Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Picky Eater Panic

I really wanted to post this article on picky eaters for three reasons:

First: There is some good advice for introducing foods (I’ll get to them at the end).

Second: because food seems to be a difficult issue for many families.  Based on the amount of stories written about it dinner alone must be a terror for many.

Third: I think we get it right and I’d like to brag a little.

The advice is so straight forward and logical it frightens me that it parents apparently suffer “lot of worry and mealtime strife.”  The story specifically mentions a harried mother “racing” home (what, no father rushing home?) to cook pasta that her kids hates.  Ignore for a minute that “making” pasta involves the tiring task of boiling water.  Why is Mom doing all this racing?  Pasta can easily be cooked ahead the night before, reheated and jazzed up with sauce or butter and a sprinkle of cheese.  Throw some canned chicken into the mix.  Microwave a side of green beans or mixed veggies and viola, healthy meal.  Open a can of fruit for dessert.

Turns out, kids might not like the taste of some foods because they are ... well, kids, mostly.  Some might have taste issues related to middle ear infections, and genetically they may be programmed to reject new foods.  But mostly, they are kids.  Kids do not equal adults.  Adding into the problem is that your kids are not you.  Maybe adult you loves pesto sauce on spaghetti with a side of garlicy broccoli or brussel sprouts; I’m betting child you didn’t.  But say for a second you did.  You wouldn’t assume your spouse, or neighbor, or mother, or grandmother liked the same things, would you?  Why would you assume your child would?

It is one of the biggest traps of parenting:  We have to remember we aren’t raising little clones of ourselves; We are raising individuals with individual wants and likes.  Many of those are genetically predetermined and may well be different than our likes and tastes.  This is magnified by the fact that they are children and thus act immature and childlike.

But if you managed to live to the age where you can rush home to make pasta without eating your veggies, you can probably bet your child will as well.

As I said, there is some good advice in the article.  Introduce foods, probably at an early age.  Then keep at it.  Kids may need 20 experiences with a food before it sinks in.  Introduce small portions and if they don’t eat it, so be it.  Despite your worst parenting fears they won’t starve. And don’t punish them for not eating.  Instead, try rewarding them – but not with food.  Instead, offer a sticker or maybe a star for trying a certain food.

While kids are not adults, think about how you like to be treated and practice what you preach. 

As the author says:

The most important thing for parents to do is to make meal times a positive experience. Less eat your spinach! and more isn’t spinach goooood? Serve unfamiliar foods with known, liked foods at first to make things easier, and don’t forget to eat what you want your kids to eat, in front of them, all the time. “


  1. I have to read about this stuff all the time!! Some of the blogs I follow do what you say, although they do bemoan when DS suddenly refuses to eat X when previously loved X :) Evil kids.

    But I'm glad to hear everything you just wrote. Spot on...

    And for the record, I still hate succotash.

  2. It can be annoying, but hardly worth "strife". Heck, sometimes I don't want to eat a certain food.