How do you deal with your picky eaters at home?

Some of you might be single or have supportive family members when it comes to healthy eating. Some of us though are not so lucky.

My husband and I are from 2 different countries and cultures, and that means we eat VERY different things, to the point that some of our favorite meals we can't live without, and some of each other's meals we can't even stand tasting. Add to that my 2 picky children (special needs mind you), and my not up to par cooking skills, and everyone's diet in this household is a disaster.

I'll give you an example so you can understand what I'm talking about:
My husband likes his food spicy and curried, but I can't stand spicy food, I prefer it bland. And my husband won't eat in home every time I cook fish or seafood, which makes a lot of my favorite meals a rarity in this house. My 6 year old daughter will eat all veggies, fish and legumes but won't touch meat (chicken etc). My 7 year old son will eat meat, pasta, rice and bread, but won't touch veggies or legumes. :s

I've tried talking it over with my husband about changing the meals entirely to make them healthier or have a meal plan in the sense that I don't have to waste all my energy trying to decide what to cook that would please everyone at home, to no avail. Now don't go out saying he's a bad husband or whatever, because he's really not. He just doesn't like it when I try a different recipe or make small changes such as getting whole wheat spaghetti instead of the usual one.

Another problem I have is time management. Despite being a stay-at-home mom, I can't afford to cook meals that take forever or need too much effort, due to my chronic pain, and my cute monsters sucking all the energy and time out of me. That also means I will not spoil everyone by cooking 4 different main meals in a day (one for each household member), just because of our lack of agreement on food.

I'm not proud of it, but this mama could use some help here. Thanks in advance for any advice.


  • Snowflake1968
    Snowflake1968 Posts: 5,924 Member
    There is no reason to apologize for needing help. I’m ot the one to help you because I’m the picky eater in my family though. Although I’ve found my husband getting pickier as he gets older. I make two meals way too often.
  • cat_lady77
    cat_lady77 Posts: 203 Member
    Make a list of things that you can cook that you & your husband will both eat - plan to make those the most.
    If he prefers spices, let him add his own AFTER you cook it.
    If you want fish/seafood, try frozen stuff you can cook quickly for yourself or grill outside if the smell offends him.
    Make a list of things he would be WILLING to try at least 1 time - remind him that trying new things is good & he might like it!
    I don't have kids, but I have a friend who sneaks veggies into foods her kids like. Blend spinach into smoothies or even mashed potatoes, pasta sauces. Same with sweet potato puree. I've seen veggie rice & veggie tater tots, that might fool the kids!
    You can be tough with your kids & say they have to eat what you give them or nothing. Or if it's not worth the battle, at least make them try 1 bite then if they won't eat it, offer them another choice that doesn't involve you cooking a whole separate dinner.
  • midlomel1971
    midlomel1971 Posts: 1,281 Member
    edited July 2018
    Usually give up and let my 9 year old son have a hot dog or make his own pizza.

    I've been offering him different foods for 9 years. He's autistic and he eats what he wants to eat. *shrug*
  • sytchequeen
    sytchequeen Posts: 526 Member
    Lounmoun wrote: »
    You could cook a bunch in advance and freeze individual portions of foods so you can just pull out what each person wants and warm it up.

    this was going to be my suggestion. If today you cook curry (make enough for 4 freeze three), tomorrow you cook something else (cook 4 freeze 3) then you can build up a selection of "ready meals" you can serve up easier.

    I come from the "2 options, eat it or leave it" background, and my husband will eat (or indeed cook) anything that is on our weekly meal plan, so have it very easy really.

  • Trynyta
    Trynyta Posts: 6 Member
    I too think the freezing thing is a good idea. Cooking things in big batches reduces the dirty dishes amount, and the time spent in the kitchen. You can also do that with spicy sauces for your husband to add on his plate after he's served (I'm the one who loves spicy food, and my boyfriend can't stand it, so I add my spices only for myself).
    As for the picky eating, don't give up! My bf always said he hated zucchinis, until I made a whole batch of zucchini with spaghetti (and Parmigianino, mind you) that he actually ended up having two servings of 😊 (proud moment!). So you can try make things for you that you like, and encourage your family to have just one small bite, just to see. And, too, trying the things your husband likes, starting small and not too hot.
  • h1udd
    h1udd Posts: 625 Member
    Food is modular keep everything separate

    keep sauces separate from the meat and from the veg .. let people serve them selves from bowls on the table. They can take what they want .. they have the option to "try" something new, just a taste

    Its also a good way to bring the family together as you bond over the food.

    Yes there will be more clearing up to do afterwards ... but I am sure you can log it as exercise and make out it was really hard work and get a bit of online kudos for it :wink:
  • saragd012
    saragd012 Posts: 706 Member
    My spouse is pretty darn picky, but fortunately is appreciative that I make every single meal so she at least tries when something is out of her comfort zone. That being said, I still try to be considerate of her tastes. I will cook food to be rather bland for her, and then after portioning hers out I'll quickly add more spices to mine. If I want a greater variety of veggies than she can really tolerate I'll roast a bunch of options on one pan and take extra of the things she doesn't like and load her up on things she does (for example, I'll take all Brussel sprouts and mushrooms, and give her extra broccoli or an extra starch). If I'm making pasta I'll make my own sauce and then pull 1-2 cubes of my butter-parmesan mix I keep in the freezer prepped for her. It helps to have some things prepped ahead of time, freezer options are great, and try to overlap ingredients as much as possible to avoid extra dishes/work. For your husband I'd try to find an awesome curry powder or pre-make a large batch of a spicy sauce you can throw in ziplocks in the freezer (or ice-cube trays like I do for the butter mix). That way you can just have something ready to add to his meals while keeping the main portion rather bland for you and the kids.
  • FL_Hiker
    FL_Hiker Posts: 919 Member
    edited July 2018
    My family has perfected the art of compromise. One day of the week I'll make my husbands favorite dish and the next I'll make mine, etc. My husband pretty much hates most vegetables, especially broccoli which I love. But since we compromise, and he knows vegetables are good for him he's a good sport and so am I when it comes to pizza and Mexican food in moderation. I also don't do spicy foods, but he does, so after the meals have been dished out he adds copious amounts of jalopenos to his.
  • FL_Hiker
    FL_Hiker Posts: 919 Member
    VUA21 wrote: »
    Momma's menu selection:

    1) What I make
    2) See #1

    I'm momma.

    Lol this cracked me up 😂. Momma knows best!
  • mutantspicy
    mutantspicy Posts: 624 Member
    VUA21 wrote: »
    Momma's menu selection:

    1) What I make
    2) See #1

    I'm momma.

    Lol. That's how it worked in mom's house!
  • Deviette
    Deviette Posts: 979 Member
    My dad did most of the cooking and there were a few things that we (me and my three brothers) were fussy about. Generally they were left off the plate of that person (if he remembered), or left. I'm pretty sure my parents had an attitude that they would feed it to us until we either changed our mind, or it had been been 5 or 6 attempts, then they might accept that we might not actually like something properly, and not just being fussy for the sake of it. I come from a family of "if you don't like it, there's bread and cheese". This also extended to our friends who came for tea (something a couple of my friends took up once, much to my surprise.).

    Anyway, after that rambly bit of stuff here's my actual advise, you have two strategies:

    Toughen up
    - Don't make different meals for everyone
    - Cook meals that you like first
    - Be resilient when trying something new, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries at it to get used to it.
    - If someone doesn't like something on their plate, they don't have to eat it, there's nothing wrong with putting it in a tub
    - If someone hasn't eaten something, don't replace it with something else. If they are hungry later, then they should've eaten what you cooked for them (and if you put it in a tub, that option is still open for them)

    Be accommodating
    - If you know that somebody doesn't like a particular item, cook it less, or try cooking it in a different way
    - Make very similar base meals, but have one part that you can swap out if desired (eg, if you're cooking fish with rice and veg, you can swap the fish out for baked chicken.)
    - Pop some precooked spice mix in the freezer and add to your husbands meals separately just before serving
    - Introduce people to making their own food if they don't like what's on offer

    Both of these two strategies can work quite well together, at the end of the day there is always a bit of compromising to be had, but you shouldn't feel bad about picky eaters being picky. If they don't like it, they always have the option of cooking themselves
  • VUA21
    VUA21 Posts: 2,073 Member
    VUA21 wrote: »
    Momma's menu selection:

    1) What I make
    2) See #1

    I'm momma.

    Lol. That's how it worked in mom's house!

    Yep! My grandmother raised me, she taught me well. Oh, you don't like what I made...starve, eventually everyone will get hungry enough. Grandma doesn't mess around, even Grandpa acknowledged that while he was the man of the house, he was not the boss.
  • travelertechie
    travelertechie Posts: 22 Member
    Thank you everyone for your responses. Everyone's advice has been insightful. I guess I should toughen up and let the people in this household know that I'm the boss from now on. If you think how much effort and time certain meals need, I really shouldn't give them room to complain every day.
  • mrslynda
    mrslynda Posts: 50 Member
    Due to my work hours, my husband does most of the cooking for our girls and himself, also some for me, though I often take it to eat at work. At the moment, I need to eat a lot as I am very active. He is a stay at home dad, and the kids are on holidays so no walking to school, so he isn't eating so much. When he isn't so sore (bad back) he eats more on weight training days.

    Our girls are almost 12 and just turned 9. The 12 year old is autistic and a fairly fussy eater. Though she can be easier to feed. She likes plain foods, potato is her only real vegetable, but she enjoys garlic and herbs, some spices. She is at a healthy weight, so her care team have just said to keep going. The main thing is she eats. The little one is growing fast in height, but is probably underweight. She doesn't like potatoes, or creamy sauces, but loves a range of fruit and veggies.

    We do sort of cater for them, but in a way that works for us. I make mac n cheese once a week, which my eldest loves, gets two meals out of it, sometimes one. We all like spaghetti bolognese , so that's a regular item. Tonight sausages and mash potato for one, baked beans for the other. They both love rice and sausages, with veggies for the veggie eater. We have lasagna in the freezer, frozen pizza when on special. Both girls need the calories. The little one is getting right into pizza , and experiment with toppings. The eldest wants to try a more vegetable base on her cheese pizza. Eggs are a staple, as is cereal, bread cheese etc. Any veggies I put in my salads, I give to the little one as snacks. Usually not so much at dinner, because they fill her up. We also try and incourage dessert. Tonight they had hot chocolate made with just milk. They eat more than just listed and both are slowly eating more variety.

    I like the ideas people have given you. You want to make it stress free on everyone, especially the cook. The hard part for me, is getting everyone's intake appropriate. Especially kids who can vary day to day. But yeah leftovers are your friend.
  • Lounmoun
    Lounmoun Posts: 8,427 Member
    I have to say that my dd will just not eat- and has been 20 lbs underweight- so telling her to eat what I make or starve is not a good idea. Letting her help plan meals, eat only part of the meal, make her own sandwich or something is a better approach for us.
    I would totally expect an able adult to eat what is served or prepare their own food though.
  • Niki_Fitz
    Niki_Fitz Posts: 943 Member
    edited July 2018
    Sounds familiar. All I can say is, it’s hard and you almost have to expect to be disheartened, but keep trying different things - great suggestions here. I’d add that it’s only going to last a few years. The kids will get older, start teaching them to make their own meals and at least fruit and veggie snacks now. My daughter started making mac and cheese, pasta, and chicken and bean quesadillas, and cutting her own veggies for snacks at 9 or 10 years old.