When it comes to picky eating, I feel your pain. My picky eater’s journey began the day he was born–he was completely uninterested in eating, and only wanted to nap. We attempted to feed him with a cup, which did not go well at all.
We later used a bottle, hiding it from the lactation consultant (of course, this later fed my fears that we actually caused him to be a picky eater by doing this. I now know better). When he was about two weeks old, he abruptly decided that he was now interested in eating, and I breast fed him until he was 11 months old.
Before I get to the nitty gritty of picky eating, I want to say that I know that every child, every family and every situation is different. There is no one-fits-all solution for anything in life. I share our family’s experiences with you certainly not to praise my own parents skills, or to compare anyone’s child to another.
My goal is to encourage you, because I truly believe that if can get my darling little weirdos to eat brussel sprouts, your family can overcome picky eating too.
Back to my son, Mr. Slim. His older brother was always in the 50-75 percentile range, which I thought was ‘normal’ for our family and genetics. My skinny guy began life at around the 10th percentile for weight, which scared me to no end. Now that I’m a little older and wiser, and have also produced husky children to add to the mix, I know my skinny guy’s healthy. He’s tall and skinny, but very strong, and has a fast metabolism.
He grew from a picky baby into a super picky toddler. I did all of the things you aren’t supposed to do: we sat for hours at the table, in the ‘We’ll sit here until you clean your plate’ game, which of course, was a total disaster; I begged, I bribed, I pleaded. Meal time was a nightmare, and I began giving in to avoid battles, which made me feel incredibly guilty.
He’s now a picky big kid, and I’ve in no way ‘cured’ the pickiness, but we’ve managed to call a truce about it, and we continue to work on it every day.
Here are some of his picky habits: the only fruit he’ll eat are apples and bananas, he eats no condiments, he would subsist totally on white carbs if I let him, but is intolerant to gluten. He has a major sweet tooth, and that combined with his love of white carbs, worries me to no end.
He used to eat pats of butter plain, and then in the past month, I watched him eat one, and then say, “Ok, I don’t like butter any more.” (I know that you really want to give me a parenting award right now for letting my child eat plain butter, but in my defense, he gets the same amount of butter as everyone else–he just picks it off his cornbread/baked potato/corn on the cob and eats it by itself).
But the things he will eat are pretty healthy. He’s always loved carrots–when he was two, I had to email the preschool to watch out for bright red dirty diapers–they didn’t indicate a problem, it was just that he ate so many carrots! He will eat about any cooked vegetable I put in front of him, and he happily eats cold cereal, steel cut oats, or eggs for breakfast. He asks for kale and sweet potato chips, and isn’t picky about meat, thank goodness. I’ve never tried to make him eat condiments; while it’s a weird hang up, most have no nutritional value.
We keep encouraging him to eat fruit, but as long as he eats lots of vegetables and his apples and bananas, I don’t lose too much sleep over it. We do have a lot of conversations about limiting empty white carbs and sugar–I had gestational diabetes with all my boys, so we’re all at risk to develop diabetes later in life. My goal is to keep all of us healthy and avoid that.
Here’s what NOT to do if you have a picky eater like I do:
1) Don’t lecture about food–lead by example. The table is a place for good conversation, not lectures about ‘eat your veggies’.
2) Don’t try the “you’ll sit here until you eat it”–trust me on this. It’s not effective, and it’s miserable for everyone involved.
3)Don’t connect dessert to ‘cleaning your plate’. We have about two desserts a week, and no one has to jump through any hoops to get them. The same rules apply, if dinner isn’t finished, the plate goes into the fridge for snack time later, but everyone gets dessert, no matter what.
This one’s a little tricky, but I’m hoping to avoid teaching the boys that desserts or sweets are a ‘reward’, and that anytime you’re happy/sad/want to celebrate, you do it with sugar. Most of our twice-weekly desserts are fruit based, and I consider somewhat healthy. For birthdays or holidays, I pull out the big guns, and use white flour, white sugar, butter, cream, ect.
4)Don’t be afraid to let your kids get hungry–no one needs to feel full all of the time. When kids are the most hungry, they’ll eat more challenging foods, like vegetables.
5) Don’t get caught up on one certain food. In a perfect world, our children would eat everything, but do you have a particular food that you won’t eat no matter what? Keep trying, but if you and your child are frustrated over one particular food, give it a rest and try again in a couple of weeks.
The important thing is to keep on trying. Kids go through phases, but consistency really helps in teaching them to appreciate good food. These are my tips on what NOT to do, so be sure and check out this post for 10 secrets to getting your kids to clean their plate at every meal. If you have any additional tips or ideas, please leave them in the comments!