EPIC FAIL: I'm Raising A Picky Eater

My name is April, and I am raising a picky eater. A very picky eater.  FAIL!

While working on an article for Parenting.com about Baby-led Weaning, I began to evaluate my feeding style in regard to my son. It turns out, I kind of suck.  More to the point, I am raising a picky eater. I feed him only the food I know he likes because I want him to eat, which it turns out is so incredibly wrong. Alright, I knew what I was doing was not the best, but dammit, a hungry baby is a poor sleeping baby, and I don't want that. Come on, look at that happy 'Sghetti' covered face!

I have no doubt you are reading this and thinking, duh? Did you really think Spaghetti every night was a good thing? I would say the same too standing on the outside looking in, but when I have a hungry toddler yelling SGHETTI!... I cave. Well, thanks to the research I learned while working on the article, I am a changed mommy!

When Ollie was a wee little 6-month-old starting out on solids, he would eat nearly anything I put in in his mouth. Most of it home made purees of fruits and veggies, with the odd Rusk or melt away mixed in.  As he got older and I introduced finger foods to him similar to the baby-led weaning approach, he kept on eating whatever offered. I was so proud of this.  Some of you may remember my bragging.

He loved avocado, mangoes, cheese, yogurt, chicken... really all fruits and even a few veggies. Now, at two years old, if I can get any veggies into his mouth it's a bloody miracle. Things he used to love he will not touch. Even worse, most times he refuses to even try new things. No surprise since I reward his picky behavior with pasta!

Due to all of the research I did for the article, I've accepted the picky eating is all my fault. Well, he is a toddler, picky eating does come with the territory, but not continuing to introduce new foods, or the same ones over and over in not serving him well. Thankfully, all hope of having a healthier eater is not lost. Turns out, I can fix this.  In fact, I have already started...

In the past I would make dinner for FTD and I, AND make Ollie a separate pasta dinner too.  In my mind it was just easier to make him something I knew he would eat. This was wrong on so many levels.  Mainly because when a baby/toddler turns their nose up at something, they need to be re-introduced to it up to 10 times!  That makes epic fail #2 for me. If he hated a type of food after trying it once or twice, that was it.  I moved on.  This was how we got down to him only wanting pasta, fries, pizza and mini m&ms. (It's my college diet all over again, well minus the equal parts booze.)

The thing is, I need to continue to present Ollie with a wide variety of food over and over and over again.  I cannot give up now and take the easy road; not if I want him to be an awesome eater later in life.  Which, I do.  So now, I make him the same dinner we are having, cut it up and offer it to him.  Truth be told, I do have a back up just in case, but I hold off until he is pissed and hungry.  Thankfully, this has only happened once in the last five days. Turns out he hates salmon and asparagus... for now...

The first night of the push to have him eat what we were eating, I made chicken, mushrooms and roasted potatoes and offered it to him.  At first he yelled the usual, SGHETTI!  But, I held out.  We sat down to eat as a family, and to my delight, after couple of minutes he started trying the food!  He HATED the mushrooms, but ate his chicken and potatoes.  Not all of them, but the goal was met, he tried them! From what I have read, if I continue only offering him what we are having he will get used to it, and stop demanding pasta.

One other thing I learned from the article research was that I need to not be as concerned about him eating a ton at meal times.  Forcing him to eat is bad. I can actually lead to childhood obesity! Dr Amy Brown, from Swansea University states that “Allowing the child to regulate their own appetite and not pressuring them to eat more than they need is a really important step in encouraging children to develop healthy eating patterns for life.” 

He knows when he is full and I need to honor that.  As far back as I can remember, I knew when I was full and stopped eating as a kid.  I have to trust that my kid knows that too.  Sure when we are at a restaurant, or a friend's/family member's house and he is overly stimulated he may not eat as much as he should.  But when we are at home, I follow his cues, not my concerns. No more trying to get him to take, 'one more bite.'

Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician at Stanford University's Lucile Packard Children Hospital and author of Feeding Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition, says the key is not to get caught up in counting servings, but to explore different flavors, smells, and textures during this period of introduction to solid food to head off picky eating habits. (This applies more to the early stages of introducing solids, but rings true for where we are at in relearning.)

I'm still at the beginning of this reintroduction to different foods, but PLEASE learn from my mistakes.  Don't raise a picky eater.  Continue to offer a wide variety of food, and if your child hates it, try again later.  As in ten more times! Trust me I know, it's annoying when they don't eat, but they will... eventually.

If you would like more information on toddler eating habits, CLICK HERE!

April is an award-winning writer and blogger. Her work has been published in over ten countries and four languages. From books to newspapers, to print/online magazines and everything in between, you can find her work. For more on April, Visit AprilMcCormick.com