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“When I have kids, they won’t be eating junk,” I said to myself.
That was obviously before I had kids. Because we are all the best parents before we have kids, right?
For a while, I actually did do a pretty good job keeping junk away from my oldest baby. Little Bo was exclusively breastfed, and her first food was avocado. The sweetest thing she ate for a long time was fruit. She ate only “real” food: veggies, grains, fruits and meats. We didn’t do a smash cake at her first birthday, and she was over 2 before she ever tasted a bite of french fry or sampled a lick of accidentally-discovered chocolate. I was feeling pretty good about it.
But before you think I’m some full-of-herself-sanctimommy, just know that not long after I got pregnant with our second baby, all that good eating went straight out the window.
In my first trimester of my second pregnancy I had the discriminating palate of a 6 year old. French fries sounded really good. So did some good ol’ Kraft Mac n Cheese. Little Bo wanted a bite, and I made the mistake of obliging.
Now, the little girl who was happy to gulp down avocado pieces, strawberries, and roasted sweet potato would only eat chicken nuggets, pasta, and bread.
It was the first few steps down a road of picky eating that I tell myself probably would have happened at some point anyway. But its inevitability didn’t make me feel any better about the situation.
Fortunately, toddlers are resilient. And even though she ate like this for the better part of a year, she was otherwise happy and healthy. I have to admit though, her eating habits started to really bother me, and I knew I needed to do something. I just didn’t know what.
So I tried sneaking veggies into her. And this worked for a little while.
Fritters were a great way to sneak in carrots, zucchini, and sweet potato. Grate up your veggies, squeeze out the moisture, add some egg, a little bit of flour, salt and pepper, and fry them up in your oil of choice.
I tried my hand at smoothies for a while, too, because you can hide ALL SORTS of green things in these bad boys! Spinach is my personal favorite. Pair it with a banana, some almonds, milk, ice, chia seeds, ground flax and other fruit of choice, then I blend it up in a Nutribullet.
Since my daughter was a pasta fiend, I also used my Nutribullet to blend up zucchini and bell pepper into my spaghetti sauce. She was none the wiser.
Basically, as long as I paired some kind of bread-y, carb-y food with what we were eating, dinnertime was less of a struggle. Quiche is an excellent example of the power carbs held over my daughter. She doesn’t like eggs, or ham, or broccoli, but put a little pie crust on the fork and she’ll eat all those things!
Eventually though, effective as it was, sneaking veggies into my kid got tiresome, and I still felt limited as to what I could feed her. So I tried this:
THE SECRET TO ELIMINATING FOOD BATTLES
Mom decides WHEN snack and mealtimes are, as well as WHAT options will be served for dinner. The child decides IF and HOW MUCH he or she will eat.
This kind of advice is often recommended by experts, and it has worked really well for us! I make sure to offer options I know she is likely to eat along with new foods, and I frequently remind her: You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to!
I was pleased when the tension at the dinner table dissipated. But I was even more pleased when, just a few weeks ago, this happened totally by accident:
HOW I GOT MY KID TO WILLINGLY TRY NEW FOODS
When we started doing homeschool preschool, I made a point to have my daughter help me cook dinner every night–or at least watch.
Not only was she all over the idea, but she was suddenly eager to taste what we were making. The little girl who wouldn’t touch green foods with a 39-and-a-half foot pole was handing me a stalk of raw swiss chard and asking for a bite.
She doesn’t always love what she tries, but she’s much more willing to try when she “helps” cook dinner. Maybe it’s because she feels more ownership over the meal, I’m not sure. But I’m not going to question something that is working really well for us!
Ever since we started this, she is regularly willing to try foods I couldn’t get past her lips to save my life.
Now, is this guaranteed to work for your child? Not necessarily. But it just might be worth a shot!
Do you have any tips for handling picky eaters? Has something like this helped your kiddo eat better? Share your experience in the comments below!