Picky eater? What?
I know, I know, I show lots of pictures like this:
Then come on here and call her picky.
But the truth is that she can be picky, or rather, opinionated. Let’s be honest, she’s three and opinions are pretty much her thing right now.
I’ve just been feeling a bit disingenuous in regards to the image I’m projecting. I don’t want y’all to think I serve every meal to a child full of excitement to cram cauliflower down her throat.
Often enough I’ll serve her dinner and after a few bites she declares that she does not like XYZ. It happens regularly enough right now that I thought I’d share how I handle those times rather than pretending that they don’t exist.
1. Teach her appreciation. I’m not exactly quite sure where she picked this up- maybe David modeling it? maybe school?- but every time I serve her a meal, she’ll say thank you mommy for this delicious breakfast (most meals are still called breakfast around here). I don’t know how deep the three year old waters run, but I do want her to understand that I’ve put time and effort into her meals and that is something to be appreciated.
2. Attach no stigmas, good or bad, to food. This is something I put a lot of effort into. I really want to focus on that food is food, not a healthy food or a special treat food, just food. I serve broccoli the same way I serve a strawberry milkshake (that she had last week). I don’t think at three she really grasps (or cares) that a food is good for her, so I don’t use the ‘ol this is sooooo healthy and will make you strong line. I also don’t use the you must eat ABC in order to have XYX. I think this has kept her neutral on foods to the point that she doesn’t hold any of them on a pedestal. With the strawberry shake even, she drank some of it then handed it to me and asked me to save it for her for later.
3. Dinner is dinner. I do not make a second meal for her if she doesn’t like the first. If something we have is not appropriate for her (last night it was that the shrimp were spicy and she does not tolerate spice well), then I serve her something else of course, but if it’s just a matter of opinion, nope, not having it. Now, I’m not a total jerk and make sure her plate has things I know she likes/will eat (grape tomatoes) and will throw is one wild card item. For example, on the plate at the top of the post, the rice was the wild card and she ate about half of it.
4. No clean plate club. I’ve totally been guilty of saying you need to eat another bite even though it’s not something I believe in. She just gets so distracted sometimes and I feel like I have to, but I’m trying to catch myself and pull back on it. I ask her (ad nauseam) if her tummy is full. We’ve done it for long enough that I think she’s a pretty decent judge of it. She will tell me if she is still hungry, and if she insists she is full, then she can be done. I warn her there is no food later and that this is it, and if she stands by her full tummy, then I let her be finished. Has she asked for food 45 minutes later as she was going to bed? Yes. Did I send her to bed ‘hungry’? I guess you could say I did. If that happens I tell her that we will be sure to eat a big breakfast in the morning and a bigger dinner the next night.
Of course I also love the tips of getting her involved with grocery shopping and cooking. I also think it’s great to have her see me eating the same foods and enjoying them. And I try to avoid turning situations into a power struggle when possible. But perhaps the most important thing of all though? Consistency. I do my best to stay consistent with the types of food I serve, with the rhythm of meal time and with my responses to meal times protests.
Typing some of this out on a post makes me feel a little heartless and like a real stickler. I don’t know if how we handle things over time will change or if I’m even doing things ‘right’ right now, but this seems to be working for us. I’m a believer that kids will eat when they’re hungry and so far, that’s been true. I know I don’t have a classic picky eater, so I don’t mean this to across like I do, but I also don’t have a three year old who jumps up and down at the site of boiled squash. Like all aspects of parenting, each stage brings its own joys and challenges, and figuring out what works in regards to meal time has been quite an adventure!
What challenges do you face at meal time?
What has worked well for you in handling those situations?