I was sure my son was going to starve to death.
Just after my youngest turned 18 months old, I made the "radical" decision to ditch our family's omni eating habits in favor of a mostly plant-based diet. My son's health was...fine, I guess...but I was motivated to find dietary ways of dealing with some of his totally normal, yet totally chronic issues rather than resorting to meds. It sounded great- but I soon discovered there was just one problem with all of this...
My son absolutely refused to eat vegetables.
Now I know that's really not all that unusual as far as 18-month-olds go but it was a huge blow to my plant-based plan. He thwarted every last effort to get a green thing into his body. I mean seriously- did he really find all that cut up broccoli in the pasta sauce?
Fast forward two years- I'm happy to report that he's now a healthy and happy three-and-a-half year old who loves plain ol' cauliflower and carrots. It didn't come easily (or quickly for that matter) but here are five methods that helped my picky eater become an adventurous one.
- Get creative with the condiments. Our kids' taste buds are so jacked up on processed foods that we often have to slowly introduce them to the less than exciting flavors of certain vegetables. Now oddly enough, my kids actually hate ketchup (!) so I had to get creative with dressing up their veggies. Like pure maple syrup and golden raisins on sweet potatoes and carrots. Or BBQ sauce on lentils. Or honey mustard on just about anything. And yes, it's okay to tell your kids "there's syrup" on it. Start with just a drizzle and you can eventually back off to the point where they won't miss it at all.
- Give them a little control.. My son never wasn't into the whole fork and spoon thing as a toddler. But one thing I noticed- he would never pick up food that was already slathered in sauce because it was too messy (even toddlers have limits). Instead of pre-dressing his food, I decided to let him dunk his own veggies in a dip of his choice. World of difference for him. With my older one, it was all about helping to pick out and prepare what we were going to eat. A little autonomy goes a long way.
- Keep trying. This whole process takes time- don't stop putting the food on their plates just because they refuse to eat it once. Or twice. Or a hundred times. I can't tell you how many sides of carrots went in the trash over the months I tried to introduce them to my kids. One day I got the brilliant idea to serve them boiled instead of crunchy (I know) and suddenly they couldn't get enough!
- Don't fight over it. Eating should be a positive experience, not a control issue. We have a "try one bite" rule at our dinner table. However, we also have the "only one dinner" rule- it's been the easiest way to teach them to eat what we eat, even if it's slightly modified (see #1 above). Stand firm on these two rules but don't fight- it's possible to win the battle and lose the war.
- Set the example. Our kids learn how to relate to food by our example. If you reach for chips instead of a piece of fruit at snack time, so will they. If you struggle with this, try keeping tempting foods out of your house for a while to retrain your eating habits- after all, if you don't buy it, you can't eat it!
Are you having trouble with a picky eater? Comment below and tell us about it!