You Are a Mom, Not a Short Order Cook
Do you have a child that is a picky eater? I have a picky eater. With a child that is a picky eater, every meal feels like I am a short order cook – a meal for the family and a meal for the picky eater. I am writing to help you know how not to raise a picky eater.
My picky eater is my first child. I made mistakes with him (like giving him a special dinner when he was young, and not requiring him eat the prepared family meal). He is 11 years old now, and he continues to be a picky eater. He is so picky if he doesn’t like the look or smell of the food he won’t eat it. He doesn’t even eat kid favorites like macaroni & cheese!
Over time, we have gradually added new foods to his diet and list of favorite foods, but it takes time and we usually have to test the food many times before he will even take a mini taste of a new food.
5 Steps to Not Raise A Picky Eater
Start when your child begins eating solid foods
As soon as your child starts eating solid foods, introduce them to as many new foods as possible (unless they have a food allergy or your pediatrician advises differently).
I have heard some parents only give their young children fruit because this tastes better. If you only give your baby and toddler fruit, it’s far more likely your child will grow to be picky eater because they did not start eating many different foods and they became adapted early with the sweeter tastes and textures of fruit only.
If your child doesn’t like the new food (or spits it out), wait a few days or a week and try again. Sometimes children need to try a food 10-15 times before they will learn to like a new food.
Let Your Child Try Many Different Textured Foods
My picky eater doesn’t like the texture of some foods, so he will not try them. To be honest, I don’t like the texture of fruit and rarely eat fruit. Fortunately, my children do eat fruit.
Starting when your child is begins eating solid foods give them many different textured foods. Fruits, vegetables, mashed foods, and more to help them become familiar with the many different textures of food.
Many times with picky eaters, it’s the texture that causes the child to decide not to eat the food. It’s a good idea to try and eat many textures early.
Have One Family Meal
As I mentioned, at my home meal time often feels like being a short order cook because I have to consider all the different eating tastes and pickiness. For the picky eater, I have to make something different just for him if I want him to eat.
At this point, some of you are thinking just give the picky eater a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or make him eat what everyone else eats. I agree. But many times, he will choose to eat nothing at all when I give him these two options.
So, start early so you don’t have a picky eater.
Use Food Chaining to Introduce New Foods
Food chaining is a method to help children who are picky eaters add new foods to their diets. Start with a food your child likes, for example, chicken nuggets. Then you could connect that chicken tenders are like chicken nuggets, you ask them to try chicken tenders. If they like the chicken tenders, wait a few weeks and add another type of chicken like baked chicken breast. You continue this process as you add new foods.
You could do the same thing with fruits or vegetables. If your child likes to eat strawberries, ask them to try another similar red berry like raspberries. Then you could move to blueberries or grapes.
You keep adding new foods to your child’s diet by connecting similar foods – food chaining.
Food Presentation is Important
You don’t have to be Martha Stewart or Emeril with your food presentation, but how you present the food to your child (especially new foods) can affect how they feel about the food or whether they will try the new food. I asked my picky eater, how I could get him to try new foods. He said, make it look good.
Have you been to a fancy restaurant for dinner? Do you notice the beautiful food presentation? Even foods you might not usually eat can become attractive with the presentation.
Food presentation can work with your children too. Does dinner look like it was just pulled out of a frozen dinner box? Or was it carefully prepared by Mom? Did you add any favorites (something like strawberries or green beans to add color)? Don’t forget your condiments – sometimes ketchup will make anything taste better!
How do you help your children try new foods? What’s a family favorite food?