I hear parents often remarking that their child is a picky eater. My son is a pretty adventurous eater and I often get asked how I get him to eat a variety of foods. Here is a list of things that I do that I think contribute to his adventurous eating:
1. Let them play with their food. I once read to let kids play with their food. Let them explore the texture. Let them smear, squeeze, and smash to their heart's content. It is absolutely messy but some of it actually ends up in their mouths! This is something I did when my guy was younger. I don’t let him really do it much now unless it is a new food with a weird texture- a clam for example.
2. Try to get him to participate in the preparing of the meal. I have also read that kids who help prepare the meal are more like to eat it since they have some ownership. When my guy was a baby I put his chair in the kitchen and put some of what I was making on his tray. As he has gotten older I ask if he wants to help me make dinner. If he wants to help I get him set up with his own cutting board, apron and kitchen tools. He actually thinks it is fun and he is so proud of himself when he tells his daddy how he helped make dinner!
3. Don’t engage in power struggles over food. I decided that I am not going to make him sit at the table and enforce that he cannot leave until he eats all of what I have prepared for him. Here’s my thinking- you could sit me in front of a plate of tripe, lima beans with whole wheat toast and there is no way on this green earth I am eating it. It is just not happening. And kids have nothing else better to do than sit there until kingdom come so I just feel this isn’t a power struggle I want to engage. For the most part- the rule is you have to taste dinner. You do not have to eat it all. Just take a bite. If little man is not really into it he can have a bowl of cereal or a yogurt. I don’t take it personally if he doesn’t like dinner and it is no skin off my nose to open a container of yogurt or pour a bowl of cereal. I would much rather sit with my family and enjoy a meal together than stress out because my four year old isn’t into his osso bucco.
4. Keep good food in your house. I often get asked what my secret is to get my son to eat anything that is not a chicken nugget, mac n’ cheese, hotdogs, etc. Here is my secret… wait for it…. I don’t feed it to him. Like almost never. Really. If we go out to eat he can order mac n’ cheese, but I don’t keep it in the house. He never ate a hotdog until he was fed one at school this year. I don’t keep chicken nuggets in the house either. A couple years ago I noticed that my son kept requesting processed packaged convenience food for snacks. While there is nothing innately wrong with this (and it is sooooo easy!) I felt he wasn’t getting enough nutrition. I remembered my mom saying to me that I am the parent and I am in control. So I just stopped buying the packaged snacks. Shortly thereafter he stopped asking for it. His snacks are now mostly fruit, veggies or cheese.
Like I said, none of this may work for your and your family or your life style. This is just a guideline of things I feel helped me shape an adventurous eater. If any of this does help you I would love to hear it!
Here is a great blog that my cousin Joanna writes. She currently has an 11 month old and has been blogging about their food adventures. She also has awesome, healthy recipes for young eaters and adults. I just find this to be a great resource!
Rhiana Menning is a wife, domestic goddess, and mother of one four year old boy affectionately known as Captain Chaos.