What do you do with your picky eater? Many of us moms have to deal with a picky eater at one time or another. Often you child is going through a stage and will outgrow it. Before you know it your child will be eating the very foods that they were rejecting just days before.
But what about the child that is and has been a picky eater for what seems like forever. I had one of those. In fact, I have had a couple of them. One of my little girls was a picky eater due to a sensory issue, some were from just a stage they were going through, and then there was one child that just would tell me that “they weren’t big on that”. We could be eating the same mac-n-cheese that she had always eaten and all of a sudden…” she wasn’t big on it”.
When my oldest three were little I decided I wasn’t going to argue over food. Pushing and arguing over food just doesn’t seem to help to get them to eat any better. In fact, it seems to make things worse. I have heard pediatricians say “they will eat when they are hungry”. But it didn’t stop me from worrying if they didn’t seem to get enough to eat.
So my plan was started. Before I tell you what I did I want you to remember that all children and families are different, and while this worked for my children and family I am not the authority on child nutrition or getting children to eat. I am just a mom who wanted to have a peaceful mealtime and didn’t want to “threaten to leave my child at the table until they ate those sweet potatoes”. LOL
So here is my plan in a nutshell. I call it the Two Bite Rule.
First I try to always have a desert that I know they will like. Then when we are eating dinner I put a small amount of each food on my child’s plate. Sometimes we forget as parents that our children cannot possibly eat the amount we would make for ourselves. So the first step is to not overwhelm them with a big plate of food. All they will see is the mountain of food and reject it immediately.
Next, I tell them that they have to take two bites of each thing on their plate. If they do, that is all that is required of them to eat in order to get desert.
Now wait, and don’t panic on me. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot. Remember that their tummies are a lot smaller than ours. Also if you don’t want to eat something two bites might not seem so bad.
What I have found is that with this two bite rule they will often either figure out that they like the food and eat it, they won’t like it but will at least have tried it, they will be ok with it and not so resistant the next time to try it again, or they will really NOT like it.
If I find that they really do not like something, then I will sometimes tell them that they have to try two bites out of 3 of the 4 items on their plate. I try to never put more than one thing on their plate that I feel they may not like. That way they can have that skip item sometimes. We haven’t found that we need to skip things often at all.
You can usually tell when a child really doesn’t like something. They will have a very strong facial expression or may have a hard time keeping it in their mouth. I do not feel we should make a child eat something they feel strongly about. I mean think about it… I know there are things that you or I would look at and say “NO WAY”. So I do allow them that courtesy. I do however continue to put the food on their plate for a long while. You will find that sometimes they will just all of a sudden start eating it one day. Or I just skip putting it on their plate for a little while and then put it back on again one day and see how it goes.
Now in the beginning if you meet resistance you may for the first week try the One Bite Rule. Just remember to tell them that the next week will go up to two from then on. Starting at a slower pace may let them see that eating or trying new things are not so bad after all.
This has worked for most of my children. For my daughter that had sensory issues we had to compromise a bit. Her sensory issues would cause her to let’s just say “not hold it down”. So for her I took a complete break for a bit. I didn’t even require her to eat anything. What I did do was something I call “Make it Count”. With that I just try to not offer anything that will be unhealthy. I have made pudding out of mangoes and bananas. I make Green Drinks (yes children love them) and I also bought wheat berries and milled my own flour to make her bread that I would slip apples, carrot, banana, raisins and more into. I would use olive oil instead of butter and honey instead of sugar.
When I did this all the pressure was off. She went from eating only bread and not much else to eating and loving fruit and veggies. This little girl now loves salad, broccoli (which she couldn’t stand) and well pretty much most things. She still struggles with things from time to time but now understands she only has to take two bites and she will get her desert. (by the way desert has also been ice cream made out of bananas or other fruit)
Along with this we also plant a garden every year. The children all love to pick through it and bring back the treasures they find. I think this has helped a lot. My daughter that had the hardest time with being a picky eater would not eat a tomato for anything. All of a sudden this year she is asking for them.
Cutting up different raw fruits and veggies and putting them in a party platter also makes a fun lunch. My girls love it when I make a dip from Avocado and apples/bananas. They love to pick up a spinach leaf, carrot or even a grape and dip it in.
The best thing I think I learned was just to relax. Think about all the things you didn’t want to try as a child and what you eat now. Take the pressure off of both of you and just enjoy having a meal as a family.
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