I have three children, and we have more than our share of pickiness at the dinner table. One doesn't like any vegetables but carrot and corn, one wants to live on pasta, the third is getting better, but refuses to eat most vegetables put in front of him.
I've learned over the years though that I need to get a little creative sometimes. So here are my:
1. Meal Plan: By meal planning each week I can take into consideration the different likes and dislikes of each of the children and include substitutions where necessary without throwing together a meal at the last minute with whatever happens to be in the house. For example, if it's a meat and vegetable night, I can make mashed potatoes and broccoli for the one child who loves that, but also add carrots and corn for the other two children who like those. Instead of just having pasta with a sauce over the top I'll serve spinach filled ravioli with pesto, chicken, beans and peas. My kids would eat ravioli or tortellini no matter what it's filled with every night of the week if I let them, especially if it has pesto over the top. It's also important to stick with a couple of meals they absolutely love when meal planning, but include new options too, which will encourage them to try new things.
2. Let Them Choose: I get the kids input frequently when meal planning. I often let them take it in turns to pick what we will have for dinner. There needs to be guidelines with this though. Start with one food group at a time. Ask them what kind of meat/seafood they would like, or if they would like a pasta or rice dish. Do they want it grilled? What sides would they like? Give them options, but let them make the final decision. If given the opportunity to just choose, the chances of them choosing a meal that is not healthy is fairly high (especially with my kids), but once the seed has been planted in their minds with options to choose from, they will more than likely make wiser, and healthier decisions.
3. Serve Yourself Bar: We love a good serve-yourself bar. There are so many options to choose from such as a pasta bar, baked potato, pizza, subs, and hamburgers. I generally place an assortment of items into separate containers on the table and the kids get to 'make' their own food. Clean-up is easy because I just have to cover and refrigerate any leftovers and they can be used to make a completely different meal the next day, placed into omelets, or sandwiches for lunch, or used as snacks.
4. Make Food Fun: I'm not talking elaborate Bento boxes that look like they've been carefully sculpted for hours, although I would like to give that a go, just once. Every now and then though turning their food into a smiley face, using cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes in fruit, vegetables, and sandwiches, and bread stamps to leave messages on toast will make them smile.
5. Blend It: Smoothies are a fantastic way to get kids to eat the fruit and vegetables that they may otherwise turn their noses up at.
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