This was a post I had written for the Raleigh Moms Blog.
It took me 18 years to start trying foods other than chicken fingers and pizza. When I think back on my youth, I find myself blaming my parents for being too nice. How could they not have known I was bringing my carrots to the bathroom and spitting them out in the trash in the middle of dinner?! They definitely were turning a cheek towards my unhealthy eating habits. Although it was always offered at meal time, I’d usually get away with not having any or taking the smallest helping possible and not even eating it. Now that I have my own children, I refuse to accept that picky eating can run in the family. Even if it does. When my son was just starting to eat solids. I wanted to save him from becoming a picky eater like I had always been. I read every Pinterest article and book imaginable on how to raise a child to not be a picky eater. Unfortunately none of that worked. He didn’t start these picky habits until he was about a year old; but it’s been a struggle ever since. Where did my sweet baby go that would open wide for his mashed veggies? I’ve gotten a handful of advice from friends and family saying, “Give him healthy foods, he won’t starve himself.” Clearly they haven’t had to deal with my stubborn (yet sweet) little boy. I never wanted to hide veggies in my child’s food, but sometimes, a Mom’s gotta do what a Mom’s gotta do! Just imagine what it would be like to spray Windex in your child’s mouth and that would be an accurate re-enactment of what happens when we have him try a vegetable. (I honestly think he would enjoy Windex more than he would a green bean.) Here are some tips I’ve acquired in the past couple years after dealing with my own picky eater and having been a picky eater my whole life.
Let them Help
I’ve noticed that my son is way more apt to eating something if he helps make it. Sometimes it can get messy, but the outcome is definitely worth it.
The only way I could stomach a vegetable or something I didn’t like, was to drench it in BBQ sauce. Hey, whatever works, right? This is literally how I started eating seafood and vegetables, and I can honestly say it helped bring me to be the adventurous eater that I am today. Getting your child to eat veggies can be tough, start by mixing them in dishes like casseroles, or pastas. They eventually will acquire a taste for them. Ranch can and will be your best friend; and I’m pretty sure its meant to be dipped by veggies. Just keep an eye out for your child using a vegetable as a vessel to just eat the sauce. This usually happens and will need to be corrected immediately. Hey, I don’t really blame them!
In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than an under-seasoned vegetable. Even just a little bit of salt and pepper and butter can be your best friend when getting your child to take a bite.
DO NOT offer alternatives.
If your child is saying no to the meal you have made for them. Don’t force them to eat it. If they leave the table and come back because they are hungry, one of the worst things you can do is offer them something you know they’ll like, just to fill their tummies. It will be hard, but stay strong Mama! Just offer them their meal again. If they still refuse, then they will unfortunately have to go to bed hungry. Enough of these nights, they will eventually start trying new things. Who knows? Maybe they’ll like it next time!
Use your food processor.
When in doubt, whip your food processor out! If your child just wont budge, try some hidden veggie recipes. I saved this for last because if the other tips work, stick with those. Sometimes, children can be very stubborn. ESPECIALLY if you’ve dug yourself a hole and have caved in to their terrible eating habits over time. Just know, you are not alone! It can happen to anyone. Even our pediatrician recommended hiding the veggies until our son would start saying yes to nutritious foods. You can find my favorite weeknight recipe, Hidden Veggie Cheddar Bacon Meatloaf here. You can also blend veggies and add them to a smoothie. I usually make one for myself, and one for my son in the morning. If you do hide the veggies in a recipe, the next time you make it, try having your child help. That way you won’t feel bad about being sneaky and your child will realize that veggies can taste good!
Remember, it takes time. Your picky eater will not start eating his vegetables overnight. Good luck!