When Brayden was just over two years old, we had fresh corn from our garden. It was absolutely delicious. Amazing. Melt in your mouth, the most delicious corn I had ever had. Right around this time, Brayden decided he didn’t like corn. I was in utter shock. How could he possibly not like this corn? BEST EVER! Didn’t he know?!?
Then I wondered, what should I do about it?
Did I need to force him to eat the corn even though he hated it? Should I say okay and never put corn before him again? I definitely did not want to raise a picky eater, so I didn’t want to make the wrong call here.
One thing I always do is think of my child’s behavior and compare it to myself.
Do I have foods I don’t like? Yes, absolutely. Sometimes I choke down foods that aren’t my favorite just because I know they are good for me (hello kidney beans). There are other foods, however, that I just don’t eat.
If I, as an adult, am allowed to have foods I don’t like and wont eat, shouldn’t a child be allowed to have foods he doesn’t like and won’t eat?
My feeling is yes. Children should be allowed to have foods they do not like.
This situation is a slippery slope, however. There may be many things your child doesn’t prefer to eat and if you never require your child to eat foods, your child all set up to head down picky eater lane.
So how do we balance respect for our child as a person while still teaching our children to be overall healthy eaters? Here are some tips.
1-Require the Disliked Food to be Tasted Every So Often
Brayden is now 11 years old, and he still does not like corn. I am sure we have all heard tale of taste buds changing every so often (the popular tale is 5-7 years). I don’t know if that is true, but I DO know that there were things that I hated as a child that I now love as an adult.
I require my children try a food they historically haven’t liked every so often. Just a bite. You never know if you have changed and now like the food.
2-Watch For Patterns
Brayden has very, very few things on his list of foods he does not like. He is not overall picky, and corn is the only vegetable that he really just does not want to eat. He has others he doesn’t prefer, but he will choke those down. Because of that, I am fine with letting him have his corn that he just dislikes strongly.
Kaitlyn, on the other hand, can be quite picky. She has many foods she claims to not like, so she has many foods she doesn’t like that she is required to eat anyway. She doesn’t get to banish every food she claims to not like.
3-Require a Replacement
When we have corn with dinner, Brayden still eats a vegetable with dinner. He doesn’t just say “no” to corn and get to skip the veggie food group that meal. I think that is a key. If you let the vegetable be skipped because a child doesn’t like what you are having, you are likely to have a child who “doesn’t like’ a lot of things.
4-Talk About How Much You Love the Food
When Brayden was born, I still harbored a total loathing for peas. Major. Peas turned out to be one of Brayden’s very favorites, and I could just feel his joy when he got to eat peas. One day, right around the time he turned one, I scooped up a bite of peas without thinking and talked about how delicious they were. And I did love them! From that day on, peas have been one of my favorite vegetables! Watching Brayden gobble them up with delight for many months just convinced my mind that I loved peas, too.
5-In the End, Let Your Child Dislike the Food
Do the first four listed, but as long as your child isn’t liking a food, go ahead and not stress about that. Your child can have foods he doesn’t love to eat. He doesn’t have to like everything on earth.
Picky Eaters: Born or Made?
Picky Eaters are Made
Creating a “Good Eater”
Refusal of Favorite Foods
Overcoming the Picky Eater
Appetite vs. Hunger
10 Mealtime Policies for Children
Food Portions for Children Baby-8 Years
Poll Results: Picky Eaters