My mom cursed me.
During most of our talks of life down the road, or during an argument involving my brattiness and her parenting techniques, she would always tell me "I hope your kids turn out just like you." Sometimes she meant it as a blessing, other times it was meant as a curse so I would appreciate the suffering she endured :-p I was an ornery one, that's for sure.
Enter...my Daughter. Precious, beautiful, charasmatic, adventurous, brave, intelligent. So many words to describe her. All around perfect, if you ask me. I made her baby food, a journey I was so excited about! She gobbled it up. Homemade peas, green beans, asparagus, sweet potatoes, salmon, chicken. You name it, she devoured it. I was so lucky. YES, I thought. I got the blessing part of my mother's words, and seem to have skipped the curse.
Boy did I eat those words.
She turned 13 months, and all hell broke loose. I made the mistake of giving her McDonald's chicken nuggets, and from then on she refused any other type of chicken. Not even a different kind of fried chicken. She wanted that greasy processed crap. No more potatoes, no more green, no more red peppers. She decided to go on the beige diet. Now at 16 months, it seems to just be getting worse. She'll eat fruit, mac n' cheese, deli turkey (deli, not carved) PB&J. Even chicken nuggets are usually a no-go. She'll eat crackers and graham crackers, ice cream, most types of junk food, but I don't give her those often.
1. Food Art. Make broccoli the trees, mashed potatoes the clouds, and your kids are the Giants sent to devour the forest. Make up names for the food, like Sloppy Sammies or Green Brianna's. Pancake faces with scrambled egg hair and turkey bacon smiles (we like turkey products in our house, not a lot of beef). Does your son love dinosaurs? Cut bread and chicken into shapes of dinosaurs! Complete with sound effects of course. (Thanks to food bloggers Kristen and Kelly of Dinner du Jour for this tip!)
2. Bribery. No I don't mean to prompt them with chocolate or potato chips every time they eat. Get creative and healthy about it, but don't overdo it. "Landon, if you take one bite of your green beans I will put more oranges on your plate." Or take that opportunity to be more fun about it. "We'll read one more book tonight." "You can stay up 5 minutes later if you eat all the food on your plate." Little things that make them happy but won't give them a sugar high or spoil them rotten.
3. Get them involved! This is probably my favorite advice. I do this a little already, but I am going to kick it up a notch. My 16 month old loves to help stir the noodles (with me holding her hand of course, since the pot is hot). I let my 3 year old slice his hot dogs with a plastic butter knife. I let them pour in the seasonings or add the butter, little things to get them involved in the food we are making. It makes them feel more connected to the meal and hopefully more willing to try it. Don't feel bad about letting them sample the food while making it. It may cut back on what they eat AT dinner, but they are still eating it and likely will eat more because they don't realize what they're doing, because they're so busy helping prepare it! I also am looking to buy a mini grocery cart, so my kids can help me shop. I may even let them sneak in some of their own choices ;-)
4. Persistence. Don't give up! Keep giving them healthy foods, every meal. Don't ever say "Oh, she doesn't like peas." That only encourages pickiness. If they don't like something, keep offering small amounts of it to them every week. Eventually their palates will change and hopefully they'll learn to like it (or at least tolerate it). (I really like this tip from Stacie, I had never thought to avoid the word "Picky")
5. Praise. Go nuts when they try the tiniest bite of corn. If they don't take another bite, that's fine, ignore it. But when they try something? Praise the crap out of them!
6. Pick your battles. Don't make the dinner table a warzone. Negative reactions cause negative feelings. Don't yell at them if they don't eat what or as much as you'd like them to.
7. Be Sneaky. I do this with my 16 month only because she truly will not eat her veggies. I put corn and tiny pieces of chicken in her mac n' cheese, smother broccoli in cheese or ranch. Anything to cover up the "Ucky" things and she won't even notice she's eating them. Definitely not a long term solution, but it assures me she's getting what she needs whether she knows it or not.
8. Do not compromise. This is similar to the Bribery one, but the opposite. If they refuse to eat their dinner, do not offer them something else. Don't fight with them, simply take the plate away and either save it for later or just toss it. Don't let them think "If I don't eat my broccoli, then she'll give me chicken nuggets."
9. Survival of the fullest. They are not going to starve. I repeat...they are not going to starve! They may be pretty hungry for a while, but eventually they will eat because they will realize you are not giving in. Eating is one of the biggest power struggles with kids. Don't struggle, but assert your power. What you make for dinner is what they get for dinner. Simple as that.
10. Walk the Walk. Be the role model for your children. Children won’t naturally gravitate toward healthy foods, so it’s up to you, the parents, to set the example. You'll soon see that their food choices will mirror yours.
Last but most important. Don't worry about it! So you've tried everything under the sun, and your child still will not expand her palate beyond macaroni and bananas. You know what? My daughter is just fine. She is growing. She will not be like this forever. If you think of what your child eats over the course of a week, instead of a day, you’ll see they generally get everything they need.