How to deal with a picky eater (You want me to eat WHAT?!)

How to Deal with a Picky Eater (2)

You know the moment, Mama.

You slave over the hot stove making a new dish, assemble the family at the table, and then you hear…

“You want me to eat THIS?! But this looks like (insert your favorite insulting comparison here)!”

Often accompanied by tears, frustration, laughter, or an attitude.

Sound familiar?

It happens a lot. I mean, a lot, a lot.

It even has a name: food neophobia – the reluctance to eat, or the avoidance of, new foods.

Also known as a Picky Eater.

Overcoming a picky eater can be a long, hard process. And I’m an authority, because I speak with experience on the topic. (Ahem, sorry, mom and dad.)

How do you stop a picky eater?

 

The best way to help your child enjoy a wide variety of healthy food is to normalize it, right from the start.

You’re probably wondering what I mean by that.

From the beginning, we give kids the message that they need special “kid food.” We start with baby purees, then move on to kids’ menus, and don’t expect them to like “adult food.” Our society thinks of veggies as icky.

Our children take all this in, and it becomes reality. They order off of a special menu at a restaurant, so why would they eat the same food as adults when they’re at home?

The easiest way to stop this thinking is to never let it catch on in the first place. Meaning, don’t differentiate between the food you eat and the food they eat – except to cut it into smaller pieces.

Cue drumroll…

Allow me to introduce you to baby led weaning, or BLW. (This is weaning in the British sense, meaning the introduction of solid foods, not weaning from breastfeeding.)

Baby led weaning is about letting your child feed themselves from the beginning. But more than that, they’re not spoonfeeding themselves purees. They start by gnawing on soft fruit or veggies in mesh bags, or picking up bits of food.  To quote the BLW website, “You just hand them the food in a suitably-sized piece and if they like it they eat it and if they don’t they won’t. (But they do, really they do… check out the baby with the pork chop).”

And really, there’s a picture of a baby eating a porkchop on the site. It’s worth a visit.

From the time our son started eating solid food, he was feeding himself. At first I had planned to make my own pureed baby food, and feed him with a spoon. But then I learned about BLW and discovered – they really don’t need the mush! (And why make more work when it can be super easy?)

Parents who use BLW with some (but not all) of their children often notice a distinct difference in the range of foods the children will eat. And this makes sense – if a baby has grown up tasting real food, with real textures, instead of bland “baby appropriate” purees – then real food is accepted as normal without a fight. The baby has never known any other way of eating solid food.

We fed our son real food from the start. Once we established he could eat a variety of foods without any problem (we introduced things 1 at a time to ensure he had no allergic reactions), he was eating the exact same food as we were at mealtime.

At around 1 year old, we were at an Indian restaurant, and our waiter was shocked to see him eating food off of my plate. To us, it was normal. To society, crazy.

But you know what? It’s working.

Our little man is still under 2, but he eats all the same things we do. It’s less cooking for us, we have spent $0 on baby food, and it’s a LOT of fun for him to experiment with his food (fun and a mess – notice the full coverage bib in the picture). Win, win, win!

Oh, and the fact that he’s NOT a picky eater? BIG WIN.

If you’re reading this and it’s too late for you – you’re way past the stage of introducing solids – that’s ok too. Make sure you’re connected with me on Facebook and Instagram, where I share picky eater tips every Friday. I know you’ll find them helpful.

If you know someone who is just starting to introduce solids, or will be soon, share this information. It could save them from a picky eater!

And if your baby is young enough to try baby led weaning, check out this book. It’s a pretty comprehensive resource.

Have you tried BLW? Have a favorite tip for managing a picky eater? Comment below with your story.

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks, Nicole! Oh yes – starting from the beginning can definitely help. On the whole, my little kiddos will eat (or at least try) the vast majority of things. They do like things separated most of the time rather than together (like a casserole); we do a lot of deconstructed meals.

    I actually didn’t start off going the regular food route. My stepdaughter was 8 when we got married and quite a picky eater. I decided I wasn’t going to make separate meals all of the time, though also saw that we’d have to go slowly and start where things were at (and she is now 16 and will try most things – much, much less picky). With my son, I thought he needed baby food then so I gave him that. Around 13 months, he decided at one meal he wanted our food and wouldn’t eat his own; that stopped me in my tracks and I slowly started to give him what we were eating. We all eat the same stuff these days. 🙂

    • Nicole

      Glad to hear that, Robin! It sounds like your perseverance has helped you overcome your stepdaughter’s picky eating. And your son sounds like the sort of guy who knows what he wants – from a very young age! 🙂

  2. Will C

    We caught Alton Brown (a hero of mine) live, and one of his laws once becoming the Food God (after Anthony Bourdain passes away, of course) was to prohibit kids from ordering from the kids menu (as stated in the link , which is just an entertaining read in general). At the show, he continued with,

    “Once you’ve done that, you’ve given them the freedom, and you’re never getting it back. Your only solution is to have another kid…and kill it in front of the first one, so they know you’re not messing around.”

    You could hear the jaws drop from this otherwise-saintly, super-happy-friendly guy saying something like that before everyone’s sense of humour clicked into place and we all lost it.

    Anecdote aside, I’m actually glad to see this post from you. Fan of Brown as I may be, I make it a point to be a bit skeptical and a bit open-minded of everything, and really enjoyed your perspective. Keep it up, and all the best!!

    • Nicole

      Alton Brown is a lot of fun! Glad to hear he’s onboard with ignoring kids’ menus. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment, Will!

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