Practice Before Leaving
If you plan to go to an exotic location, do some research about the menus at local restaurants. If there is nothing your child will eat from the local cuisine options, start practicing and preparing your child for what options will be available while on vacation. For example, start making meals that are common to the area you are visiting and have those for family dinners before leaving on vacation. Hopefully over time your child will become accustomed to the cuisine and eating while on vacation will not be an issue.
Let The Child Pick
Give your child the opportunity to pick some of the restaurants you will be dining at while on vacation. This way he or she will already be likely to eat from the menu, mostly because it was the child’s choice in the first place.
Also, do not pick from the menu or make suggestions for your child. Let the child take his or her time and decide what to eat. This is the best option to get a picky eater to eat, mostly because the choice is something interesting to their little taste buds.
Make It A Game
Turn dining into a fun game by giving your child a challenge. Tell your child you want to make a record of which restaurants offered the best foods while on vacation. While eating, ask your child to vote on the food they are eating, including presentation, taste and quantity. Make a chart where your child can keep track of what they eat at different restaurants, giving small reviews of what they liked and disliked about the meal. This may encourage picky eaters to try new things just to fill up the chart.
Look for items on the menu that are similar to what your child is already eating. For example, if he or she enjoys pasta, look on the menu and see if there are any noodle entrees. Dumplings are also a good choice for noodle lovers. Chances are there is something on the menu your child will eat, it just might be made to look different or may have a different name.
Offer Your Food
Once your child sees you eating the entrée you ordered, chances are he or she might be a little curious. Offer your child a taste of everything on your plate. You never know, he or she may start liking a new dish just because you offered a little taste from your plate.
Also, if the child is hesitant to eat something after it has been ordered, ask if you can take a bite. Express how good you think the food is and say that he or she should definitely try it.
Select The Right Restaurant
Do your research and find restaurants in the area where you will be vacationing and determine which restaurants have a wide variety of menu choices. The greater the selection available, the more likely your child will find something of interest on the menu. Buffets are also a good choice with picky eaters, mostly because of the variety and ability to fill up on a single item if your child chooses he or she likes something.
Order A La Carte
Take advantage of side dishes and order items a la carte. For example, if your child likes mashed potatoes and corn, but none of the entrees those sides come with, consider ordering these items separately. It may end up costing more money, but you will have a satisfied and fed child.
Also, check with your server and see if substitutions from the side menu are allowed. If so, your child can pick and choose which items he or she wants to go with the meal. Not all restaurants will do this, but some will to help satisfy picky eaters.
Ask The Chef
If there is nothing on the menu your child will eat, remember that it never hurts to ask the chef if something special can be cooked for your child. It might be possible for the chef to make a grilled cheese sandwich or some pasta topped with only butter. Many restaurants will do this to keep kids happy and the parents coming back.
Set A Schedule
Determine what time each day you will be having breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you have it the same time every day, you will be able to get your child on an eating habit schedule. Try to keep the times similar to those meal times at home. Knowing what time you will be eating will make it possible to limit the amount of snacks your child eats during the day. This will help ensure he or she is hungry upon arriving at the restaurant. The hungrier the child is, the more likely he or she will not be as picky.
Pack Some Food
Do not make it known to your child that you have food back in your hotel room, but it might be a good idea to pack some items you know he or she will eat. This way, after you have exhausted all attempts to get your child to eat, there is food to ensure he or she will not go hungry at night.
Take Five Bites
Make it a rule that wherever you go and whatever gets ordered, your child has to take at least five full bites of food before saying he or she does not like it. Tell the child that the food deserves a chance and a fair judgment cannot be made after just one or two bites. After several bites, your child may realize the food is not so bad after all.
An enjoyable vacation is still possible, even when traveling with a picky eater. It is just a matter of doing some research before leaving and working with your child in an attempt to find something that will work. You never know, you may discover your child is not as picky about his or her eating habits as you thought. Going on vacation might open up doors to get your child to try new food items and expand the list of foods he or she is will to enjoy.
Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.