I always told myself before having children that I’d never have one of “those” children—you know, the ones who refuse to try new foods, who won’t eat fruits or vegetables, and who have a rather limited palate. I’ve discovered that parenthood is one big lesson in humility, and I must admit now that I do have one of “those” children—a picky eater.
Liam started out as a fantastic eater. Anything and everything we put on his plate, he would eat—everything from salmon to green beans to eggplant to hot salsa. Yep, even salsa. And I couldn’t give him pieces of grilled eggplant fast enough. But something happened shortly after he turned 2. Suddenly, Liam refused to eat pretty much anything and everything. We were reduced to about 3 vegetables he would eat and maybe 4-5 fruits (home canned peaches being one, but not fresh peaches!). Protein was maybe a bit easier, but not much. And if we put something new on his plate, it was met by an immediate, “I don’t like that.” Never mind the fact that he hadn’t even tried it!!!
So it was time to get creative as well as to establish some mealtime rules. First, we discovered that Liam still loved mustard. In fact, he told his grandparents once, “I like mustard with my mustard!” So mustard became our friend. Mustard on peas. Mustard on bananas. Mustard on anything and everything, no matter what we thought of the taste combination. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. Also, like most toddlers, Liam was a big fan of pasta. So we would have mushroom ravioli, and I would disguise veggies into the pasta sauce. But most importantly, we didn’t fix him special meals. Liam was given the same food as everyone else at the table. If he didn’t like it and didn’t eat it, fine—he would eat when he was hungry. We also established a “no seconds until you have at least tried everything” rule. He skipped a lot of seconds before finally agreeing to start trying new things.
Now that Liam is 5, his eating habits have greatly improved. He still doesn’t have the variety that his younger sister has, and he is still hesitant to try new things. But by establishing rules and being creative, we have coaxed him into a wider variety of foods. In fact, Liam now loves foods such as corn, broccoli, and tuna—even without mustard! We had a few gagging episodes at the table to get to this point, but we have survived. He is outgrowing his pickiness, and I now truly understand that picky children are born, not created. Remember that your job is to provide a wide variety of healthy, nutritious food. Your child’s job is to decide what he is going to eat—and you can’t force feed him! If you have concerns about your child’s nutrition, please talk to your provider.