10 Tips for Enjoying Christmas with a Picky Eater

Updated: Mar 30

Christmas is just around the corner, Santa is appearing, and often so are the stresses associated with having a picky eater. This is especially true if we are celebrating with friends and relatives. Even well-meaning family can inadvertently add enormous pressure onto us, and our children. As much as we want to enjoy the holiday, worry about food often clouds even the sunniest of destinations.

I have spoken to parents who plan the food for trips away like a military campaign as they are so worried that acceptable menu items may be few and far between. Experience has shown them that all nuggets are not created equal!

However, there are some great ways to support our child that avoid some of the flash points that can dampen our Christmas cheer.

  1. RELAX – we are our child’s most important relationship so how we feel around food and feeding greatly influences how our child behaves. As challenging as it is to not worry about food around Christmas, the more we stress the more likely our child will too.

  2. PREEMPT – we all have well-meaning friends and relatives who like to ‘help’ us parent. If we are able, can we organise a quick phone call or e-mail to explain that as much as you are working on supporting your child to eat more widely, Christmas is not the time to do this?

  3. EXPECTATIONS – if we have a child that eats no meat, no sauces, and no vegetables the chances of them looking forward to a full turkey meal with all the trimmings is slim. Rather than hoping that Santa gifts us a magic eating wand, if we go into meals with realistic expectations it helps to avoid disappointment and frustration.

  4. ENJOYMENT – holidays are for the enjoyment of everyone. This is especially true of Christmas Day. Our child has the right to come to the table and be excited about what they are going to eat. If that means that some cheese and crackers are available alongside the turkey this enables them to celebrate too. I know this may seem controversial but honestly, is Christmas Day the appropriate time to be teaching a child a lesson?

  5. EXPLAIN – knowing what to expect can be very comforting for a child who is anxious around food. Explain what is going to happen and how you are going to support them. This can enable them to relax. The more relaxed they are the more likely they are to eat.

  6. ROUTINES – having routines, even on holidays, is very comforting for children. If lunches and evening meals are going to be more ad hoc, then plan for a familiar and predictable breakfast. For a lot of picky eaters this is an easier meal. Making sure they are eating well first thing also allows us to relax a little during the day.

  7. PLAN – travelling or spending time with friends and relatives can send timing and menus totally off to left field. We have all been to a dinner where food does not arrive until 9.00pm – eek! Making provision for those times when food may not be served on time or where the menu does not tick boxes for our children is always a good policy. A low-pressure way to do this can be to bring a share plate to social events. It enables our child to eat without inconveniencing anyone else or drawing attention to their eating habits.