Just eat already!

I get awfully tired of hearing the same thing from doctors or nutritional experts on the subject of picky eaters. It always comes down to: “Eventually he’ll get hungry enough to eat whatever you give him.” Not so. In fact, last year we went head to head with my three year-old picky eater on the advice of his pediatrician and he didn’t eat a thing. Not a thing. After about 36 hours I called the ped asking what to do next and received stunned silence. “Well,” He said after a minute or two, “he needs to eat something. Give him something he will eat.” That’s right. The kid won.

I am a firm believer in not coddling kids’ food phobias. I don’t feed them watered down baby food, I don’t cut the crusts off sandwiches, I don’t make a mild version of spicy dinners. My kids are regularly exposed to Mexican food (and we’re not talking the American version here), funky Italian, Thai, Korean, Greek, Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean and any other flavors that come along.

They ate quinoa salad and lentil soup as babies and have snacked on hummus, not ranch dip, with the family for years. They’ve tried all the greens; bok choy, Swiss chard, poblano peppers and a wider variety of fruits than many adults.

I don’t make special food for my picky eater. Unfortunately, the kid just doesn’t eat. He’ll strike whole meals, sometimes more on a regular basis until he can manage to swipe a hot dog from the fridge, which he will eat plain; bun-less and flavorless. His favorite foods are spoiled for him with the addition of anything green or black. That includes herbs or spices of any kind. One of his few standbys, “smashed motatoes” are ruined by the addition of any spice other than salt. Green foods are bad, along with veggies of any kind. Most fruits are yucky. Many meats don’t make the cut. I have no idea what to do with this kid. I’m this close to pulling out Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious hide-the-pureed-veggies recipe book for something other than her fabulous garbanzo bean chocolate chip cookies (yummm) but I’m pretty sure he won’t go for it.

Any suggestions?

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6 responses to “Just eat already!

  1. I grew up a picky eater. In fact, I did not start eating “normal” food until I was in my 20’s. It was incredibly frustrating not just for my mother, but for me. I did not like getting made fun of at the dinner table. Going to restaurants or to friend’s houses for dinner was terrifying because I was afraid they wouldn’t have something I would eat.

    It wasn’t until I was 23 that a chef friend recognized my problem. I was terrified of some foods because they were too complex, too many ingredients. To help me overcome my fear, I would stand next to him while he was cooking and taste each ingredient before he put it into the meal. Surprisingly, this made the food much less intimidating, as well as increased my willingness to try other foods that had similar ingredients. Additionally, texture of food is an issue for me. I can’t handle the chewiness of red meat or the slimy feel to onions in the same way some people can’t handle fish or shrimp.

    This may not be your son’s problem and I’m not saying the way I overcame it will work. It may be something he merely needs to grow out of.

  2. Last night on NOVA Science they featured new research that shows that some kids have a gene that accentuates the bitter taste in foods (like vegetables) Here’s the link:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/0404/01.html
    The good news is that most people grow out of it!

  3. Pingback: Fear of Food « Katie Charland

  4. Girl, we are living in the same world. Sometimes I get so tired of the experts’ advice. My now 5 year old daughter ate everything when she was a baby-everything! Now we’re down to 5 or 6 foods that she will deign to eat. I get frustrated with her, but she’s still growing, has lots of energy, and her brain continues to absorb and amazing amount of stuff on a daily basis. I, too, was a picky eater as a child. I was strictly meat and potatoes. My parents were shocked when I returned from my first year of college and declared I was a vegetarian. I continued to eat a vegetarian diet for years. So, what I have decided to do is stop making faces out of food, stop expecting that just because my daughter has helped me prepare something that’s gonna be the impetus for her to eat it, stop guilting myself about my lack of creativity or originality, as if that were the reason for her lack of adventurousness in the culinary diaspora, and look to my own experience as a guide. I eat a varied diet now, I’m pretty healthy, and I try new things when the opportunity permits. Don’t sweat it, my sister. I don’t believe we “set their eating habits in stone” at this age, despite what the experts tell me. And, I’m tired of the power struggle. So, for my girl, it’s whole wheat pasta with soy sauce (go figure), plain tofu, yogurt, white hot dog buns with peanut butter, and assorted fruits and juices. I’ll give you a holler in about 10 years, and we’ll see where our kids are then….I’m betting they’ll surprise us.

  5. My greatest recommendation is get him helping in the kitchen cooking some meals with you and get him involved with possibly a little grocery shopping.

    He probably likes things that you may be unaware, so watch him through the store, especially in produce and see what he does. Let him pick out a couple things and make suggestions.

    He can do a lot in the kitchen like wash vegetables, mix and stir things, peel, and chop up stuff with a hand-chopper. They love this!

    I would not have any of his “favorite stand-bys” in the house– he knows he can win, but not if they aren’t available.

    And one more question- are you or dad picky or make those kinds of comments around food? If so, that will need to be eliminated– he hears that and knows who to complain to when he doesn’t like something.. Good luck and let me know what you think.

  6. Pingback: Garbonzos incognito « notes from a been-there mom

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