I sat there starring my son down from across the dinner table. For the third night in a row, he wouldn't touch his supper. It was official: my husband and I created a picky eater. We tried to nurture healthy eating habits. We were especially diligent about it in the beginning. Only vegetables, then fruit. Not too much sugar. Etc. Etc.
Then somewhere along the way, we veered off course. We got tired. We got lazy. And at the end of the day, we just didn't care if he ate a granola bar for dinner or not.
Sure kid. Have at it.
Here's the problem.
The more we gave in and continued swapping healthy foods for lesser alternatives, the more he grew accustomed to this type of dinner time negotiation. Before we knew it, his diet consisted mostly of dairy and grains and some fruit. While those things are an important part of any diet, lean protein and vegetables should be the mainstay ¦for all of us.
We created a picky eater.
After a while, we decided it was time for a change. There were too many toddler power struggles that went like this ¦
Just take one tiny bite, just taste it in your mouth, just touch it with your elbow ¦your nose, you can just look at it and smell it, seriously, it will not explode into a fireball in your mouth ¦GAH ¦EAT IT!!!
Sound familiar? Hopefully not, but if it does, keep reading. Because there are 6 ways we created a picky eater without even knowing it.
Pressurizing kids into eating a food they don't want creates a negative experience surrounding that food. After multiple negative experiences with a food, your child may start to develop a food neophobia, which is a fancy way of saying, you scared your kid from ever eating that again.
So how do you stop pressurizing at the dinner table? It's easy. Take a deep breath, put your best care-free California smile on and say, You. don't. have. to. eat. it. Sometimes to improve toddler listening you have to take a step back before you can move forward.
We offer too many drinks before and during meals.
I once read, a hungry child will eat what is put in front of them. Unfortunately, milk and juice will quell your child's hunger just enough to enable them to say No way! when trying new foods. In order to help our picky eater feel hungry enough at dinner, we stopped all snacks and drinks two hours before dinner. Milk is allowed half-way through the meal now, if he asks.
You expect them to eat it.
It can take 10-15 times of actually trying and eating a food before a child decides it's palatable. So if they only look at it and smell it the first few times, no biggie. You have another 14 times to offer it again before you should stop trying. Until then, keep that food or recipe on the try list.
You don't model the example.
If we want our kids to eat a salad like it's a McDonald's French fry then we gotta lead by example. This is a no-brainer, right? BUT ¦what about all those hidden snacks you are eating when your kids aren't looking?
If you ™ve seen me on Instagram before, you know that I have a horrible habit of eating chocolate and cookie dough for breakfast. This usually takes place while I ™m looking over the counter telling my son to finish his oat bran and spinach muffin. Clearly, I needed to make some changes myself.
You offer an overwhelming amount.
Kids require very small portions. Usually, much smaller than we think. And offering a large portion is overwhelming to a child. Plus, kids love things served in small dishware. If you're feeling ambitious, serve your child dinner in an ice cube tray (Or try these easy lunch ideas to make food fun). Offer a little bit of everything in very small amounts. Our son LOVES this! Doing this even got him to eat spinach.
You forgot the sprinkles.
Now, I know this is controversial, but a little sprinkles never hurt anybody. It's amazing how a few sprinkles can make carrots and broccoli seem appealing. I ™d rather have a child who eats vegetables with sprinkles than a child who eats none at all.
Turn your picky eater into a healthy one.
About 3 weeks after I decided I wasn't a short order cook or a granola bar delivery person, things started to change. I remember sitting across the dinner table looking at my son. He sat there analyzing the contents of his red ice cube tray.
Carefully, he reached for the peas, examining one in his hand and then placing it back into its respective cube. I waited patiently, wishing our dinner time battles away.
My husband and I continued chatting about our day, and when we were done talking, we looked over to see an empty ice cube tray.
The spinach. The peas. The carrots. The chicken. The potatoes. All of it was gone. For a moment I thought he must ™ve thrown it on the floor. Then my son looked at me and smiled, revealing the vegetables stuck between his teeth. I smiled back, knowing that from then on, we wouldn't be having granola bars for dinner anymore. Now if I could just figure out how to handle bedtime tantrums, we’d be golden.