Is your child a picky eater? Mine sure is. Somewhere, my mother is laughing at the karma of this situation because I was once an incredibly picky eater. When I was growing up, my grandmother dutifully remembered all of the things her grandchildren didn’t like. I had a long list of various items including melons, chicken on a bone, red apples, Pepsi, fish and others I can’t remember now. My cousin flat out refused to eat anything green. My brother’s only dislike was chocolate, but he was the lowest maintenance of the three of us. I was so picky that I became anemic for a little while and had to take iron capsules that my mom would shake out onto my applesauce and call sprinkles.
In the third grade, I attempted vegetarianism for a total of four days despite the fact that I didn’t like vegetables. It was the cool thing to do that summer. I even cheated once during the four days with pepperoni pizza. My vegetarian career ended with a visit to the pediatrician in which I was easily convinced to quit, and after which my mom treated me to our favorite fried chicken.
It probably wasn’t until I went off to college and started cooking my own meals that I began to open up my palette and try new foods. I tend to think that picky eating is a control thing. So much of a child’s life is regimented by others and this is one of the only ways to assert themselves.
Sometimes I wonder if he doesn’t like a particular food, if it’s a potential allergen for him. Case in point: I’ve always hated melons and my older son recently had a mild reaction from watermelon. Hmmm. On the one hand, I don’t want to stifle his inner instinct to protect himself from various foods, but on the other hand I’m trying to stop the inevitable 8 pm “I’m hungry” whine.
We’ve tried everything to get our boys to eat: asking nicely, begging, yelling, bribing, tricking, airplane and train noises, demands, time-outs, all with mostly disappointing results.
The only thing that has worked consistently is marketing, a concept coined by Jenny Rosenstrach of Dinner: A Love Story. It’s all about how you present it. It’s not salmon, it’s pink chicken! It’s not baked kale, it’s kale chips! You love chips! If you love food but your children are working against you, I highly recommend checking out her book or blog for ideas. The only problems you’ll have with this technique is if you choose the wrong fake name for something and they catch on to your game, or you can’t remember what you called it last time.
Despite my older son’s pickiness, my younger son has developed into quite the gourmet. He likes blue cheese, red onions, smoked salmon, steamed artichokes and (as in the photo above) calamari at almost two.
Do you have a picky eater? What are your favorite go-to recipes? Do you have any clever names for your family’s favorite meals?