Help! I Think I’m Raising a Picky Eater!
I gave birth to three children with highly discriminating palates.
That’s code for: my kids are picky eaters.
Like most mammals, they were born picky eaters with a penchant for breast milk and little else after that.
Matter of fact, my first child physically shunned formula. Like, barfed it up, and refused it for the entirety of his life. In his early days, he’d scream himself into a puke if we tried to force the stuff on him and, since I was fortunate to have an adequate supply of homegrown sustenance for him, we never pushed it. He never drank more than 4 ounces of formula and that was on the night I was in the hospital thanks to the pain of a ruptured something or other.
This bout of pickiness worked out for us. But, it didn’t bode well for the next three years of his life wherein he gagged (and sometimes barfed) over numerous meals, spent hours sitting at the table staring at plates full of uneaten food, and forfeited countless tasty snacks for not eating dinner.
My kitchen is not a restaurant.
Homie don’t play that.
You want to have a full belly here? You eat what I give you or starve. Husband, children, dog. Same rules apply.
But, don’t go getting all judgy on me. I do promise them the following:
- Food options will be tasty and part of a balanced diet (meaning, I don’t expect you to be a vegetarian or anything; there will be bacon).
- All food will be cook approved (if I think it tastes like puke, then no one has to eat it).
- There will be dessert. Daily.
At age 11 the aforementioned picky eater downs pretty much every item placed on his plate (he still has this thing about mashed potatoes). On the rare occasion that something doesn’t please his palate, he has learned to abstain, quietly.
For someone who ruined at least one meal a week by depositing his food back into his plate, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.
Here are some tips to help you get through picky-eater-torture too!
5 Easy Tips to Grow a Somewhat Healthy, Mildly Adventurous Eater
1. Be adventurous. If you’re a picky eater yourself, chances are good that your offspring will be too. Kids learn by example and if they see you gagging over your peas and shunning the opportunity to sample something new, they are likely going to follow in your picky eating footsteps. My husband lived a mundane culinary life prior to the birth of our son (meaning, he basically ate bacon burgers everyday). In an effort to be able to have some fun in the kitchen, I began cooking more exciting fare. Being the cooking challenged budget Nazi he is, he realized that if he didn’t want to starve or go broke eating out, he’d have to get on board with the new menu too. To this day he boasts to the kids about all of the wonderful foods I’ve added to his life. And theirs too!
2. Try and try again. Lots of people offer a child something, watch them throw a fit about trying it, and then write it off as something they hate. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of it too – having not allowed a banana to pass my lips in at least 20 years (it’s the smell!). But, palates grow and change, just like everything else in your body, and something you hated at 2 may make you swoon by your 5th birthday. I don’t force my children to finish foods that are making them ill (they just don’t get dessert if they don’t), but I continue to offer it to them and force them encourage them to try it each time it’s presented. You never know when sushi (something my children literally LOVE) is going to grow on you!
3. Don’t be a sneak. Sure, this gets the vitamins and nutrients in them, but it doesn’t do a thing for teaching them to be healthy eaters. They don’t develop a taste for peas if their peas are shoved in mac and cheese all the time. I’ve been down this desperate road too, and I know we will all go down it at some point, but when it comes to actually teaching children the value of eating healthy and being adventurous in the kitchen, it won’t be done if everything is covered with cheese!
4. Give them choices. Just make sure they are healthy! Sometimes my guys don’t want peas (can’t blame them; they’re nasty!) and I get that, clearly. But instead of offering them peas or pizza, we ensure that all of their options are equally healthy. I’m not above making food deals wherein they get to pass on the peas (after one spoonful to test) and eat the broccoli instead.
5. Get them involved. Let them help set the menu. Then, take them to the store so they can get in on the shopping. And then, bring them home, set them up on a stool, and put them in charge of something in the kitchen. Even at age 3 kids like to be helpful in this way and they are super proud of the things they help create. Maybe even proud enough to eat it!