What Makes Kids Picky?

My kids love greens in their scrambled eggs, cod liver oil, sharp cheese, barbecued fish, onions in egg salad, loads of garlic, and plain unsweetened yogurt.  How did I get this to happen? Is it genetics? Eating a variety of spicy foods while pregnant? I’ll tell you what I think has helped my children be less picky than the typical American child.  Your results may vary (especially if dealing with SPD or other special needs), but here’s what has worked for us:

Cut Out Refined Carbs
This is the biggest thing for us – if my children know that there are crackers, goldfish, cookies, chips, pretzels, or other refined sugars/starches they will refuse nutrient dense foods and hold out for the refined stuff.  I think this is most likely the cycle most parents get stuck in- their children self limit (mine will too) to these foods and they’re afraid that if they don’t give them to them, they won’t eat anything at all. For us, we had a few weeks with *none* of this in the house so they could get used to good nutritious food.  Yes, this is a big step, but I attribute all the variety of foods my children happily eat to breaking them of the nutritionally-void food habit.  After a few weeks of *none* we do have chips, pretzels, and even ice cream in the house again.  It’s mostly for Dad, and sometimes for Mom when the kids are in bed.

I like the idea of moderation for things like this with little ones, but it just doesn’t seem to work for us. If they know they can have it ‘sometimes’ and it’s in the house, they’ll hold out for it.  It’s not too bad for hubby and I to wait til they’re asleep before we break out the ice cream- it also keeps us eating nutritious foods all day long too :)

Eating in Front of the Kids
Our kids love to eat what we’re eating. And hubby and I enjoy all the foods listed above (other than the cod liver oil!) so the kids know that’s our every day food.  They’re young and eager to try out all of what mom and dad do (including doing the dishes… ‘helping’ with laundry… ‘organizing’ the pantry).  Sometimes even if they have the same thing that I do on their plate, it’s more appealing if it comes from my plate.  In that case, it doesn’t bother me to feed them off of my plate, or sometimes I’ll just get them started and then show that they really do have the same thing on their plate.  More often than not they’re happy to finish their meal on their own.

Taking the Pressure Off
My children were both slow to start eating- they enjoyed playing with food, but didn’t actually swallow much until a few months past their first birthdays (they were breastfed- my 16 month old still is).  I’ve never really put too much worry into how much they eat. My daughter goes in spurts, I’d guess this is normal.  For a week or so every once in a while she’ll only eat a bite or two of her protein (eggs, meat) for a meal and half of her fruit/veggies.  I just note that she’s eating less right now and make a note to serve her less at her next meal. She knows how to ask for more when she’s hungry again.  She’ll also compensate the opposite direction and eat more than I do for a week at a time, I think it all evens out and I don’t try to change her.

That’s what’s seemed to work in this house so far. How about you? How have you had good results getting your children to eat a variety of food? 

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Comments

  1. I think there’s a combination of factors. Yes, if there’s junk around they’ll want that, BUT there is also no question in my mind that different foods taste different to different people. There is NOT WAY that other people taste the same thing I do when they eat mushrooms or nobody would eat them, they are the most absolutely disgusting flavor to me, shudder. And for my dad, the flavor of coconut (especially sweetened coconut) is extremely strong. He can take a bite of a store bought cookie and immediately tell us there’s coconut in it, when none of the rest of us taste it at all and the coconut is listed way down by salt (seriously!) for whatever reason it’s a very dominant flavor for him (less so with non-sweetened, coconut, both it doesn’t seem to be AS strong, and he doesn’t dislike it as much, he doesn’t dislike my homemade bread that I use coconut oil in, and things like that. . .

    So . . . yes, it’s important to offer healthy choices and limit or eliminate the unhealthy choices, BUT I strongly object to insisting that a child eat any specific thing, we don’t taste what they’re tasting . . .

  2. We know several gluten-free families, and they all have one thing in common: their kids are not picky. In one family the kids go crazy for beef heart. Our youngest loves raw hamburger and raw egg yolks. All our kids cheer for broccoli. We’re not 100% sugar free in our house, and we don’t hold back with plain potato chips, but our kids are still really good eaters.

    The pickiest kids we know are the ones who love white food. Several of them will eat only plain pasta, and literally nothing else. It’s an amazing revelation when you make the connection, and it’s so frustrating when people refuse to accept it.

  3. This is a problem that people refuse to accept all over the place. I heard a speaker the other day go on about how sugar and refined flours are bad, and then blame heart disease, stroke and cancer on meat and saturated fats. I was yelling at the radio, “Are you even listening to yourself?!”

  4. Grr… It ate my comment! (Guess the website’s not a picky eater! LOL)

    OK, the short version is: These are good suggestions! I also think the parent’s attitude has a lot to do with it. If you don’t want your kids to be picky eaters, stop calling them picky eaters! Labels only reinforce the behavior.

  5. My youngest will eat anything I give him, but then he’s only a year. I think doing the Baby-led Weaning process has really helped with that though. My oldest (almost 3) LOVES frozen vegetables. He will eat pretty much any vegetable frozen or raw and when cooked he turns his nose up at half of them. Frozen beans, peas and corn are one of his most favorite snacks while I’m getting dinner ready and then I don’t have to worry too much if he only eats meat doesn’t eat his veggies at dinner. ~Jessica

  6. My six year old will try to eat anything that i tell him is healthy and will make big muscles.So far the only thing he absolutely can’t tolerate is squash. Any form of it. He tries to be brave and set an example for his three younger brothers who clean their plate when they see him eating .So I know there are exceptions but they should be few.It also helps if they make or at least help with the food.For the most part if a child is hungry he will eat.

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  1. [...] in the good fats, calcium, and protein.  I served with (heated) frozen peas- my children, who generally like everything, don’t eat peas. I blame it on myself for not serving them often enough, and their father who [...]

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