I have a great mom. She is a phenomenal cook. Growing up she always made practically everything from scratch! I loved it and learned a lot from her. There are four kids in our family. Our taste buds are very similar, but they weren’t always. Sometimes we were picky. Being the great mom she was, my mom made accommodations–sometimes she left out ingredients if one sibling didn’t like them, sometimes she made two meals. It was fine. She didn’t mind. But slowly things started to get out of control. Family recipes were forever changed to exclude tomatoes because 1 person didn’t like them. If we ever got fast food, it wasn’t uncommon to see her drive to 3 different places to satisfy her picky children.
Then I grew up. I got married. I had a baby. I have another baby on the way. I began thinking of how I wanted our family unit to be; how I wanted family meals to go. I imagine us sitting at the table together, at the same time, eating the same thing.
I love to cook. I put a lot of effort into each meal I make. But just because I enjoy making good food does not mean I want to spend my entire day in the kitchen making a different meal for everyone. If that’s something you don’t mind, then more power to you, but for me, it takes time away that I’d rather spend talking to my husband or playing with my kids. This is one reason I refuse to make more than ONE meal for dinner, lunch, or breakfast.
Reason two: picky eaters are the worst to invite over. It is a NIGHTMARE to cook for them. Anything one person likes, the next person does not. One person likes sweets, one person can’t stand them, one person hates this, the other person loves it. It is so difficult. For Christmas brunch I made French Toast, a Breakfast Casserole, Sweet Rolls, and Bacon to try and please every palate at my in laws, but still one person will always go without and not touch a single thing. My husband has asked me to make his parents Mexican food, but I am like what would I make? One person won’t eat it unless it’s pork, the other won’t eat pork. It’s impossible. It’s frustrating. It’s something I don’t want my kids to be. I want them to able to be anyone’s dinner guest and enjoy what was prepared.
While my son is only 18 months, I have been pretty successful thus far. How? I don’t force him to eat anything, but I don’t shelter him from certain foods. Some parents will keep spicy foods away from their child thinking they won’t like them. I don’t. David is offered EVERYTHING we eat. And what is the result? I have a child that eats & LOVES EVERYTHING. He will even eat salsa plain! He will eat enchiladas, he will eat tamales, he even eats popcorn with hot sauce on it (like his mom). He eats mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, chicken, ham, beef, cheese (even goat cheese), any fruit. Honestly, any food you can think of he will eat! It has made life so easy.
Here is how we made the UN-pickiest eater:
1. Don’t give up if they don’t like it the first time.
- Sometimes, a child will decide they love something the first time they try it, but if they don’t, try again later. A child needs to be presented to a food as many as 15-20 times before they learn to eat it. Also, even if they love it the first time, it doesn’t mean they will want it every time.
2. Don’t force them to eat something, but encourage them to smell, lick or taste the new food.
3. Let them have seconds & thirds of what they like, even if they ignore the rest.
4. Avoid preparing special meals for your child. Give them what everyone else is eating.
5. Don’t bribe.
- I’ve heard stories where a parent will tell their kid they can have a cookie if they finish their plate. I’ve heard stories where the kid has grown so accustomed to this, that they actually begin a meal by asking how many bites they need to take to have dessert! For us, dessert isn’t conditional. David doesn’t have to eat a certain amount to have some. Because we haven’t restricted him, there have been times where he actually has turned down sweets to be able to have more of the heartier meal.
6. Frequently offer new foods.
7. Involve kids in the cooking process.
- We loved helping our mom in the kitchen. We were more likely to try a new food if we helped prepare it. David is this way too. He is young, but I have always had him in the kitchen with me when I cook. He’s my helper. He’s typically sitting in his high chair, but I show him what I’m doing every step of the way. He will even make yummy noises as I cook. I’m not sure how much he internalizes when I involve him in the cooking process, but I do know that the meals he is involved in, he asks for seconds, thirds, and sometimes even fourths!
8. If you have a toddler, let them feed themselves.
- David’s grandparents will oftentimes not feed David because they think he doesn’t want the food. But that’s not the case. He says no because he doesn’t want to be fed like a baby. He is very independent at this age and wants to do it himself. When he’s at home we put him in the high chair with his food and a fork or spoon & let him do his thing. Yes he gets messy, but he eats til he’s full and is developing those motor skills which is another plus.
9. Don’t be a picky eater.
- Kids learn by example. If you’re a picky eater, they are more likely to be picky as well. It’s funny. I actually noticed this the other day. David LOVES eating beans & eggs with tortillas and so do I. But, as much as he loves it, if I’m not eating it with him, he will hardly touch it. This goes with any food. If we are eating it, he LOVES it and asks for more, but if it’s something we won’t touch neither will he.