As I sit here in my hotel room and sharing a Dungeness eggs benedict with my 2 year old daughter (don’t worry, I actually order my eggs benedicts cooked all the way through), I can’t help but think how fortunate I am. Now at the peak of toddlerhood, my daughter does not eat everything, but she will try most foods. We still go through culinary taste challenges, where one day she loves a food and the next it is her arch nemesis, but overall I am happy.
If you speak to my mom, she will tell you that I was destined to have a “good” eater…with an appetite like mine. My mother often giggles when she talks about the fact that I ordered a whole Caribbean lobster with a loaded baked potato on my 12th birthday and left nothing behind.
But, although I think that genetics may have a little to do with it, I have some other thoughts about the makings of a picky eater.
It is never too early to start. At least this is what I say when it comes to developing “well-rounded” taste buds. Did you know that the type of foods that you eat during pregnancy can actually flavor the amniotic fluid? This phenomenon, although unlikely to linger on your baby’s palate, is a good enough reason to eat a wide variety of foods during pregnancy (with doctor’s approval of course).
After this phase, your child’s first introduction to solid foods should be between 4-6 months, although the American Association of Pediatrics now says 6 months. At this point, an introduction to veggies and fruits like green peas, spinach and avocado are favored over sweet fruits like apples, bananas and grapes…at least at first. This will give your child a good foundation for a balanced and healthy diet, which will go a long way.
At the age of nine months, I started to offer my infant more solids and “little menus” of sorts. I have dug into some of my older blog archives (from my practice blog…c’mon, you had one too), to show some of the menus that I wrote when my daughter was just 9 months old. I had the pleasure of making all of her food from scratch.
Introduce and Re-Introduce
It has been said, that it takes as many as 12 times of introducing a new food or a new taste to a child before they will “bite”, literally. So, is it really fair to say that your child does not like a new food after just a few introductions. So introduce and re-introduce those foods. If your child does not like a food, try cutting the food into unique shapes with a food cutter, putting it on a stick or serving it along side some ketchup, ranch or other dip.
Watch Your Tongue, Mind Your Words
OK, so let me be honest here. It absolutely “grinds my gears”, when parent’s say in front of their kids, that he/she does not eat this or does not eat that. Especially with younger kids, that still have developing tastes, the door is not yet closed and you still have a chance to challenge those taste buds. Do not subject your food prejudices or aversions (unless medically or religiously inclined), on the still yet developing taste buds of a child. Your child is paying attention to every word that you say. “He just does not eat broccoli”, is just the validation that your child needs to never try that vegetable again.
Diversity Goes a Long Way
Once my daughter passed the solid food stage, we were ready to introduce her to a diverse array of cuisines and food from all over the world. American, Asian, Indian, Caribbean and more, we challenge her taste buds as much as we can. Especially since many of our travel excursions are accompanied by a 2 year old, we have had great opportunities to expand her horizons. I often shy away from the children’s menus in restaurants, because the menus are usually quite standard. Chicken fingers, grilled cheese, spaghetti and sauce, pizza…it lacks true diversity! The next time the whole family goes out for dinner, try ordering from the “small plates” or appetizer menu, instead. Sometimes, the price is comparable to that of the children’s menu.
You could also try eating “family style”, where even if you do order from the “kiddie” menu as your safety net, your child(ren) are encouraged to try a few bites from the adult menu (by way of your plate, as well).
If you are in the mindset that being a “picky” eater is not that big a deal, think again. The experiences at the dinner table set the framework for a lifestyle of healthy eating habits. So, as much as we may all have our challenges at the dinner table and those little taste buds are hard to tame, ask yourself, “Are you raising a picky eater”?
Milk and Cuddles