Let me start by telling you a little secret. Here it goes – there is no such thing as a “picky eater.” Surprised? I am sure you are scratching your head, probably thinking about the last meal you had with your kid and how he, again, refused to eat his vegetables, plucking out any signs of green color from his plate. You must be wondering, if there is no such thing as a picky eater, how come I have one in my house? The answer is quite simple. We, the parents, train our kids to become Picky Eaters. Yes, you read it right. We, the parents are responsible for this myth and here is why.
There are two ways in which we unknowingly train our kids to be picky eaters. Let’s start by asking a very simple question. Is one of the parents a picky eater? You would be surprised, but in most cases the answer is yes.
Look at your own eating habits
If you look into it, you will find out that in many families the husband does not like to eat green vegetables or the mom prefers to eat processed foods. Different parents have different approaches, dislikes and cravings for food. And guess what? Your kids see it all. They observe you and learn from your behavior. You, the parent, give them the weapons that they will use against you later on in life. They mimic you, and if even once you show dislike of a certain food, they will do the same. If you avoid vegetables and fruits and prefer to serve meat and French fries, why should they choose any differently?
Failed power struggles
The second way we train our kids to be picky eaters is when let them win the power struggle. Although my kids eat everything, including some very exotic fruits and vegetables that I would never touch, from time to time they still test us and refuse to consume a certain item on their plates. It does not matter if it happens the first time with a baby or the 100th time with a toddler, our reaction is always the same and consistent.
In our house we already set down the rules for our meals and the first one on our list is that there are no plan B meals. Whatever my wife decides to cook that day is the food that we are all going to eat. There are no alternatives. Moreover, we think that it is disrespectful to the cook in the house to shove away his food and ask for something else. If you you lose one such power struggle, you open the flood gate for more to come and for your young one to determine what, when and where he would eat.
5 steps to get picky eaters to try new foods
So how do you get rid of a picky eater? You follow these very simple steps. Within 3-4 days, he will eat, and love to eat, whatever is on the table.
Change your habits – from today onward, each member of the family eats the same food during meal times. No one is getting special treatments
Healthy food – get rid of all of that processed food and buy vegetables and fruits. Lots of vegetables and fruits. Start with the basic ones and continue to the more exotic fruits. If your kids eat meat, make sure that for each spoon full of meat, you have 3 spoonfuls of vegetables.
No Plan B – you are not your kids’ personal chef. They should eat what you prepared. If they do not like it, always give them the choice – finish what’s on the plate or go to bed hungry. I have yet to meet a kid who prefers to go to bed hungry rather than eating his tomatoes.
Stay strong – be assured that you are up for a fight. Many tears will be spilled before your kid will touch that green pepper. Stay strong. You are doing it for his own good. You should know better that you are right and he is wrong. Don’t cave in.
Persistence, persistence, persistence – Don’t give up. Continue with your efforts. Mark a date in your calendar and block one week for your experiment. Prepare the weekly meals in advance so you know exactly what to feed your kids daily. Try to avoid restaurants and of course try to avoid your kids’ favorite foods (which I assume are pasta and pizza) for that whole week.
Get the entire family involved
You will need support and plenty of it because your kids can make your life miserable, so make sure your spouse is on track with you. Make sure that relatives don’t spoil your efforts by offering foods you do not want your kids to eat that week. Make sure that your kids finish their plates before dessert, and while on that subject, desserts can only be fruits, no processed treats, no sugary sweets. When you serve fruits make sure that your kids finished their plates first (or at least ate most of their vegetables). Serve the dessert only when they are done so that there are no temptations.
If your kids are old enough to walk by themselves to the fridge or pantry and get their processed foods and treats, simply take them away or hide them. It will be easier for you if the kids do not have access to these spoiler foods.
If you follow these simple steps, you will see a change within 3-4 days. Within a week or so, your struggles will be over and you will have kids who have completely changed their eating habits and proved once again that picky eaters are only a myth and not a real problem.
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Barack Levin is the author of The Diaper Chronicles– A stay at home dad’s quest for raising great kids, available through his website at www.baracklevin.com.