Getting your kids to eat certain foods can be such a chore. I have had people comment that they are surprised about the weird foods my kids eat but I take that as a compliment! My thoughts on this topic, from my own personal research/experience, is that kids are not genetically picky! It is a process. It should be a well thought out process.
One phrase that I try really hard to ban from our vocabulary is "He won't eat that" or "He won't like that." I don't want to put those thoughts in their head, before they even try a new food. Don't get me wrong, my kids have actually used the word "disgusting" when describing a meal that I've prepared. I tell ya...they are true food critics! :) We then have a discussion on how it is not polite to say things like that when someone works hard to make you a meal. I have also had kids turn away a meal twenty times before they finally get brave enough to try it. I really try to be consistent and reintroduce foods over and over until they decide it is worthy of trying. Kids need to feel a comfort level with food. It has to be familiar.
It is very stressful when a toddler turns away a meal. Some parents resort to making two meals every night. I am not a fan of making two meals. My husband and I have held our ground on this and it has not been easy. Especially, because one of my twins is very small for his age. If they don't want what I serve, they do not get dessert. I also explain to them that in order to grow and be big and strong like "spider man" they need to eat a healthy meal. Right now, they are obviously more focused on dessert! :) Dessert is usually a healthy treat like apples and peanut butter, organic ice cream with nuts and fruit, etc. Then, we usually do a healthy snack (leftover dinner, fruit, nuts, cheese, yogurt, etc.) before bed time, just to ensure everyone has a full belly before bed.
Meal time so often becomes a tug of war. I think the important thing is to keep meal time calm and enjoyable. We have to remember that there are nights we don't clean our plate or feel like eating all of our vegetables. Kids are entitled to the same rights. I never get upset or angry if they don't eat every carrot stick or their entire salad. I just compliment them on being brave and trying a new food. I just explain to them that they need to try every item on their plate, if they want dessert. They know the rules and I let them make the decision on how they want to proceed. Sometimes they are not happy with the consequences and that's fine with me.
If you have any other tips for meal time success, please share.