I can so relate to the picture of the swooning mother saying, "Why do they want dinner EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. ?" At the same time, I AM thankful I live in a country where I have food to feed my children every day.
However, for moms with picky eaters, mealtimes can be such a stressful and frustrating time when your children refuse foods that it seems every other child you know, likes.
My oldest child who just graduated from high school this year (update 2016, got married this year), would eat absolutely anything when he was little. Since he was the first, I made an extra effort to feed him as healthy as I knew how at the time. I fed him things like tofu lasagna, and plain mashed up avocado, and his first birthday cake was a healthy cake made from fruit--no sugar for my baby....
On his own, he also decided to taste inedible things like deodorant and shampoo... but that's beside the point.
To this day, he will eat just about any food except for cheese... cheese of all things...something about the texture.
I've gotten used to setting aside a portion of any casserole for him with no cheese mixed in.
Then along came child number two, my sweet beautiful baby girl, who can be as stubborn as the day is long.
I love her dearly, but when she makes up her mind about something, there is no changing it till she is good and ready. She absolutely refused to take a pacifier EVER, and wanted me and only me to carry her around so much, that she didn't start walking till she was 18 months old. Needless to say, she is my picky eater.
Before I had kids, I knew it all, 😛 and I distinctly remember seeing other children act a certain way and saying to myself, "My child will never act like that." Well, live and learn, unfortunately (said with tongue in cheek) children are not little robots, and don't always behave according to our wishes...sigh. (Nor would we really want them too!)
When child number three came along, he tended to copy what his big sister would do when it came to mealtime.
I got so tired of hearing people say, "If a child gets hungry enough, he will eat." Or, if you only offer "healthy" foods, they will eat them and not want anything else (less healthy)... I'm sorry, but they had never been in a standoff with my child, who was already tiny to begin with. I got tired of dinner time being a battleground.
The first step, of course, should be to share your concerns with your child's pediatrician. Even though you may not always see eye to eye with them on every subject, they can be a valuable source of information. At the same time, use your parental intuition and common sense as to what's best for you, your child and family.
Things have S-L-O-W-L-Y gotten better over time, and so I wanted to share what has helped me and my family in dealing with our picky eaters:
- At meal times and snack times, try to include foods you know they like, with a bite or two of the foods they don't, so they will get food in their tummy, but will get used to trying other foods as well.
- When my kids were little they always liked the cute little divided plates, so their foods didn't get all squished together, and it's easy to put on little servings of several different types of food in a way that's less intimidating.
- We almost always add carrot sticks, apple slices, grapes... or some other fresh fruits or vegetables to every dinner--nutritious foods which gets them started eating. (Of course, foods that are appropriate to your child's age).
- Set them up for success. For example: don't demand that they eat a whole bean burrito, but instead add a small portion with other foods they do like, and tell them to try at least one or two bites, according to their age.
- Set a cut off time for snacks before dinner, so they will be hungry (but not starving) when it's time to eat (For my kids, it's 2 hours before dinner).
- Buy the more nutritious options of the foods they do like, so they are getting the most "bang for the buck" nutrition wise. For instance, my daughter really likes orange juice and pasta (not together). So I buy the calcium and vitamin D fortified orange juice with the essential fatty acids included, and the protein and fiber fortified pasta.
- We always give a multivitamin with dinner, but check with your pediatrician as to what's best for your child.
- Peer pressure in the example of other children (or even adults) who eat well has really seemed to encourage my children to try new things too. I know many times my kids have been at my sister's or mom's house, and they will come home and tell me what they ate, and just blown my socks off, because they've eaten things they never would for me.
- Set a good example yourself! Don't be a picky eater yourself, and expect your kids to be different.
- The older my children get, and as they mature, the more reasonable they become. If your children are really little, have hope that it does seem to get better with age, and keep serving a variety of good food choices.
- Don't give up!
If you have any helpful tips to add, please feel free to share in the comments!