I have been running across a phenomena so often lately, that I needed to write about it here just to get it out of my head. The only thing is, I know around here, I’m mostly preaching to the choir. Even so, I hope I catch a few people and get them to thinking.
The problem? Picky eaters. I see it all over the place- in a frugality community I read: “Can you give me some recipes that are budget friendly? Here’s what I don’t eat: fruits, vegetables, seafood, fish, grains, red meat, white meat, chocolate, or pasta” I also see it in real life:
Them: Can’t you get Heather to post some recipes that are kid friendly?
Me: All Heather’s recipes are kid friendly, she has 4 kids.
Them: Oh, I’ve never seen anything kid friendly there.
Them: I don’t know. That seems awfully…hard to make….I just usually get takeout. And we have chicken nuggets and pizza all the time. I’d like something new.
And that’s the problem right there. By constantly catering to your kid’s tastes, you’re setting them up to be like the first example. Now, my kids have had their fair share of chicken nuggets and pizza. And yes, I’ve been through the McDonald’s drive through a time or two (hundred). But the bulk of my children’s diet is a variety of fresh, whole foods cooked in various ways. See, if a kid doesn’t like tomatoes raw, they might like them cooked. And the same kid that despises okra fried may love it steamed.
One of the biggest problems I see is parents who deicide ahead of time that their kid isn’t going to like something based on their own childhood likes and dislikes. I’m guilty of that myself. As a kid, I hated onions. So when my daughter at age 4 wanted onions on her burrito, I told her she probably wouldn’t like them. But she insisted and I let her have them. She loved onions and orders them any time there’s an opportunity. Lesson learned: Let them try anything they want, even if you think they might hate it.
Another problem is that I see too many parents who think they’re being nice to their kids by not making them eat stuff they don’t want to eat. I think they remember all too well being made to sit at the table until they finished their liver, and don’t want that for their kids. So they won’t man up and be parents and make their kids at least try unfamiliar food. In my house, you have to try a bite of everything that’s on your plate whether you like it or not. My youngest son always claims to hate scalloped potatoes until he tries a bite. Then he remembers he actually likes it and will eat it.
Now, of course, there are kids who have special needs or allergies that prevent them from being able to eat everything. And there are people who are just picky eaters, no matter what you try. My brother, who I would not classify as a picky eater, absolutely despises beans. This is the guy who will eat Rocky Mountain Oysters without a thought. But last Sunday at my mom’s, we had ham and beans and he just made himself a sandwich. Beans are just not his thing, and that’s okay.
So, let’s pull all this advice into a nice, neat list for the tl;dr crowd, shall we?
How to avoid creating a picky eater:
- Cook a variety of fresh, whole foods. Can’t cook worth a darn? Grab some recipes and start cooking anyway.
- Cook these foods in different ways. Remember, just because someone hates a certain food one way, doesn’t mean they’d hate it in another way.
- Avoid fast food and takeout. They just don’t serve a variety of foods. That’s not to say you can never go to these places, just don’t make that the majority of what you’re serving.
- Don’t base what your kids will like on what you like. Believe me, you’ll be surprised.
- Make your kids at least try it, and not just once. Over time, tastes change. If you get your kids in the habit of at least trying everything, eventually they will start liking new stuff.
- Finally, take into account your family’s likes and dislikes, but don’t cater to their every whim. Sure, the kids might love pizza and burgers and chicken nuggets best, but that doesn’t mean you have to serve it for every meal. If they HATE what’s for dinner and you don’t want them to starve, there’s always PB&J. (Unless they have a peanut allergy. Then there’s always J.)
Always do your best to keep from creating a picky eater. The future spouses of your children will thank you for it. 😉