My children are picky eaters. It's a fact and while I would like to change it, there is no advice that other moms will give me that will help. But that doesn't stop them from trying.
"Stop feeding them separately," some will tell me, while others discourage second meals, tell me I am feeding them too many snacks, not forcing the issue enough, or otherwise committing some grievous food sin that has caused my children to have strong preferences and utter disgust at 90 percent of foods.
To them I say this: You aren't raising my child and you have no idea what you are talking about.
My 5-year-old daughter is truly, truly picky. I have fought many battles with her over food and watched my otherwise happy child cry and her eyes squint up and her dry heave in disgust at being forced to try things.
My 3-year-old son is taking his cues from his sister. In private, when we are alone, I have found that he will eat carrots and French toast and oranges among other things. My sense is he watches how his sister eats and emulates. He will outgrow it. She may never do so.
Both kids get it from my husband. By age 5, I had already traveled around the world and eaten everything from escargot to caviar to frog legs and beyond. I ate everything (and still do), so the concept of "pickiness" was foreign to me. But it exists. I know that now. Sure, some kids screw up their faces out of spite, but some kids (like my daughter) are truly sensitive to taste and texture, and trying to force the issue is akin to torturing them.
If you are like me and your kids are just plain picky, here are some REAL rules to live by:
- Ignore other people's "superiority": If other moms start to get all superior about their kid eating sushi, remind yourself that your child has many gifts their child likely doesn't and stop feeling so down about it.
- Find what works: With my daughter, it has been a struggle to make sure she eats a balanced meal. Now we have discovered baked, free-range chicken that she likes and we can pair that with broccoli (the only green she will eat) and whole wheat pasta and she actually eats a balanced meal. She will also eat black bean burritos, which we can fill with brown rice and cheese and black beans and sour cream. For dessert we do many (many!) organic berries as she loves berries and they are full of vitamins. In other words, I have given up on hoping she will go with variety and instead found a way of keeping her balanced by alternating these meals. She also takes a multi vitamin every day and eats a lot of organic, plain yogurt with berries.
- Think about the good: The good news is, my daughter is also picky about sweets, so while her brother will eat 50 cookies and cupcakes if I would let him, she self regulates with a half a cookie and then is done. Most cakes she won't eat and there are only a handful of candies she would even consider edible. In other words, it isn't like she hates all good foods and wants only junk. She wouldn't even consider a Twinkie edible. She is an equal opportunity picky one.
- Don't try to sneak foods: My kid is like the Princess and the Pea. I can't trick her into eating things as she will not like it. Green smoothies? Forget it. Black bean brownies? Not in a million years. Even when I use applesauce in lieu of oil in cookies, she won't touch the cookie because the texture and taste has changed -- and she loves applesauce!
- Don't change your eating: My husband and I still eat roasted cauliflower and cabbage, shredded beef tacos, zucchini fritters, and jalapeno homemade pizza dough among many other different foods. We talk to our kids about nutrition and balanced diets and the rainbow of foods they needs to be eating. Even if she isn't eating it all now, at some point she will understand, and when she is feeding herself, she will at least know about good nutrition and health.
- Accept it: Keep encouraging them to try things, but decide whether your child is willfully not eating or if they are truly horrified and can't eat those foods. If it's the latter, stop fighting so much. You will only make meal time awful and a huge battle every time. I learned this the hard way.
I hope my kids outgrow it, of course. But I am also sick of the "advice." I know my child. She is what she is and fighting it will only make us both miserable. I offer her all foods, and when she says no, I move on.
Do you have a picky eater? How do you handle it?