My husband and I have been battling my son’s picky eating habits for the the past three years. As a new mom nearly 4 years ago, I faced many of the same fears that other new moms face. I worried about my son’s sleeping habits, whether he was reaching his milestones and of course I worried about his eating habits, especially when he began eating solids. I stuck to mainly store-bought baby food because that was all I knew. As Wyatt reached toddler-hood, he began refusing more and more of the veggies that I offered him. I began fretting over his behavior and would often give in and make something he would eat (usually a cheese quesadilla or a grilled cheese sandwich). Other times, I would try to force him to eat healthier options and we would both end up in tears. I began researching the subject of picky eating, and found a great deal of conflicting information. It was overwhelming. I started feeling like a failure every time Wyatt would refuse to eat the healthy meal I had cooked.
After repeatedly trying different approaches to end our mealtime struggles, I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Please keep in mind – I am not a nutritionist, dietitian, pediatrician or anyone who knows anything about anything medical, but I can share some of the strategies I use with my picky eater.
I stopped making a big deal about meals.
I try to stick to this, but it’s a challenge. When we sit down for dinner, I usually tell my son that I would like him to try each of the foods I have put on his plate. After the first request, I try (I said try) not to keep asking repeatedly for him to eat a bite of each food. This takes away the power struggle. While I would love to see him eat everything on his plate, I want to keep meals stress-free, so I keep the nagging to a minimum.
I let my son lick his food.
Yes, I know I sound like a complete weirdo. Wyatt oftentimes is scared to try a new food because of what he thinks is an icky texture. He will ask to lick the food first to see what it tastes like, instead of going for the full-on bite. To him, this is working up the courage to try a new food and I call it progress! Basically, this strategy falls under the umbrella of being flexible and willing to compromise when it comes to your picky eater.
I continue offering new foods.
It can be super frustrating to offer a food that your child repeatedly refuses. However, I have found that my cautious preschooler may need repeated exposure to a new food before feeling brave enough to take a bite.
In addition to the above-mentioned strategies, we limit milk and juice between mealtimes, model healthy eating as much as possible and give Wyatt a vitamin each day. While he may never be an adventurous eater, I’m happy to say that Wyatt is making progress in terms of eating healthier, balanced meals and trying new foods.
Now that my younger son is approaching his toddler years, I’ve given a lot of thought about how to encourage a positive attitude towards healthy eating. One method we’ve had success with is Baby Led Weaning. While I occasionally offer my son a puree or store-bought jar of baby food, I’ve had better luck offering him foods I cook that are mashed or cut into manageable pieces. You can read more about our contributor Ginny’s experience with Baby Led Weaning here.
Have you struggled with picky eating in your family? What solutions have you found?