Picky Eaters?

The ‘dinner’ that Magnus prepared for me – a tea bag, an apple, an onion and a baguette

At one time or another, usually around the 12 month period, chances are your child may develop pickiness in his eating habits.

For Magnus, it happened overnight. He was eating carrots for 12 months, and one day, for no apparent reason, he decided he did not like orange food anymore. That was it. No matter what I did with the carrots – chopped it up raw, steamed it, baked it, cubed it in tiny pieces in his soups – he would always identify the carrot which had to be discarded. Right away. I could not figure out why, and though it was frustrating, What had I done wrong? Had I not given him the diversity in foods from the very beginning? Was he not used to the flavor of carrots?

I did not push the matter.

I just kept offering it to him, then I just started to eat the carrots he did not eat, and then, almost 7 months later, and I remember this clearly – he watched me eat yet another raw stick of carrot at dinner, and he pointed to the next carrot I picked up, and asked for it. And ate it. And ate another.

“It is really crunchy”, he said, smiling.

And I smiled too.

Whether it is the personality of your child that is emerging, or it is actually the particular food that has turned sour for his palate, I think it is important to respect a ‘no’ and not insist.

But it is important not to give us and keep making those foods available and part of his options. Don’t get discouraged – it has not been a waste to provide your child with variety of foods. Studies show that children who are exposed to a diversity of flavors very early on develop less pickiness later in life. They are also being picky from a larger spectrum of foods they have been exposed to.

Dr. Lucy Cooke of University College London who specializes in the development of childhood eating habits recommends “[…] using the window between 4 months and 2 years old to expose children to as many different foods as possible. That way, when the pickiness of toddlerhood sets in, they are retracting from a larger repertoire” [“How to Handle Kids’ Picky Eating”, Robin Nixon, Live Science.Com, 24 Nov., 2010].

The solution is to “keep exposing your picky eater to a variety of foods. One study has found a correlation between the number of different fruits and vegetables that parents bring home and their preschoolers’ willingness to eat fruits and vegetables. Other studies have reported that kids increase their liking for an consumption of vegetables after they are asked to taste them every day for two weeks. ” [“How to Deal with a Picky Eater: 10 Research-Based Tips”, Gwen Dewar, PhD, Parenting Science, 2009].

Studies also show that “repeated exposure works on babies too. One experiment found that infants who were exposed to a different vegetable for eight days in a row were more likely to eat yet another vegetable – green beans – when they were testes” [“Variety is the Spice of Life:Strategies for promoting fruit and vegetable acceptance in infants”, Mannella, J.A., Nicklaus, S., Jagobino, A.L., and Yourshaw L.M., 2008, Physiology and Behavior, 94:29-28

The key is to keep trying.

There are also things you could consider:

– Have you tried to serve the same food in a different temperature? Perhaps the same soup that you serve can be served cold, or even frozen? If your child does not like cooked peas, how about frozen peas?

– Have you tried to combine the food with another kind of food? If your child does not like spinach by itself, have you tried mincing it and mixing it into an omlette?

– Have you tried to provide opportunities for your child to eat with other children who may love the food he dislikes? My son stopped eating yogurt for a few months until he saw his best friend eat it when he had a sleepover.

– Have you tried to provide a different environment for the meal? How about serving the broccoli at a picnic? Or at a party?

I will be building this page with more tips and studies to share with you.

Keep at it and don’t despair – remember, even if it does not seem like it now when your child rejects some of the foods, by continuing to offer them, you are increasing the chances your child will have in going back to those foods.

2 comments

  1. Lindsay Sutton

    Great tips, thanks:)

  2. Thank you Lindsay 🙂

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