A Picky Perspective

hannah_chart_apple_sm_bgKia Robertson is joining us on the blog today to talk about picky eaters! She’s also giving away one her amazing Today I Ate a Rainbow Kits to one lucky reader! See details at the end of her post!

Some children are picky right from the start no matter what you try. Others seem to change overnight from being amazing eaters to completely finicky ones that refuse the foods they once excitedly ate. It’s no wonder that as a parent you can sometimes feel frustrated, worried and confused. This is especially true if you yourself are a great eater who’s usually more than happy to try something new. Besides it can be really hard not to take it personally when a meal you’ve lovingly prepared is met with a scrunched up face that says “there’s no way I’m eating that”! It can certainly seem like they are just being difficult on purpose. What’s the big deal with just trying a bite…right?

As a former extremely picky eater I want to help you understand that it’s likely that there is more going on than just a battle of wills when it comes to picky eating.
Let me paint a picture that might help you see the world from your picky eaters’ eyes! Imagine your new neighbors have invited you over for dinner. These aren’t just ordinary neighbors they happen to be from another planet, literally.

You’re sitting at the table and they present a plate full of foods you’re not familiar with and to be honest it doesn’t look that delicious. How would you approach eating these new and strange foods? You’d probably want a moment to take it in with your eyes to examine the way the food looks (and maybe to ensure it’s not still moving). Then you might give it a sniff to see if it smells like something tasty. If they weren’t watching, perhaps you’d take a little bit on your fork and give it a lick. Then you’d probably have a small bite knowing that if you didn’t like it you wouldn’t be committed to swallowing a huge amount! Those steps you just took using your senses have helped you to get to know the food in a progression that made you feel more comfortable with trying something new.

It’s completely normal for us to use our senses when faced with something new to eat. I would like to encourage you to think about that the next time you place food in front of your picky eater. Let them get to know their food with their eyes, ears, nose, mouth and even hands. Baby steps really do add up so if your child isn’t ready for a bite of broccoli maybe they’d be happy to give it a kiss or a lick. For an adult we can go through all those steps quickly but for a child it might take a few times before they are willing to really give it a try. In fact research has found that it can take at least 10 exposures before a new food is accepted and that number jumps up for really picky eaters. It’s very easy to want to give up on the third or fourth attempt especially when you’ve worked hard to prepare a healthy meal but I would encourage you to keep trying!

Another very important thing for you to consider when feeding a picky eater is texture. Texture issues are one of the biggest hold ups for a picky eater. Finding out what textures they like and don’t like will be very useful information for you. If you are an adventurous eater it might be very puzzling to see your child gag when eating cooked carrots. But to that child the texture might be way too soft which activates their gag reflex. For example I can’t stand the texture of cooked peas…but I love them raw! I usually find watermelon too mushy…but I’ll gladly eat a bowl of frozen watermelon chunks. Try serving your picky eater fruits and veggies in different forms and texture groups to see what they like best. You may be surprised to learn that they actually do like broccoli but only if it’s roasted or maybe they love blueberries if they are frozen. You can achieve different textures by changing how you prepare them so experiment with your produce by serving them steamed, grilled, raw, baked, frozen, juiced or roasted and you may discover that your child might not be as picky as you thought. Have some fun with it and take on the role of food detectives with your child to discover their favorite texture groups!

My final suggestion is to think small. I know we’re usually told to think big but when it comes to feeding a picky eater the smaller the better! When I say small I mean microscopic…as in bring a magnifying glass to the table! A teeny shred of lettuce, one grain of wild rice, half a blueberry…you get the picture. I know it sounds silly and actually that’s part of the strategy. Using humor and some fun is a great way to introduce something new. It will improve your chances at getting your picky eater to give it a try and that is half the battle when it comes to picky eating. The other thing this technique accomplishes is to give your child a feeling of success. As a picky eater you begin to feel like you’re not good at eating so setting them up for success with these micro-bites gives a nice boost of confidence! Kids love having fun and feeling competent, so use that to your advantage, have a laugh and high five together over a kernel of corn!

Feeding a picky eater is not easy and there isn’t one perfect solution that will work for every picky eater so be gentle with yourself as you try different ways to encourage your child to become less picky. Remember that when you are training taste buds and setting healthy eating habits, it can take time and a little creativity, but like everything else in parenting it’s all worth it!

Rainbow KitKia Robertson is a mom, children’s book author and the creator of the award winning Today I Ate A Rainbow kit that gets kids ASKING to eat their fruits and veggies by turning healthy eating into a fun game! As a former picky eater, Kia is passionate about helping parents overcome the typical struggles they face trying to get their children to eat their fruits and vegetables.
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