As a former picky eater and mother to two children who take after me in the "Noooooo! It has onions!" department, any news on how to expand a toddler's palate is welcome. Of course, having a very vivid memory of why I hated cooked carrots (it was a texture thing) and broccoli (it was a smell thing) makes me much more sympathetic to the complaints of my little ones. Which also means I'm much more of a pushover when it comes to diversifying their dinner options, and they wind up with pasta more often than casseroles that might have some offending sliver of something inside.
That doesn't mean I don't try, beg, bribe, or sneak vegetables into their diet on a daily basis. But now, I'm inspired to try this new method of getting the right mix of foods inside my toddler: Letting them decide what to eat and what to shun.
A new study in toddler eating habits and nutrition actually proved that toddlers are great self-regulators in the nutrients department. In fact, when given the choice (without any cajoling on the part of a parent), toddlers will balance their diet. Toddlers given the choice between a high- and a low-calorie course would choose one high, followed by one low -- and vice versa. Additionally, the study showed that if you keep introducing healthy foods -- even if it gets rejected the first few times -- eventually a toddler will eat the good stuff.
The most challenging part of this new method of letting toddlers choose their food? The parents.
You see, toddlers who have very restrictive parents react negatively to this experiment. When given access to cookies, those who are usually restricted went hog-wild. Those who have more lenient parents self-regulated. So the lesson is to offer up a variety of healthy choices, and don't act like sweets are forbidden foods. Then sit back and let the toddler choose.
Sounds easy, right? Hahahahahaha. Yeah, not easy at all for this parent who likes to control what goes into her children's bodies. But it's worth a try, in the pursuit of breaking the picky eater familial cycle.
Would you try letting go with your picky eater?
Image via stockerre/Flickr