It’s always something right? You get the sleep schedule down. They have mastered potty training. They occasionally share toys with their sibling. And then it strikes. A food they have always loved they suddenly develop amnesia over. “I don’t like that!” becomes their mantra. What happened?! Your kiddo is actually doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. Let’s talk about picky eating.
As children grow, they naturally change what they like (similar to TV programs-which is why you don’t have to watch Elmo forever and ever). They tend to repeat a trend over and over and then suddenly grow out of it. Through their experiences and learning they are forming new pathways in their brain and this can drive new behavior, such as a change in their food preference. Some other considerations? Their temperament can also play a role-if your child is a risk taker in play, maybe they are a risk taker in eating. Your kiddo may also be more stimuli-sensitive and reject certain smells and textures. So many reasons, so little time! Try these.
~Have your kiddo join you in the kitchen. Make it fun, give them an apron, a fun spoon that’s just for them-whatever you think they would enjoy. Have them touch the food, measure the food, cook the food. Have them try different foods while in the kitchen with you, it will feel so much less pressured than at the table.
~ Get clever. Find some ways to incorporate the disliked foods into the liked foods. Make smoothies, provide a dipping sauce, get the food-that’s-like-other-food (like pasta made of veggies) make some zucchini bread or other sweet treats with vegetables or fruits baked in. It’s not trickery, it’s just opportunity. Here are a bunch of recipe ideas.
~ Remember the days of family meals at the table when you were told “you’ll sit there until you’re done” or “eat everything on your plate”? Honestly, did it help your relationship with food? I’m guessing no. Instead, only offer your kiddo small portions with a few new items to “try”. Don’t overly fixate. Don’t provide endless alternatives. Just make small offerings with realistic expectations.
~ If this becomes an absolute battle, there may be something more going on. If your child also struggles with sensitivities around touch or noise it could be a sensory issue that needs to be addressed. Talk to your child’s PCP and ask about a referral to an occupational therapist.
~ In general, relax. Most eating issues resolve themselves with time. Unless there is a medical, developmental or psychological concern, a doctor can advise you how to supplement nutrients and you can keep trying without pressuring your kiddo or yourself. Bon appetit!