I’m someone who loves to eat, and relishes the fresh foods available with each changing season. So, I was both surprised and disappointed when my toddler son hit a picky eating phase. I try to prepare healthy and varied foods, different things to taste and try. Despite those efforts, he hit a several month streak where he refused to eat most things- including foods he’d at one time loved.
Luckily, those few months are finally over (whew!), but not until I’d developed a few ways to cope with his complete refusal to eat so many good things. Some of the ways I made sure he was nourished during this rough patch:
- Rely on the handful of things he loves. Though he was resistant to try different types of meats, beans and fish, and I knew I could get him to eat eggs, nut butters and avocados. Though he wasn’t eating oranges, I knew I could get him to eat strawberries. I know the ideal would be for him to eat a variety of different foods, but in that short time, it was important just to make sure he had a variety of nutrients.
- So many smoothies. With a splash of pineapple juice, any and all fruits and vegetables were rendered indistinguishable in a blender. He happily drank many of the foods he otherwise wouldn’t touch.
- Snack meals. The mix of ingredients in a stew or casserole that I find so interesting, he found suspicious. So, instead of combining foods into one large dish, we’d have meals of little bits of things. Bites of cheese, triangles of pita, handfuls of grapes and slices of egg would pile neatly on a plate rather than being tossed into a salad or piled on a sandwich. Small, recognizable bites were easier for him to recognize and assess.
- Involve him in helping to prepare the food. There’s a certain amount of pride and accomplishment in making your own meal. Foods that he was resistant to try when I cooked, he was willing to sample if he’d been involved in the mashing, the mixing and the baking.
- Different preparations of the same foods. For my son, it seemed so much of his opposition was to the texture of different food. If I tried a different way to prepare it, it changed the texture, and sometimes made him more willing.
- Keep trying. My picky eater became less resistant to try foods he’d seen before. And after trying, he was less resistant to taking larger samplings. It often took several grueling tries before he’d settle in and merrily chow down, but it was worth the effort. Besides, you can’t be sure when this picky phase will end!
How do you make sure your child stays healthy during the phases of pickiest eating?
Liz Moorhead is an English teacher-turned-writer and illustrator. She paints stationery, writes for a top wedding site, and blogs at Happy Sighs between walks to the park with her two boys.