Until four, Olivia ate everything that we put in front of her. Then, it all changed and she started to get fussy, wanting to eat nothing but fries. A year later, we’re back on track – and she eats well but it’s not been easy. Healthy eating didn’t come easy with a fussy four year old, I’m not lucky my kids eat, it’s a full-time job.
Broccoli, sweet potatoes, hummus on toast, pieces of squash and sweet potato, avocado and blueberries – these were some of Olivia’s first foods. Over the course of the past five years, of course we’ve seen some regression in the form of dinner table battles where she’s told that she needs to at least try something, like the new salad, before she’s allowed to leave – and if she does leave? She’s getting nothing but fruit (and I’m a mean mom so I’ll serve her least favorite fruit) for a snack if she’s starving later on in the evening.
ps/ firmly believe mealtimes are one of the reasons that they’re called the f’n fours
Got a Picky Eating Kid? Keep trying!
I’m not above bribery. Just today I bribed Olivia with a small ‘surprise’ if she tried the blueberries that she’s refused to eat for the past couple of years. As an toddler, she loved them. Then, four came and she became picky. That doesn’t mean I stopped trying, with a little sister that could easily eat a pint of blueberries every meal, and an easy school snack – I was determined to get her to ‘re-like’ them. So, I bribed her. It worked. We started with one, and I asked her if it was disgusting, okay, good or great. Not surprisingly, she responded ‘great!’ and went on to finish the entire container of blueberries with lunch.
Next up, purple lettuce. She’s got a weird aversion to it. It has nothing to do with the taste, so I’ve got zero sympathy.
Up to the age of two, kids will eat anything. Before two, we strive to introduce the kids to as many different types of foods as possible, to make our lives easier and to get rid of the stigma that comes from something like roasted beets as a side for dinner, when she’s five.
After two, it’s not particularly the foods that they don’t like – it’s the thought of eating something new. We are constantly introducing new things to the kids, like pumpkin tortilla chips, chickpeas, roasted beets, seeds in salads – and there are very few things that we’ve learned that they do not like.
The kids still eat things like boxed mac and cheese (and it’s all they want to eat when it’s in the pantry and I’m offering up lunch options) and take-out, but when it comes to those everyday meals at-home, they’re generally good eaters, preferring broccoli, and will happily eat quinoa (as long as it’s quinoa mac and cheese) and there are no black grains of rice mixed in. With new foods, it takes some coaxing, some bribing and some dinnertime threatening – but in the end, they’re going to be better off if they’ve learned to enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods.
During Olivia’s period of extreme pickiness, we made sure that we only had foods in the house that gave her the options we wanted her to have. Bear paws and cheese slices? Those are for Grandma’s house. Want a snack? We gave her the option of strawberries, watermelon, an apple, a muffin, or some of the great choices we find at Costco – but we got rid of the ‘bad’ stuff that kids gravitate towards.
For the most part now, we’ve got kids that are ‘easy to cook for’. Usually, with a little coaxing, they’ll try the foods that we put in front of them at meal times and snacks – but it’s a constant thing that we’re working at.
Teaching Non-Picky Eating Habits
You can teach your kids to like certain foods, you can teach yourself to tolerate certain foods, like Jamie, who includes yogurt in his daily breakfast. I learned healthy eating habits as an adult after growing up being given a second meal because I was extremely picky in my eating habits. Do we do second meals around here? No. If they don’t want dinner, they can have some fruit – but there will always be the leftovers waiting in the fridge if they’re hungrier than the fruit or vegetables I’m serving.
(Unless they get to sneak out with their Dad for Mcdonalds – because he totally does that when I make a meal like Brussels sprouts with orzo and turkey rosemary sausage – Hey, adult tastes are hard to change!)
Studies have shown that children need to be exposed to a food ten to fifteen times before they’re actually to determine if they like the food, so the first time they taste it, and aren’t instantly enamored, you can bet I’m going to serve it again. If you’ve got fussy kids, the most important thing that you can do is to keep trying.
I didn’t get lucky. There are still tantrums. There are still patience lost. But there’s a lot of new foods being tried, too. So I’ll call that a win.