Over the years Bryan and I have tried every tip out there to stop picky eating and dinner-time battles.
We started out with the very liberal Parent's Magazine philosophy of not requiring them to do more than take a taste of the foods on their plates. We didn't realize that, to a child, sticking one tine of a fork into a casserole constituted a bite.
We read that not allowing dessert made food a reward (a no no in today's food-focused society), so they always got dessert (when we had it) even without eating their dinner.
I went through the very-short-lived phase where I would keep the casserole ingredients separate to serve to the children. What a pain! And they only wanted the cheese anyway!
In exasperation, I put everyone on the Bean Diet. I decided that if the children were not going to be appreciative of what we were eating, I would serve nothing but beans. Baked Beans, Refried Beans, Bean Soup. Bryan and I caved on that one because we got so sick of beans! It was great for the budget, though, and now we happily eat beans all the time!
Through the grace and wisdom of God, we began to consistently implement the policy we use now.
I dish all the food before calling anyone to the table. (This also helps the food cool and cuts out the very lengthy "passing of the dishes.") I dish out very small portions that I would expect a 2 or 3-year-old to eat to every child - large or small. This is what everyone is expected to eat. Seconds are encouraged.
The children are not allowed to say anything negative about the food. Instead of "I don't like that," they may say "That is not my favorite." No nose wrinkling, no "eeewww," no gagging. Those behaviors get another helping.
About age 2.5 they must eat everything on their plate before being excused or having dessert. If they pitch a fit at all, they are promptly excused from the table. Bryan and I don't lose our cool (after all, it's not our problem!). The same plate is seen again at breakfast, and, if necessary, at lunch. It rarely comes to that. They usually snarf the left-over dinner before breakfast, so they can enjoy breakfast with the family.
As a result being consistent, we have much more peaceful dinners. With eight children, favorite flavors vary widely, but everyone eats what is put in front of them. Now my oldest two have very adventurous palates, and almost always complement the dinner provided. What a blessing!