We’ve all heard the stories of (or had personal experience with) children who will only eat a very small variety of food. Perhaps the child will only eat one color of food or one or two different foods at any given time. Perhaps the child goes from “loving” a food to “hating it” and back again on a weekly basis. These kinds of attitudes are challenging for parents who want to prepare healthy, well-rounded food for their children and I believe that picky eating in children can be limited if parents start early enough. Our boys are generally good eaters and I think that is due, in part, to our introducing a wide variety of food to them early on in their lives.
- If your child asks for something on your plate, let them try it. Even if they don’t care for it the first time, it is better to let them try it and determine that themselves, than to limit what they are allowed to eat from an early age. (Of course, if you’re eating something that they just don’t need – like that mini donut I had with breakfast this morning – perhaps say no to that and offer them something else on your plate instead. Use your judgement – they are your children.)
- When you introduce something new to your children, make sure they see you eat and enjoy that new food. If mommy and daddy obviously like it, the child is more likely to also enjoy the food. If they don’t see you eat it, however, it’s easier for them to refuse to try it or assume they don’t like it as soon as they try it. When we first introduced lima beans to the boys, Hubby stepped up to the plate, asked if he could have some of the lima beans we served to the boys, and made sure they saw him eat and exclaim about how yummy they were. No, we adults don’t particularly care for lima beans, but it’s important to us that our kids at least try them. When the boys saw their daddy, their hero, eat the beans, they both were willing to try them. They didn’t like them the first time they ate them, but they have since eaten them a few times.
- Even if you don’t care for a particular food group, make sure to either prepare things from that food group for your children, or put them in an environment where they can try them. I know people who don’t particularly care for fish, and therefore never prepare it at home. But when they are out for dinner, they take the opportunity to let their children try the fish that is offered them. There is no reason to limit your children’s palates because of your food preferences.
Now, our children eat the same kind of food on an almost daily basis (a lot of canned fruit and veggies, chicken, cheese, and pasta), but we do try to make sure to rotate foods in and out so that the boys don’t get too used to a particular food. It’s not a perfect system, but giving your children a variety of food starting from an early age will help them not only develop more wide-ranging palate, but will help combat picky eating and make the children more open to trying new things.