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Eat Up, Kids! Mama Won't "Cook Down" For You

My extended family hosted a get-together in May 2017 at a nice Italian restaurant. Our beautiful not-even-13-month-old son was a charmer at the event in his high chair. Knowing he was a picky eater, I didn't order a meal for him. I figured he'd eat some of my husband's lasagna while I enjoyed mussels. Yes, mussels! They're one of my favorites, although I completely understand why they're a love-them-or-hate-them food.

Shep kept grabbing at my plate! At first I thought he wanted to play with the shells. But I soon realized that he wanted to nosh on the morsels inside! I fed him one, expecting him to immediately spit it out and make a hilariously disappointed face.

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He loved it! He asked for another, and another, and another. I cut him off at three and redirected him to his father's lasagna. Complete transparency: I wanted more of the mussels for myself!

That's when it clicked for me. I was not going to "cook down" to my toddler anymore. Our pediatrician gave us great advice when we started solid foods. "Offer them whatever you're eating. You can puree or mash it if you want, but you don't need to make special foods for them."

That practical piece of advice, confirmed by this delight for mussels, has helped shape my approach for introducing solid foods to my kids. They eat what we eat - for the most part. If I'm making something very spicy, I make a small portion that doesn't have quite as much "heat" for the littles. Perhaps something is difficult to chew, so I'll mash it, steam it, or puree it.

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Did you know that it can take up to a dozen attempts for a child to learn to like a food? TWELVE ATTEMPTS to introduce a food is *a lot* of attempts. It's *a lot* of wasted food - unless you're careful. Personally, I've found my kids do best when I don't make a huge deal out of the new food. If they see me eating it, they're more likely to eat it themselves. When I suspect they'll turn their nose up at it, I only serve a bite or two at first. That way, I'm not throwing away my hard work.

If they're really being fussy and won't even try it...well, that's when I become mean mom. This is not, "Let's make a deal." This is my house. In my house, I try a few different approaches.

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Just Try One Bite

This one has actually worked out really well for us. For whatever reason, my son can be really nervous or anxious to try new things. But if we ease into it, let him test the waters - he is usually pleasantly surprised that he really does enjoy it!

Go To Bed Or Eat Your Food

This is not spoken as a threat or a punishment. Sometimes it's "go sit in your room" - the point is, I am giving my child a choice. They can join us for our family meal, or they can go sit quietly by themselves. It's their call. I won't force them to eat if they don't want to.

Finish This And Get A Treat

Oh yeah. I bribe my kid. This one is controversial, and to be honest, it's not my favorite approach. But when my kid is going through a particularly food-averse phase, I might try a treat to break the fast. I do make a point to make sure they're eating a good portion of healthful food to "earn" the treat. Let's be honest - this might not the "best" way to get your kid to eat their veggies, but it is exactly the same tactic used to incentivize most of us in the workforce. "Keep your head down and have a productive morning, and you can get out of here early today."

Through the struggle to get my toddler to eat a healthy variety of foods, I've found that giving up and placating him with macaroni and cheese - or hot dogs - or yogurt - does not work. I don't tolerate picky eating in my house, and I certainly don't feel like making two dinners every night. Leave the nuggets; take the cannoli.

 

What strategies do you use to get your kid to try new foods? Does your toddler eat what you eat? What works for your family? Share your perspective with me on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 with #ToddlerCannotLiveOnHotDogAlone

 

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