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Parents of picky eaters understand the frustration that comes along with getting your kid to eat healthy foods and snacks. And maybe my story sounds familiar. Once I was at the playground with both of my kids, and my son -- who wishes he could only eat ice cream, noodles, and chicken -- was offered some seaweed snacks from a mom friend of mine. I laughed, knowing there was no way he was going to eat it and if he dared, he would make a face and spit it out. That didn't happen. He ate the seaweed, then asked for more.
I wanted to take this mom home with me, or at least have her come over every time my son needed to eat, so she could work her magic to get my kid to try new foods. Since I wasn't able to do that, I wrote down the brand of seaweed snacks my little ones were enjoying so I could buy the exact ones.
Guess what happened when I presented these same snacks to my son? He refused to eat them. He even gagged at the thought.
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The same thing happened with kale chips, dried apricots, and banana chips -- all things my son loved when offered from someone else. When I tried to give it to him, it was as if I was presenting him a live worm.
Why does this happen?
I asked Gretchen Schoonover, certified dietitian/nutritionist, registered dietitian, and mother of three, for her insight. Schoonover says it's more about kids wanting to try something someone else has than the food itself. So we can try to give our kids the super healthy stuff, but if it's not something they truly like, they're just not going to want to eat it again, even if they claimed to love it the first time.
As far as getting kids to eat healthily, Schoonover says, it's all about finding a balance. "My kids tend to eat berries and nuts," she says, giving an example. "They like the crunch of a cashew or almond and are drawn to the colors of the fruit. I like to pack them healthier food for at school and allow them to have other snacks at home where I can control it. I try to balance it out and give them choices." She also adds that it's important for us to keep trying, so keep presenting the healthy foods and snacks they reject.
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So I keep trying. And sometimes it works -- my picky one eats some broccoli or kale chips and it feels like a victory. But he does return to being the picky one, and I realize that's okay. I'm not going to give up trying (what precedent would that set for my kids?), and every once in a while my kid surprises me and we find something to add to his menu.
And if I'm ever feeling like he needs to try something new, I can call my parent friends and ask them to meet us at the park with the new food for my kid to try. Resorting to some tricks helps, too.