There’s a lot of “picky eating” talk happening over here and I’m not quite sure how this blog post is only coming out now! It’s probably one of the most important things a parent should know, yet I’ve neglected to share it. We’ll chalk it up to mommy brain, how about that? 🙂
Parents with “picky eaters” are asking the wrong question.
Myself included! When I first chat with moms like you (and the old me), 90% of the time their question is “how do I get my child to eat [insert food here]“? It’s an expected question, because our goal as parents is to nourish our children, and we do that with good food. So when our little one’s diet consists of plain pasta, crackers and cheese as staples, it’s natural that we worry.
However, asking the question “how do I get my child to eat X?” triggers a host of reactions from parents that could fuel the fire at mealtimes. For instance, if we want our toddler to eat more greens we may sneak them into sauces, muffins, smoothies, etc. For some children who are less adventurous at meals, if they see a speckle of spinach in their meatballs it’s game over. He will push the plate away and potentially lose trust. The next time we make meatballs, chances are he will be looking for a speck of green or not want them at all.
Heck, I wish someone told ME this a few years ago when I was the stressed out mom on the other side of the table.
Our goal should not be to get our child to eat X, Y, Z.
Our goal should be to teach our little ones how to enjoy eating in itself.
Unfortunately (and fortunately) we can not control goal #1. Out little ones will decide how much to eat and what they will eat (unless we push them, which can be tough on everyone and exhausting). We can however control goal #2. Changing the eating environment to make meals more enjoyable is much easier for us to do, and has positive long-term effects.
So when you sit down for dinner tonight, change your mindset around meals for a moment. Tell yourself that the goal is for her (or him) to just enjoy being at the table. You might be surprise at the result! There are a number of ways to inject enjoyment and remove stress from your meals, and that’s the foundation on which the The Picky Eater Protocol is built.
**Caveat: Every child is different, and so is every parent. Our Sienna’s genetic condition is linked to a diminished appetite and oral motor/chewing delays, so we couldn’t rely on her hunger cues entirely. Sometimes she needs an extra nudge in a non-forceful way to eat. We were told that if our daughter didn’t eat or grow sufficiently, she would need to have a surgical gastronomy tube inserted. Now, when a parent hears “your child must eat or else…” it’s pretty tough to sit back and relinquish control. After all, she was one of those children who would starve themselves to avoid discomfort. If your little one ‘must’ eat due to medical concerns, etc. it’s so important that you recruit the help of a feeding therapist or specialist.