Picky Eaters Unite

Besides the age-old childrearing question of how sleep is going, there is the topic of toddler eating (or perhaps I should say toddler not eating).  As a child, I was a prime example of picky eating.  So I’m not sure why it surprises me when my kids sometimes often won’t eat what I serve them.  My 4-year-old daughter has never been a great eater, even though I had high hopes because I did Baby Led Weaning with her.  She started out strong (as most do) and then around a year stopped eating almost all fruit and most carbs.  Kind of the opposite of most kids who prefer white starchy foods.  To this day, if I make her a peanut or almond butter sandwich, she will just scrape the protein off and forgo the bread.  So as you can imagine, my nearly 2-year-old son has been a breath of fresh air this past year as he’s explored new foods with a vigorous appetite.  But since he’s plateaued in weight, he’s slowly but surely becoming more choosy in what he eats, while my 4-year-old is branching out a little more.  But, mealtime is still a struggle for both more often than not.

The last thing I want is to cater to them but I do want and need them to eat – and sometimes in a somewhat timely fashion.  It seems like such a simple thing to me…it’s food, just put it in your mouth.  Chew it, swallow it and go onto the next bite.  Why does it need to be complicated?

Just.  Eat.  Something.

It’s an endless battle I tire of fighting.

When I find myself getting really frustrated, it helps to flash back to a scene at my aunt and uncle’s house when I was roughly 4 years old.  I was told to eat everything on my plate or I wouldn’t be able to play with my cousins.  I remember being so repulsed by the sight of the food on my plate that I refused to give in to their awful demand of eating it.  I sat in that chair bored out of my mind for the entire night, which felt like an eternity to me.  But nothing in the world was worth eating that meat, green beans and potato salad staring back up at me.  I don’t even remember feeling starved or upset they wouldn’t give me something else.  I would have gladly gone without dinner as long as I didn’t have to eat that.

So knowing how I felt as a child, you would think I’d have a little sympathy for my own kids when they refuse to try something new I set in front of them.  But I rarely do.  Some days I am aggravated beyond belief.  Especially if it’s something they ate days before – this happens all the time with my youngest.  One day he eats a cup of strawberries.  The next day he spits them out with a disgusted look on his face.  Same with grapes, pineapple and watermelon – and it even happened the other day with his beloved peanut butter crackers.  Loves them one day and hates them the next…it’s such a mystery to me.

When they tried corn at the Thanksgiving meal at my daughter’s preschool celebration last year the teachers said every kid in the class tried it but mine.  And that her reasoning was, “My mom doesn’t let me eat corn.”  Which is, of course, not true.  I don’t really even consider corn a vegetable, but it just shows how picky she is that she wouldn’t even take one bite!

My best friend always reminds me how her son refused to eat anything but a baked potato for dinner every night for 18 long months, and guess what?  As a teen, his palate has obviously expanded and he eats like a normal, healthy person now, enjoying salads and a wide array of fruits and veggies.

Everything I have read on this topic says the best thing you can do for your kids is model good, healthy eating.  So I try to not get too worked up…I can’t control what they eat.  I can only control their choices. And if that means that sometimes they skip a meal because they won’t eat what I serve them for dinner (which usually includes foods I know they like), then they must not be that hungry after all.  Or they truly are not feeling it that day and just want to play.

Either way, I am pretty convinced they will turn out just fine.

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