"That looks yucky!"
"But you haven't even tried it!
"Ewwwww! I want a hot dog instead."
"But I spent all evening making dinner. Just one little bite." (pleading)
"No. Can I just have a hot dog?"
Does this sound familiar? Many parents are frustrated that their child will only eat one type of food for breakfast, lunch or dinner (hot dog!) or will only eat one color of food or one type of food group. How do you make sure you child is getting a well balanced diet? Do you give in to his picky eating or do you show him who's boss by sending him to bed hungry if he doesn't at least try a new food?
Candace Walsh of Mothering Magazine says she respects her children's aversions, as well as their preferences, by including foods she knows they like with new foods. "I sometimes make Mac- n -cheese alongside a more sophisticated dinner," she says.
"Another thing I do a lot is do modular meals -- I cook pasta and jarred tomato sauce, and then have a fabulous other sauce with mushrooms, artichokes, olives….and all sorts of other grown-up savory ingredients. So we all have the pasta, and some have it with plain sauce, others with the wild mix."
Kalena Cook, author of Birthing a Better Way, says she solved her picky eater problem by taking him to the grocery store and so they could pick out healthy food together. She said she also encourages him to keep trying new foods. "One thing I say to our son, 'Your taste buds will change and you may want to keep trying to sample new foods.'"
"I am of the old school mindset of not giving my kids a sense of entitlement," says Louise Rainone, who insists there are no picky eaters, only parents that allow their children to be picky eaters. "My children have to at least try everything on their plates. If they choose not to eat their food, then they get no other options and can have breakfast in the morning. By making them choose to eat or not to eat, then the responsibility is then put on the child to make better decisions. You don't eat, you go hungry."
Maggie Macaulay, MS Ed, parent and parenting expert of WholeHeartedParenting.com says you can avoid food power struggles by giving kids choices. "When parents power struggle over food choices or mealtime with their children, food can easily become something more than simply nourishment. This is a very important place for parents to detach from the power struggle and use redirects such as choices (do you want scrambled eggs or cereal for breakfast?) and letting children have the last word (not engaging). It is also important that meal time be a time for connecting rather than a time of conflict. "
If an older child does not like what you fix, they can fix something else on their own, she suggests.
Some kids are not being picky or stubborn, but just have a problem with the texture, says Karen Berman, author of Friday Night Bites (Running Press, 2009). "It's a sensory thing -- that is, it's neurologically based," she says.
"Some kids are just sensitive to certain flavors and textures. I also think that forcing a kid to eat something early on can create power struggles that are not conducive to a pleasant family dinner." She recommends placing small portions of a new food on your child's plate and encouraging them to try it.
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