My mother-in-law loves to tell the story about my husband and his brother, then ages 2 and 3, sitting at the kitchen sink, gulping back raw oysters as fast as they could be shucked.
I still can’t handle raw oysters and my husband reserves sushi for nights out with his brother, friends, coworkers…anyone but me.
While I consider myself open to trying new foods, I am nowhere near as adventurous as my husband. He will try ANYTHING…think fermented worm while were were travelling in Africa. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
My husband’s complete willingness to try any type of food versus my hesitancy, sparked a lot of discussion when I was pregnant with our first child about how we wanted our future children to eat. Considering our love for travel, we had a strong desire to raise kids who followed more in my husband’s footsteps. We didn’t want our child to be a picky eater.
My mother-in-law told me her secret: Introduce them to as many different types of foods, textures, and flavours right from the beginning.
She cautioned me about her mistake of giving her first pureed baby food because he later struggled with lumps.
When it came time to introduce solids to my baby, I had been told about the 4 day rules over and over again. I needed to be on constant look out for allergies. While doctors tended to recommend cereals and grains to start, nutritionists cautioned that these would be much harder for baby to digest. There was an order that should be followed.
I was stressed.
I took a class on how to make baby food and put my mother-in-law’s advice aside. How could I introduce every taste and texture if I had to space everything out? I went with the 4 day rule and ventured down the stressful path of fear based feeding.
But it turns out my daughter had other ideas.
She refused to eat purees. She wasn’t interested in eating mashed up bananas or avocados. It took me 3 weeks to figure out that she just wanted to eat what we were eating.
So we started to give her food from our plates. She ate exactly what we ate.
I threw out the 4 day rule and opted for interesting and tasty foods instead. I seasoned our food with an array of spices, introduced seafood from the get-go (the flakiness of fish makes it great for babies), and assumed she could handle spicy food until we learned otherwise.
When my son came along, he wasn’t given the option of pureed baby food. We went straight to baby led weaning.
The result: My kids love food and they will try everything.
They may not like everything, but they try everything. And here’s what I’ve learned.
If they don’t like something right away, give it to them again. It took my son 7 times before he liked eggs and now he eats them everyday.
When they suddenly get picky and refuse to eat a meal they’ve always loved, it’s a behaviour issue not a food issue.
The more I accommodate special requests when they “don’t like” what’s in front of them, the pickier they get.
If I give them snacks close to dinner they are more likely not to eat dinner. This one seems obvious but I can’t count how many times I’ve given snacks in response to whining when dinner is only an hour away.
Restaurants are a great opportunity to try food you wouldn’t have a home. Never (well, almost never) order from the kids menu. It’s full of crappy, bland food: cheese pizza, plain pasta, chicken fingers. I usually get pissed off when I read the exact same kids menu at every restaurant. Let’s focus on quality and not on making sure they consume a lot….grr… I could go on and on.
The bottom line is: Kids don’t have to be picky eaters.
They are capable of eating all food. All it takes is a shift in expectations.
If you’re curious to learn more, click here to sign up for my upcoming workshop: Toddlers and the 3 Battles: Bedtime, Mealtime, Potty time, where we’ll delve into exactly what to do to turn those picky eaters into eating champs!