Go to the bottom of the parenting class at once!!
I mean what kind of mother are you?
Don’t you know, that if you just prepared one healthy, balanced meal and insisted everyone ate it, your picky eater would be instantly transformed.
And if you stopped hiding vegetables – and short order serving – your little loves would bolt down their broccoli and beg for more.
Hmmm … possibly … but y’know what?
Small children everywhere, throughout time have been – most of them anyway – picky eaters.
And NOT because us parents are lame and lazy and complete failures.
BUT because ALL small mammals are – for very, very good reasons – picky eaters.
Disliking bitter, unusual flavours and a strong gag mechanism actually keeps them alive.
Because when little mammals start feeding themselves they need to:
- Be hyper wary of any food they don’t recognise
- Be strongly averse to bitter flavours that could indicate poison
- Be suspicious of texture and smell suggesting food is off
- Have a strong gag mechanism against hard to chew food that could choke them
So evolution has hard wired those super sensitive senses into them.
AND into our little mammals too.
And y’know what?
Evolution is going to wipe the floor with every parenting bible on Amazon.
So if you have got a particularly picky eater, the best thing to do, is relax.
And sit it out. It’s nature.
And the worst thing to do? Make a fuss.
Making the dinner table a battle field will not help your picky eater.
Because if we pick a fight with evolution we’re going to lose. Our kids will resist.
They’re far more likely to become confident, adventurous eaters over time if we start from what they like – often unsurprisingly “safe” carbs – and gradually introduce more and more diversity.
If they like pasta serve different shapes, different colours.
If they like potatoes cook them in lots of different ways.
If they like bread mix it up. Some days soft. Some days crusty. Brown. Spelt. Seedy. Wholegrain.
An expanding range of safe food lets them discover for themselves new food won’t kill them.
And as they are far more likely to properly taste it and chew it and swallow it, this is far more effective than the “just one bite” approach which doesn’t work for lots of kids.
I’ve got a picky eater who really hasn’t done veg – unless hidden – but who will munch any bread you throw at her however “grown up” it might seem. And gobble down any meat she can get.
As they become more confident in difference, children will also make bigger leaps.
Which means you can work with textures and tastes they do like to offer more diversity.
My 7 year old does well with crunchy so we’ve gradually expanded from apples – once the only fruit she would eat – to carrot sticks, crisp red peppers and even radishes.
But she still will NOT eat a banana. Eeek. Squidgy.
So as a parent of a picky eater, this is what you need to hold onto.
As long as every meal has got enough solidly safe stuff for them to fill up on – and we gradually expand their confidence in different tastes and textures – they WILL be fine.
Children really can flourish on a very limited diet.
You are NOT a failure.
And we are absolutely not ruining their chances for ever by topping them up with some simply smuggled in veg and protein where necessary to keep them growing and everything moving inside.
In fact we’re helping them.
Because a positive experience of sharing meals together as a family sets them up for life.
Turning the dinner table into a battle field with the hard wired, super sensitivity to food that evolution has given our kids to keep them safe, does not.
And to make you feel better, I was once the pickiest of picky eaters.
I drove my mum insane. Nothing she tried helped.
Until all by themselves my taste buds grew up. I now snack on cauliflower.
AND I LOVE brussel sprouts!
If, like me, you’ve got picky eaters, I really hope this helps.
Please do share your thoughts and experiences.