The way I approached feeding my kids was largely based on my experience as a kid. I disliked peas. I really disliked them, but I could get them down. I could never understand why my brother would want to ruin perfectly good mashed potatoes by mixing peas in with them, but he did.
I hated lima beans. I really hated them, and I could not get them down. They would make me gag. It seems like we had them a lot, though we probably didn’t. My parents tried numerous times, but I think eventually they gave up on getting me to eat them.
I remember that feeling of being unable to swallow something even though that would mean getting it out of your mouth and off your taste buds. When you truly hate a food, your body seems to reject the idea of swallowing it. That’s why I had compassion for my second oldest who felt that way about peas.
He is by far my pickiest eater, and I did try to get him to eat things when he was little. I did make him try peas, but after watching him hold them in his mouth for a very long time being unable to swallow, I relented. I knew how he felt.
My boys are now 20, almost 18, and 15. Over the years some things have never changed (like #2 disliking peas), but other things have changed. For a long time they didn’t like soup. When I tried it again, probably a few years later, they loved it.
My picky eater got less picky, then seemed to get picky again. All of them were picky about different things at different times. Kids are always growing and changing, and many times so are their tastes.
Since I’m mentioning my picky eater, I should say that he is also the biggest food lover of the three. He may be particular, but he gets more excited about good food than anyone else in the family.
I’m not proposing that I have all the answers to feeding kids, nor that what I did was the only right way, but looking back I don’t have any regrets, and I continue to handle this topic in the same way now as I did when they were little.
Tips for Getting Kids to Eat
- Recognize that every person (child or adult) has different tastes and different bodies. Just because you like something, don’t expect someone else to.
- Don’t go too easy on them. Sometimes kids have no good reason for not trying something and requiring that they eat a little bit of certain foods can help them learn that they are judging prematurely.
- Don’t be too hard on them. Forcing your kid to eat food he hates will not develop a positive attitude toward food or meal times.
- Keep it light. It’s not worth making a huge deal over it. Come up with a game or a challenge.
- Let them know it’s okay to dislike some foods. Try new foods together as a family and discuss what you like and dislike about the food.
- Get the kids involved in cooking. Let them pick out foods at the store and help you cook it. They are much more likely to eat food they have had a hand in preparing.
- Serve them food prepared in different ways. They might like raw carrots but not cooked. They might like a food in a casserole that they don’t like by itself.
- Give them options. If my picky eater doesn’t like the vegetable I’ve prepared, he is allowed to have a salad or other vegetable of his choice that he can get for himself.
- Keep trying. What they don’t like today, they might like tomorrow, or next month, or next year.