Dr. Mom: How to handle a picky eater

07/26/2012 12:00 AM

08/07/2012 8:39 AM

I have a picky eater.

I don't call him that or tell him he's picky.

But he is. Or, rather, there are many foods I cannot get him to eat. They generally are of the green and leafy variety – the foods that are good for you.

It used to really bother me. To fill me with guilt. To make me think I had gone wrong somewhere.

I used to wonder what parenting prowess other moms had that I wasn't blessed with – the moms whose kids happily scarfed down broccoli and edamame.

I worried about his health and growth and tried my absolute best not to hold dessert for ransom.

In my most desperate hour, I may or may not have promised a scoop of ice cream if he would just take a bite of his broccoli.

Maybe.

I started to resent mealtime. I just wanted to sit down and have a peaceful meal with my family. Not see most of my son's food go uneaten, only for him to declare his ravenous hunger right before bedtime.

It was starting to drive me crazy and only added to the already mounting list of things I felt guilty about.

Then I had an epiphany. My second child actually. She will try almost anything and loves knowing if what she is eating is considered a "green light" food.

Watching her chomp on broccoli, devour blue-berries and ask for a second helping of eggs, I had my picky-eater "a-ha" moment.

It's not my fault. I could no sooner take blame for my son's taste buds as I could take credit for my daughter's willingness to eat healthful foods.

It was time for a shift in my perspective.

So this is what I know: I can only do my part, keep the big picture in mind, and respect my son's selective palate.

This doesn't mean he gets to eat a whole bag of flaming-hot Cheetos every single day "because that's all he'll eat."

No way. And, yes, I have seen kids doing this as their parents worriedly exclaim, "But he won't eat anything."

It's a delicate balance between understanding and accepting their sensitive taste buds and encouraging and providing a healthy variety of meals and snacks.

I'm more relaxed now, knowing I'm doing my part. And my son seems to be doing his too. He agrees to at least taste everything on his plate. He knows I'm not serving up a separate meal for him.

I do, however put at least one thing on his plate I know he likes and that I feel good about feeding him.

I try to involve my kids in the meal planning and shopping whenever possible. My husband and I use dinner time to talk about healthy foods and why they're important. We don't have a "clean your plate rule" because we want our kids to listen to their body signals and respond when they feel full. We try not to stress about sweet treats. Moderation is our motto.

My son is broadening his food horizons. He now eats miso soup when we go out for sushi, has declared carrots good and most recently has started gobbling down raspberries.

All are foods he once would have nothing to do with.

So, I'm hopeful, and I see progress. Mealtimes are more relaxed and enjoyable.

Picky eaters grow up. I know; I was one myself.

And as long as we do our part as parents, they will grow up well.

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