Picky Eaters? Learn from Karine’s mistakes
When we had our first child, my husband and I couldn’t wait for her to be old enough to start eating solid food so we could mould her into an adventurous eater like us: sushi, dim sum, haggis (ok, truth is, I tried haggis once when I travelled to Scotland in 1995 and have never eaten it again). We were actually fairly successful with Milla until she turned three: That was about the time she started to have strong opinions about just about everything, including her meals, and it coincided with the arrival of her twin brothers. Suddenly, I cared less about experimenting and more about just making sure she didn’t starve. Soon, Wyatt and Theo were eating solid food (aka baby food), and within one more year my youngest son Beckett was born. Meals were now a chore and quite honestly very complicated: baby food, toddler food, adult food. I tried to avoid three different menus, which meant I defaulted to a rather generic repertoire that included a limited variety of raw veggies I knew the kids would eat, and some rather bland dishes that required a lot of “on the side” sauces. We used to joke that there were no Normal Rockwell moments during family meals when you have kids under the age of five: Instead, success was declared if we made it through without tears or tantrums; and when I say that, I am referring to me.
Ten years later, I wish I had done a few things differently. Hopefully, I can help some avoid the same mistakes I made with a few of my favourite tips for dealing with picky eaters.
- I believe picky eaters are born and not raised. Sure, I got lazy and made plain pasta with butter and parmesan when my kids were small. But to this day, two of them will try anything put in front of them, while the other two need to be bribed to put it near their noses, let alone their mouths, and then ask for plain pasta with butter and parmesan. So don’t be too hard on yourself or them.
- Make a rule about trying foreign foods and stick to it. In my house it was, “You have to try it, and if you don’t care for it, you can say, ‘no thank you, it’s not my favourite.'” I have read that experts say you should try a new food up to 10 times before you can decide if you like it or not. I wish whoever came up with that theory had been in my kitchen when my son Wyatt was two years old and he threw up the cooked carrots I forced him to “try” for the third time; I could have used the help cleaning up. In all honesty, once my kids showed a true, strong dislike for something, I didn’t make it again (or at least, not very often). I want to enjoy meal times, not dread them, and there are plenty of other recipes to try. Now that my kids are older, they will at times look at me with desperation around the dinner table if something new has been presented to them. But at least I can smile and nod my head, encouraging them to just try it, and wait to hear, “No thank you, not my favourite.” And shockingly, more often than not, not only do they not say it as much as they used to, I don’t end up cleaning anything up off the floor.
- I wish I had adopted my friend Kimberley’s approach to meals much earlier: She didn’t talk about the food being served. It literally wasn’t up for discussion, even if someone asked, “What is this?” It was dinner, and if it had eggplant somewhere in it, that was for her to know and for no one to really find out.
- Ask the kids to help make meal plans/grocery shop/prep food. It’s the premise behind everything Sweet Potato Chronicles believes in, and I assure you, it works. (Yes, I know it’s easier to grocery shop without the little monsters, but it’s a life skill you are teaching them, and now that my kids are older, they are actually awesome helpers because they know where to find everything in the grocery store and I can get in and out more quickly with them.)
- When all else fails, I am ok with being a bit sneaky: A dash of kale in their homemade mac and cheese, a delicious soup loaded with root vegetables sweetened with fruit, their favourite pasta with just a little more greens then usual. In other words, try some of these (and for heaven’s sake, help some of us out with your picky eater tips – share, parents, share!):
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