Picky Eating

There is often drama around mealtimes in my household. I have two children, aged 8 and 3. They both eat a limited range of foods and dislike vegetables. They foods they like are things like white bread, white rice, sausages, pizza & chicken nuggets. They are both skinny and have no problem skipping meals.

It’s very clear I need to make changes. My unintentional models are:

C: meal time – child only wants to eat bread
T: My children would be healthier and happier if they’d only eat well.
F: Worry. Determination.
A: Cajole them to eat.
R: Kids might eat a little, but do not eat well.

C: meal time – child only wants to eat bread
T: I can’t get my kids to co-operate, I don’t know the right thing to do.
F: Anxiety, tension, inadequacy
A: Talk to kids from a place of anxiety
R: Kids do not co-operate

C: meal time – child only wants to eat bread
T: I cooked all this nutritious food and they won’t eat it. What a waste.
F: Frustration.
A: Explain, cajole, yell.
R: Everyone is upset and nobody really eats. Food is wasted.

C: meal time – child only wants to eat bread
T: I hate this. Mealtimes should be happy and there’s going to be conflict and upset.
F: Dread. Depleted, brittle.
A: Short-tempered
R: There’s conflict and upset

The intentional model I came up with was:

C: meal time
T: it’s my job to provide healthy food, it’s my child’s job to decide what to eat – they’re learning
F: calm and curious
A: notice but don’t comment
R: child decides what to eat

But I realize I don’t have confidence about what food I should be offering (for example: do I cook dishes I feel sure they won’t eat? do I offer a staple I know they’ll eat eg bread/pasta/rice at each meal, knowing they may only eat that? Do I put in place some “boundaries” eg you need to try one bite of vegetables before leaving the meal? Do I let them leave the meal without eating at all?)

I’d really value any thoughts you might have.

And I hope you don’t mind me asking; do you prepare separate foods for you you and your boys, or do you eat the same foods? How much freedom do you give them to make their own meal choices?