Having children is the best way to truly understand who we are. I’ve never been more aware of my tendencies, common phrases (even the curse words, oops) and idiosyncrasies than I am today as the mom of an almost four year old. Now, those who have met our little Drew know he’s the spitting image of his daddy (how lucky am I to have two blond-haired, blue-eyed boys in my life?). And if you spend time with him you learn that he doesn’t just look like my husband, but has a lot of the same personality traits too: strong-willed, persistent, organized and even, surprisingly, tidy.
There is one particular trait, though, that Drew and my husband share that is problematic for me: they are both picky eaters. Most kids are a little picky, but shouldn’t the child of a self-declared foodie be willing to try anything? It’s not so much that Drew is a picky eater as much as he really doesn’t care about food – just like his dad. They could both eat the same thing over and over and not really care. And that same thing can be plain chicken (God forbid it have seasoning) or a plain bagel.
When it comes to feeding them, all of my excitement for making things gourmet, flavorful and unique are for naught. That being said, more often than not, they like what I spend hours sweating over and sometimes even request it again (that’s a win!). One of Drew’s favorite foods is rice – fried rice, Spanish rice, rice pilaf, any rice – and I can usually create a pretty balanced meal with rice as the base.
This past weekend, I had an “aha” moment – I could make a gourmet meal and feed my family! We had oven roasted chicken over wild mushroom risotto with balsamic glazed asparagus. Drew ate a good portion of chicken and more than his fair share of risotto…with mushrooms!
There are certainly a lot of opinions about how to get your child to eat and, more importantly, how to eat right. I recently read a blog by Charlotte Stirling-Reed, a nutrition consultant, who provides some general guidelines that I think we all know but are good reminders.
Of particular interest to me are the following points:
Restricting foods can make them unintentionally desirable. Keeping foods in the house that children can see but aren’t allowed to eat makes those foods more appealing. Children are then more likely to overeat such foods on other occasions (e.g., at parties, where they are unrestricted).
It can take 15-20 exposures before a child accepts a new taste. Introduce foods gradually, over time. Encouraging children to touch, taste, lick or smell a food can all help the food to become more familiar, meaning children are then more likely to eat it.
When I’m frustrated about Drew’s eating habits, this is the information I need to remember. Since he was a baby, he has not a great eater, but my mom has always said, “he’s not going to starve.” And that’s true, but I also want Drew to eat and eat well. It is necessary for his physical growth, plus it’s also good for him (and us) emotionally. I’ve said it before, and you’ll hear me say it again, food nourishes the body and the mind. Mealtime is about more than feeding the physical needs – it’s about creating moments as a family. This weekend was a victory in my books – my picky eaters enjoyed a gourmet meal around the table.
Megan Selck, President & CEO