My husband has the palette of a fourth grader (admittedly) and it appeared from the time my son first ventured from baby food to solid food that he was destined to be a picky eater as well. At six years old, he’ll still only eat plain pasta, which should not be confused with pasta with butter. We are talking p-l-a-i-n, people. He tried a slice of bread for the first time when he was five and still will not go anywhere near yogurt. That said, he loves edamame, eats tons of vegetables and consumes a bowl of fruit every week. How did we work together as a family to encourage healthy eating? I’ll share my tips:
1. Try the two-choice approach: “Would you like red peppers or a yellow tomato?” This works more times than not. If your child turns “off” a certain food, introduce two new foods.
2. Keep it simple. I’m not a big fan of dressing food up to look fun and exciting. There is no way that my son will eat a casserole or anything that contains two or more ingredients of food he dislikes just because it’s in the shape of a space ship. What he will do is nibble from several PLAIN foods on his plate. It’s a bit more work to provide this level of variety, but introducing foods is the key to expanding a child’s culinary horizons.
3. Just because you don’t like tomatoes and mushrooms, doesn’t mean your child won’t. The next time you’re at the grocery store, ask you child to pick out two vegetables or fruits. If your child has ownership of the experience, he or she is more likely to try it. If the word “vegetable” is the trigger, say “green” or “orange” foods. Side note: this approach went awry once when my son ended up having a “pet” butternut squash for two months. True story.
4. Fill in food gaps with appropriate and nutrient-rich alternatives. If your child won’t eat meat of any kind, try edamame or peanut butter. If they won’t eat a vegetable, try incorporating them into sauces and vegetable broth. Some food issues are simply consistency or texture-based complaints, not indicative of the actual food or its flavor.
5. Make mealtime a joyful experience. In other words, don’t make a big deal out of what your child is eating or, in this case, not eating. Keep in mind that like everything else, each day is an opportunity to do things differently and to potentially choose to try something new.
Good luck and please share your success stories!
*If you have a child with a food allergy, please take a look at our Allergy Blog Posts!