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My 1st son, bless his heart. He was the pickiest little man I ever met. The problem was though, that I had made him that way. I fed him cheese, tater tots, chicken nuggets, juice, milk, bananas, and sometimes apples. I thought I was doing good. Nobody said anything, and I guess it could have been worse. But I was constantly having to make him a separate meal because he refused to eat what I made if it wasn’t on his “approved list of foods”, and that list wasn’t growing because he wouldn’t try anything new.
Oh the heartbreak, the headaches, the humiliation…ok, that’s a little dramatic maybe. Except I specifically remember a time when Justin and I were cheering for him at the table because he ate a small bite of something new and we both looked at each other with tears in our eyes. Now that I think about it, I remember why I’m writing this. Because I know there are others out there that are in that same frustrating place with their children. So let me just say now, that same toddler that gagged like he was going to throw up on every food that was not on his inner list of approved foods – yes, that same child is 11 years old at the time of me writing this- and will now eat a bowl of lentils, a bowl of chili, a salad, soup, beans, pretty much anything, except for ketchup.
What’d I do?
- I stopped fighting with him. I don’t need to control everything he eats, but I refuse to be a slave to my child’s every whim. You do control what your children eat if you are the one creating the meal plans and making the food. That’s just how it is. But I found myself always preparing myself for a fight, expecting it. But that’s unnatural and stressful. Meals are supposed to be fun, relaxing, refreshing. Relax, be at peace, it’s not a fight.
- I stopped making a second meal for picky eaters. It’s hard when you know they probably won’t eat what you made, and will stubbornly go to bed hungry. But they have to take more responsibility for eating at the correct times- meal times.
- Don’t let them drink their calories. If you let a toddler drink from a bottle or sippy cup all day they will just not be as hungry at meal times and will be more likely to skip eating what everyone else is eating. Then later they tend to nag for snacks and other things. When you give in to them asking for little snacks in between meals, you reward them for training you to do their bidding. I had a hard time getting my now youngest off of drinking all his calories. It helps to put all the bottles away and start giving them more water to drink instead of milk all day long. This can all be a slow process. But just start moving in a certain direction.
- Make a variety, and make food they like. I was praying about this whole situation one day and I heard God tell me to make food they liked. That surprised me. But I had been making a lot of lentils and beans. Which at the time no one liked beans and lentils except for me. I did it because we had a super ridiculously low budget for food and I was trying to stick to it. But teaching your picky eaters to eat what you put in front of them is easier if they like at least some of the meals you make. If you know they like tater tots or mac n cheese, make a healthy version for them at least once a week. I started asking my children what they wanted to make, and they help me prepare it on “their day”. Each of them have their own “day”, where they are the designated helper, and a spotlight is on them for the day. I try to make at least one item at each meal that I know my picky eater will like, and I mix it with a variety of other things that I also offer them.
- Make sure they see you eating what you are trying to convince them to eat. I now am going through this same process again with my 3 year old (at the time of this writing). And I make a point to show him how good everything tastes, and that if he doesn’t want it I’ll gladly eat his portion and he can go hungry if he prefers. More and more I hear him tell me, “No, no, I want to eat it!” so I give it back to him , and sometimes he’ll eat it like a champ.
- I stopped being so afraid of my children starving. They just aren’t going to starve because they don’t like the taste or consistency of some food. That’s such a 1st world problem. If they are truly hungry they’ll usually eat something. But if they prefer to not eat, let them experience that too. It’s not that long till there’s another meal coming up.
They’ll make it, and they’ll be more willing to try whatever is set before them, and not so set on being picky.