Friday, February 25, 2011

How Do You Get A Picky Eater to Eat Healthier?

My oldest child has always been a picky eater. As a baby she refused to nurse, preferring the fast flow of a bottle to working for her meal. (Although an aggressive nurse contributed to the problem.) When she started solid foods (at 4 months as was recommended such a short time ago) she had a distinct preference for oatmeal cereal over rice and definite opinions about each flavor of baby food she was presented.

By the time she was a toddler she could put a spoonful of meat and vegetables (mixed together in a casserole) in her mouth, swish her tongue around a little, put her fingers in her mouth and hand you the one green bean in the mix. She went on food jags for weeks at a time, forsaking nearly all other foods in favor of grapes or frozen peas. I was thankful the jags were always something healthy but as a new mom I worried about her nutrition, probably too much.

I've found that the more focus you put on food, the picker the eater becomes. With my son I was less worried about what he ate and he eats a much wider variety of healthy foods than his older sister. And with my littlest one I hardly have time to worry at all and she eats the best of anyone in the family.

Over the last few years I've tried to increase my oldest's repertoire of healthy foods (she has no problem with eating crap). We have had some success and she is also more willing to try new things or even "old" things again.

One of the things we've done (for the whole family) is to pick out a new item from the fresh produce department for the whole family to try. Everyone must at least try a bite if they have never tried it before or if it has been a while since they tried it and didn't care for it. The bite must be a true bite and not a nibble. We must also be willing to try a second bite if the food can be modified in some way (sprinkle of pepper for example).

Confession: I too am a picky eater. Or, at least I used to be. Through these experiments I have added a lot more healthy foods to my food repertoire as well.

We've tried things like hummus, plantain, pomegranate, kiwi, avocado, asparagus, plums, cherries, nectarines, honeydew melon, zucchini and more. Perhaps not the most exotic (though we have tried some unusual things too) but what is accessible in our stores and what looks interesting. We may revisit some of the ones we tried and didn't care for, in the interest that tastes change over time.

I also make only one meal for the whole family. If anyone chooses to not eat, that is his/her choice and there will be only one alternative: fresh fruit or vegetables.

So far, these are the strategies that work for us...what have you tried?

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