.

A recent study crunched the numbers on an average mother's workday, and the results were pretty bleak.

Moms are regularly working 14-hour days, which adds up to 98 hours of parenting a week.

For new parents, a lot of that time is spent bargaining and pleading with their kids to eat something (or anything).

If you live with a picky eater, you may appreciate these 10 parent-approved techniques to make them eat their veggies with no fuss.

1. Pair "gross" ingredients with exciting ones

Blueberry muffins.
Steven Jackson / Flickr

So little Jimmy will not eat cheese under any circumstances, but he loves pasta?

Try mixing a little shredded cheese into his spaghetti and see how he reacts.

Kids are usually more than willing to take a chance on new food when it's mixed with something they like.

Veggie and fruit muffins or pastries are another way to sneak in healthy food.

2. Don't be a short-order chef

Nutritionist Ellyn Satter recommends splitting the workload for each meal with your kids.

Parents should take charge about deciding when and what the family eats.

Meanwhile, kids choose how much they eat (if they even touch their plate at all).

There's nothing worse than letting your child pick a meal, only to have them change their mind. Then the whole family is stuck with fish sticks.

3. Don't force your child to eat

Child eating.

Parents often find themselves in a tug-of-war with their kids at meal times.

Don't play that game: your child can eat if they are hungry, or leave food on their plate if they don't want any.

If your child isn't under pressure, they're more likely to copy your eating habits and try a little bit of everything on their plate.

Besides, it's not healthy to make kids clean their plate at every meal.

4. Get your kids involved

Child cooking
PX Here

Set aside one day a week for your children to set the meal plan, or let them help you with the cooking.

You shouldn't cater to your kids at every meal, but it's best if everyone in the family gets a say in the meals sometimes.

Plus, children will always try the food if they helped to make it.

5. Stick to a routine

Kids will try and get away with picky behavior if they know you will give them treats and snacks later.

Keep a tight daily meal schedule - including when you serve snacks - and stick to it.

Your child will eat something when they're hungry, so if there's no chance they can pass up chicken fingers for cake they won't skip meals.

6. Include finger foods

Child eating

Eating is just a way of life for adults, but kids still see it as an activity.

Kids will be more interested in boring, healthy meals if they can get their hands on them.

Wash your child's hands before dinner, them let them attack their plate however they like.

It's not very polite, but as they get older they'll pick up a knife and fork again.

7. Make a game out of dinner

Your children should be focused on actually eating at the dinner table, but that can be fun too.

Serve a mix of bright veggies and ask your child to "taste all of the colors."

Serve a dish as separate ingredients and tell your child to mix them together at the start of the meal.

Hide vegetables under noodles or bread and ask them to dig for them.

8. Eat dessert with dinner

Child eating yogurt
U.S.D.A. / Flickr

This sounds a little crazy, but what's the point of treating dessert like a reward?

If your child isn't hungry they shouldn't scarf down a whole plate just to get a cupcake after.

And you shouldn't be bribing your child to make them eat dinner - it should be expected that they just eat if they want.

Serve any dessert alongside dinner and your child will pick and choose their meal. It's not so healthy, but it takes the pressure and stress out of mealtime.

9. Eat at the dinner table

This can sound obvious, but plenty of families are happy to eat dinner in front of the TV in their living rooms.

This is a bad habit for a number of reasons, but the worst effect for young children is they can get too distracted to eat.

At the dinner table, they can focus on eating and nothing else, and will take time to try new foods.

Plus, it's just nice to share a meal as a family without distractions.

10. Lead by example

A family dinner.
National Cancer Institute

If your child sees you fighting with your partner over what to make for dinner, they'll learn to do the same thing.

The same goes for families who regularly eat separate meals - mom has pasta, dad makes steak, and their child has chicken nuggets.

You need to be a good role model for your kid, and overcome your own picky eating habits.

If all else fails, one mom came up with a hilarious and creative trick to get her picky eater to try anything.

Think outside the box

Crafty mom Terri Munro outsmarted her son George with a little help from eBay.

Sharing her story on The Motherload, Munro revealed that she was serving her son homemade pizza in a cardboard box she bought online.

A child eating pizza from a cardboard box.
Terri Munro - Facebook

"He thinks he's got a takeaway..." she wrote.

"It was such a success I may have to put his milk in a coke bottle now."

Hiding pizza in a pizza box isn't such a stretch, but maybe the trick would work on other food.

Munro had more ambitious plans to follow up on her experiment.

"We plan on using carrot sticks in the fries box, making healthier food fun to eat. At the end of the day, getting George to eat sometimes is hard work, so anything we can try that makes that process easier is worth a try!"

How does your family deal with picky eaters?

[H/T: Mayo Clinic, American Heart Association]

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories.