“Hey, Bud, what do you want to eat for dinner?” I asked as I pilfered through the fridge. “Nothing,” came the reply.
Yep, I’ve got a picky eater on my hands. Today, he’s eaten canned macaroni and cheese, string cheese, yoghurt and a peanut butter sandwich. Not a pea, carrot or meat protein in sight.
I can’t help but feel a bit stressed out when I compare my boy’s eating habits today with the way he ate after he was born. He took to breastfeeding like a champ for six months, and when my milk production lagged, he took to purees just as well. I made everything from scratch and his favourite was the black bean-avocado-mango puree. When he got a little bit older, he ate everything we ate. Now, even though we still have some luck with store-bought pouches, my kid basically lives on dairy and carbs – he will only eat beige food.
Naturally, my husband and I worry that he isn’t getting all the nutrients he needs. Frustrated, I did exactly what you’re doing – I took to the internet to try and find a solution.
Fussy Eating Tactics
I found all manner of tactics to get kids to eat more fruit and vegetables, but why do we have to go to such lengths?
One Slate article I stumbled across gave some interesting insight on the matter. It suggests that it’s totally normal for children to be wary of unfamiliar foods. This behaviour is most common between the ages of two and six and it may even be a sort of evolutionary survival tactic. If we’re cautious about trying new foods, odds are we’re less likely to accidentally poison ourselves.
Another theory about fussy eating is that it’s a way for kids to start asserting themselves. Along with insisting on wearing their Spiderman costume to the supermarket, refusing food is another way they can exercise their right to choose.
Overall, though, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Fussy eating is often a rite of passage for kids and while it can be worrying (not to mention annoying!), it’s rarely harmful.
Here are just a few ways you can combat picky eating and help ensure that your kid is getting the nutrients he or she needs – without the fight.
Sneak It In
That’s right, hide those fruits and veggies. Stock your shelves with products made with fruit and vegetable juices (ice lollies, fruit snacks, veggie cheese, etc.). Try to work them into your child’s meals as often as you can.
It isn’t the same as eating a real carrot, but it’s better than nothing. If you’re into DIY, try making these frozen fruit lollies – all you need on hand is your favourite 100% juice and your favourite fruit.
We’ve already talked about how great pouches (homemade or store-bought) are. They can pack a punch of grains, veggies and fruit, and actually taste pretty good. They’re not very messy and are great for on-the-go snacking.
Give your kid the power here. Put two bites of a new food on their plate. Tell them that they have to at least try those two bites, but if they don’t like it they don’t have to eat any more.
This can be tough because there might be a little bit of a fight in the beginning, but if you work to make this a common practice that they expect, you might be surprised at how smoothly it goes.
If all else fails, embrace the motives of the picky eater. I was at a total loss after several days of my kid eating only string cheese, milk and chips, so I spoke to my doctor. Her advice? Stay calm. “As long as he’s eating something, it’s really not that big a deal,” she told me.
As hard as my son’s picky eating is to deal with, that’s just how it goes some weeks. And, if I’m honest with myself, I can’t really blame him. If I could get away with eating mac and cheese for every meal, why wouldn’t I?!