Thanksgiving with Picky Children | 7 Tips to Make Cooking Easy with Picky Kids

by Dr. Lyndsey Garbi | November 20, 2020
eating Featured food holiday

Just yesterday my son said to me, “I’m not hungry, I’ll just wait for dessert.” Obviously that did not go over well with me.

Holidays are always difficult when it comes to maintaining normalcy in routine and diet for kids. Even during days with normal routine it can be a challenge.  Then add the difficulty of a picky eater on top of that and many just throw in the towel in order to avoid the bargaining, time, and energy it takes to get them to eat a few vegetables.

Here are some ideas to help optimize chances your children will eat healthy during Thanksgiving:

1. Get them involved with meal planning.

They can help to make the menu, check for ingredients, and discuss all the options. They are more likely to eat the food if they had a choice to choose what to make. Then when they see it come to life, they may be excited that they were part of it. This also lends the opportunity to teach them about portions and healthy balancing of a meal. Vegetables and protein are key components that should be highlighted.

2. Have them participate in cooking the meal.

Perhaps they will be more intrigued by the foods knowing how they are made. It may give them a sense of pride to taste something they created themselves. It is also educational to teach them about measuring, converting a solid to a liquid (such as with butter), and about from where foods come.

3. Make it look delicious.

OK I know this is easier said than done, but kids will be much more enticed to eat something new or that they think they don’t like if it looks attractive. Many times they will say no to something before even trying. This actually brings me to my next suggestion…

4. Make it look fun.

You can create designs with fruits or vegetables that your kids will get a kick out of. Usually it’s just a matter of learning how to organize the vegetables or fruits themselves and doesn’t require much designing and cutting of little pieces. If you think that cutting the vegetables themselves into shapes will do the trick, then go for it! You can buy an affordable food stencil kit and try it. These ideas do take a little extra time so plan ahead.

5. Use a gateway-food to introduce new foods.

If your kids will usually eat your mashed potatoes, then start with that dish and use it as a gateway. For the children who will not even try new or different foods, maybe mix a little of turkey on the fork at the same time so they get a taste and realize it’s actually delicious. Even if you don’t get them liking something new, at least you’ll have one dish to fall back on.

6. Get help from family members who they will follow.

If there is a cool cousin or a fun aunt, get them in on the effort. Sometimes kids are so difficult with their own parents, but when someone else comes along, they act completely different. Perhaps a fresh face and a new perspective will do the trick.

7. Use fun new plates or utensils.


This works in general and not just on holidays, but you could set aside an “extra special” plate, fork, or spoon for extra special times. You can even try just colorful toothpicks, if your children are old enough and it poses no danger due to toothpicks being pointy. Stick them into little finger food and it creates a whole new experience. Fun colorful designs on utensils and plates may change it up for them and get them motivated.

Thanksgiving is a time to take a moment to be grateful. It offers the opportunity to point out things that kids naturally take for granted. It’s also a fun followup to Halloween, which can often end up being candy-fueled  craziness (although better if you follow my tips on healthy candy!). It is special to be with family to celebrate the holiday and to have a meal with loved ones. An elaborate Thanksgiving meal is lovely, but what really matters is who you spend it with so making a dish that the kids will happily eat and allow the holiday to be enjoyable instead of a struggle may be totally worth it.