Picky Eaters are Made

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Most anyone who is a parent of a picky eater doesn’t want to hear this: Picky eaters are made, not born. On Becoming Pre-Toddlerwise states “Excluding a medical condition, picky eaters are created, not born” (page 61).

Moms I know who are parents of picky eaters are actually typically aware that they have done something along the way to enable the creation of this picky eater situation. Hindsight is 20/20 and they can see where they should have done things differently.

Now, all children do come with their pre-dispositions. Some children are naturally more cautious with food than others. But you can absolutely do things to help your child be as adventurous as she can be.

It is important to note the caveat in the quote above: “Excluding a medical condition.” If your child has or had reflux, there is an excellent chance she will be at least slightly picky. Many reflux children see food as more of an enemy that causes pain. There are also lots of foods that irritate reflux symptoms.

Kaitlyn had reflux as a baby and without question is my most picky eater. She never has liked citrus foods (like oranges or tomatoes) and doesn’t care for berries (they also create reflux problems). However, she tries these foods often. She will even try them several times in one day (like when it is raspberry season and the whole family is enjoying fresh raspberries). She is willing to try new things and even willing to try old things she has never liked. You could call it picky, but you can also call it smart (avoiding foods that cause pain). So, if your child has any sort of allergy or intolerance for whatever reason to foods, know you have an extra challenge to create a non-picky eater and rightfully so.

There are things you can do to help create an eater who will eat what is before him.

  1. Don’t pass on your prejudices. You will have food issues. You might not like certain foods. You might have an unhealthy relationship with food. Try to not pass these issues on to your child.
  2. Allow the child to not like foods. Let’s be reasonable. Most of us have foods we don’t like. There is a children’s book called “Eat Your Peas.” I can’t decide how much I like it because the mom bribes the daughter with all sorts of things to eat her peas. But a great point in the book is when the daughter points out that the mom doesn’t like brussel sprouts and therefore doesn’t eat them. We all have things we don’t like. Brayden doesn’t like corn. Strange, but true. Every so often, he tries it to see if he likes it yet. But I don’t force him to eat it. He isn’t picky and I think we are all entitled to not eat things we don’t like. What I won’t tolerate is “Yuck” and looks of disgust.
  3. Try, Try Again. Like I said above, I have my children ocassionally try a food that I know they don’t like. You never know when your taste buds will change. There are several foods that have previously been disliked and are now liked. Also, don’t give the food once and then give up. Try out the food several times (some say 7-14) before deciding if the child truly likes it or not.
  4. Try New Foods. Keep your menu interesting. Try new recipes and have your child try the new food. I always have my children try three bites of anything new. I don’t have a logical reason for the number three. I just think it sounds fair. Three bites can give you a reasonable idea if you like it or not. Trying new foods will keep your child adventurous.
  5. Feed A Small Amount. When giving a new food, give only a small amount.
  6. Eat Regular Meals. Snacks can interfere with hunger. A child who is ready for a meal is more willing to try new foods than a child who is satisfied enough because of that snack he ate an hour ago. If you need snack time help, see Snack Time.
  7. Feed Your Food. Feed your child what you are eating for dinner. My most adventurous eater is McKenna. Why? By the time she came around, I stopped deciding for my child if she would like it or not. I tried to keep foods very bland for Brayden so he would appreciate bland food. I think that was a mistake. I think it was far better to feed lots of bold flavors like I did with McKenna. She loves everything. It wasn’t a huge blunder; Brayden likes more and more foods all the time and is in no way a picky eater. He just took some time to really like bold flavors.
  8. Watch the Drinks: Too many drinks can fill a child up to the point of being content to not eat dinner.
  9. Don’t Start a War. You don’t want to turn mealtime into a battle ground.
  10. Don’t Feed Snacks Later. If you feed a child snacks after a meal because she was too picky to eat at dinner, you are teaching her she doesn’t need to eat her dinner. Keep in mind, snacks are usually more tasty to a child than dinner was. Even if a food at dinner is good to your child, she might hold out for the snack she knows she will get in an hour or two.

These ten tips can help you avoid making a picky eater. Just remember to feed what you are eating, don’t over-snack, and keep mealtimes regular and you should be feeding a relatively adventurous eater.

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