In the interest of full disclosure and all that jazz let me state right up front that this post is being written by a picky eater. That’s right, I’m a mom who is still a picky eater. There are foods I didn’t like as a child that I still do not like as an adult. There are foods that I won’t even try because the idea of eating them is frankly a little distasteful to me. I frequently find that I simply don’t like the texture of something in my mouth as I’m eating it. There’s no overcoming that.
Normally when you click on a link about how to feed a picky eater it’s full of advice like sneak vegetables into the things they will eat. Instead of mashed potatoes, make mashed cauliflower. Make your own chicken nuggets if that’s all they will eat and make the breading out of whole grains instead of processed so it’s healthier. I’ve clicked on those articles online, I’ve bought those magazines and I’m here to tell you it absolutely does NOT work.
If my son sees cauliflower on the counter while I’m making dinner and suspects that I’ve snucked that into the mashed potatoes he just simply isn’t going to eat mashed potatoes. If the chicken nuggets don’t look, smell and feel exactly like the brand name ones he isn’t going to eat them. He will swear they taste funny and he doesn’t like them. And I do not blame him–I would do the same thing! I don’t want to eat mashed cauliflower, I want mashed potatoes and there is no way you’re going to convince me that it tastes the same.
Like me, there are sometimes he just doesn’t like the idea of, or the texture of. I could pick my battles, lay down the law and insist he sit at the table until his plate is clean. That’s what my parents did. You know what? It made no difference. I would choke down the butter beans or peas they insisted were yummy (um, liar much?) all the while fighting the gag reflex that made me want to vomit them right back up. To this day I will not eat those things they forced me to eat. In most cases the mere smell of those things makes me nauseous. It did not make me get over the pickiness, it did not encourage me to try new things.
The other popular suggestion by these articles is to smother whatever they don’t want to eat in cheese sauce, gravy or something like that. Guess what? My son won’t eat anything with any kind of sauce on it. No gravy. No pasta sauce. No cheese sauce. No salsa. Nothing in this category whatsoever.
So what do I do? I simply offer the options to him, encourage him to try one bite of something new. I try to include one dish I know he does like in every meal I cook so he has something to feel confident in trying on his plate. If he genuinely doesn’t like it, I do not force him to eat it. Am I doing the right thing? Honestly, I have absolutely no idea.
I have two children, a daughter and a son. My daughter is the opposite of a picky eater. She asks for sushi, she is a fruit and vegetable fan. She loves sauces. Everything my son will not try, is her favorite food in the world. Sometimes the fact that she loves something encourages him to try something new and we have a small success. For example, she loves grilled shrimp so he begrudgingly tried a small bite once and now when we make grilled shrimp we have to make twice as much because he will out eat every one else.
My advice if you’re struggling with a toddler or young child who is suddenly picky, or has always been picky is continue to offer up choices. Encourage him or her to try new things and do your best to make sure that there are always healthy choices available that they do like (my son isn’t a big fan of fruit, but he loves apples so we ALWAYS have fresh apples in the house) and don’t let their unwillingness to eat what you prepared for dinner ruin the rest of the family meal. When you find something they do like that is new, find ways to relate that dish to others they haven’t been willing to try before. ”Hey, did you know that ingredient in this that you like is also in this other thing mom makes? You should try that too and see if you like it, too.” Celebrate their small steps towards trying new things, point out that if they hadn’t tried new stuff they might miss out on this new food they really like.
Do you have tips or techniques that have worked in real life for your picky eater? Share them in the comments so we can all enjoy dinner tonight!