Most seasoned parents know that picky eating is a bit of a hot topic. I’ve heard the phrase “I’m not a short order cook” uttered by frustrated parents many times, and I’ve noticed fellow Moms and Dads everywhere joining in on the revolution.
“They won’t starve.”
“They eat what we eat or they don’t eat.”
“If you make them something else, they’ll think they can always have whatever they want. That’s not how the world works.”
While these are all valid points, I have an opposing (and probably unpopular) opinion.
As a kid, I was a picky eater, and now as an adult who eats pretty much anything and everything, I’ve decided the battle over food is a battle I have no desire to fight with my own kids.
I have three daughters. One of them is picky, one eats a wide range of textures and tastes and one is a bit of a wild card depending on her mood. I’m the same parent to the child who will eat cooked veggies and meats as I am to the child who prefers her veggies raw and won’t touch meat. I prepare and offer the same kinds of foods for all of them. They all experienced baby-led weaning when first trying foods.
So when I look at the eating habits of my wildly different children, what I see is different personalities. Not bad habits.
To me, picky eating doesn’t automatically mean eating poorly. My picky-eating child eats cucumbers, raw bell peppers and hummus almost on a daily basis. She enjoys a wide variety of fruits. She snacks on pretzel sticks and homemade zucchini bread and black bean brownies. Sure, she has her fair share of processed snacks, and I realize she’s not eating all super-healthy, extremely nutrient-rich foods, but she’s still getting a variety of real foods into her body the majority of the time.
So if she’s going to ask for a pear (for example) instead of something we’re eating that she just doesn’t like, am I willing to wage an exhausting battle with tears and yelling and frustration? Not really. Not if she’ll happily eat that pear instead.
When I was a kid, I was just like her. I hated cooked vegetables and mushy meals with combined ingredients. It was a texture thing for me. I liked salads, crunchy apples, raw carrots – and would only eat a few types of meats. It’s a texture thing for my daughter, too. Which is why I feel slightly hypocritical telling her she has to eat the things we’re eating now, things that I know I wouldn’t have touched as a child.
I’m also a reformed picky eater who has learned to love a wide assortment of foods on my own time. I try my best to eat mostly real foods and avoid processed things. We try to eat veggies often. We shop at the local farmer’s market when we can in the summer. I love dining out at new places and trying a variety of things. Yet as a child, I ate a heck of a lot of peanut butter and jam sandwiches.
I see a light at the end of the tunnel for my daughter. She just needs time. And in the meantime, I don’t have the desire to teach her a lesson about meals. Instead, we’ve adopted the ‘make a meal with at least one part of it they’ll eat’ method to dinners. If we make tacos – my middle daughter will gobble them all up. My oldest will eat the shredded cheese and the soft whole wheat tortilla. Then we’ll add some cucumbers, hummus and peppers on the side. My youngest is the same. So we all get a meal we like with little fighting and not a ton of extra effort on our part.
It may not work for everyone – but it’s working for us.
I don’t claim to be an expert, and I sure as hell don’t think I’m doing things perfectly. But I do know that I’ve got a picky eater and for now, I’m perfectly okay with that because there are bigger fish to fry.
And one day, with time – and possibly a touch of lemon – she might just try that fish.