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How to feed a picky eater

June
9

We talk a lot about picky eaters on this blog, so I thought that today, instead of discussing the various ways in which my big guy can be picky (once in a while, Markus rejects something, but I’d be hard-pressed to describe him, ever, as picky), I’d share some tips on helping deal with said picky ones.

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This guide from Parenting starts off pointing out a statistic that’s reassuring: Almost 40 percent of children younger than 6 are picky eaters.

In other words, it’s totally normal.

At this age, kids’ instinctual response to something new is suspicion and caution, and they may be asserting their independence by refusing your offerings. But picky eating won’t last forever — most kids grow out of it by age 8 or 9.

In fact, Rafael already has begun to be more adventurous.

He totally digs a variation of eggplant parm that my mother-in-law makes — but only if I cut the skin off first. And, yes, I think it most likely is a matter of control. But he’ll all but lick the plate clean if there’s no skin on the eggplant, so it’s a small price to pay.

The main suggestions:

Be patient. A typical toddler needs multiple exposures to a new food before he’ll risk tasting it – and 10 to 20 tastes before he actually likes it.

Cut back on portions. A toddler’s stomach is the size of his fist, and he’s growing only one-tenth as much as he did as a baby, so he likely needs less food than you think.

Involve your child. He’ll be more interested in eating the final product. Ask, “Should we have green beans or broccoli?” But don’t offer too many options – he might feel confused.

Get creative. Try presenting foods in new and fun ways.

In my experience:

• Patience is key. I never push. Any time he rejects a food, I let it be. I try a couple times, then next time we have it, I try again. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

• I never start out with a huge portion. I start with a small amount. If he likes it, he gets more. My guy’s a skinny minny, so I never worry about him eating too much. He could use a little fat on his bones, frankly.

• I try not to involve Rafael too much in food decisions, honestly. He’ll change his mind every three seconds. We prefer to tell him what he’s going to eat rather than ask. Sometimes I’ll give him two choices, and I let him change his mind once, maybe twice. Never ever more than twice.

• Never done anything incredibly creative with his food. Honestly, I don’t want him to get too reliant on a “creative” presentation. Give Rafael an inch, he’ll take a mile.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 9th, 2008 at 8:11 am by Amy Vernon. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: how-to, picky eater

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About this blog
You make it, they eat it, right?

As most parents soon discover, feeding a family is rarely that easy, whether its nursing a fussy newborn or trying to get a hot meal into a squirming toddler (or attempting both at the same time.) And that's not even the days when work runs late, the main course burns, or your adventurous little sushi eater announces from now on she will only eat food that is pink.

As parents ourselves, we've been there, done that, even learned a few tricks along the way. And we're pretty sure so have you. Maybe together we can make eating together as a family -- gulp! -- fun again.

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!

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About the authors
Hema Easley Hema Easley has been a reporter for The Journal News since July 2002, first covering municipal government and then nonprofit agencies, women's issues and the South Asian and Muslim community in the Lower Hudson Valley. In her previous job, Hema was a correspondent for the Associated Press in South Asia. She lives with her husband and two sons in Orange County.
KatieKatie Ryan O'Connor, a Journal News editor and 35-year-old mother of three, never quite appreciated the work that went into feeding kids until she had to do it herself as a mother. If she had a food-and-kids philosophy it would be something like this: try your best to offer as much healthy food as possible, but sometimes fruits just have to be counted as vegetables and there are far worse things than chicken and spaghetti. Again.
TraceyTracey Princiotta, a 37-year-old mother of one, loves to cook, bake and eat, and is relieved that her son appears to be equally willing to chow down -- even if it's baby food and formula right now. Despite her husband's intense aversion to vegetables, she has high hopes of nurturing a true chowhound who will try everything at least once. And if all else fails, she's not above sneaking veggies into other foods.
Marcela Rojas Marcela Rojas has been a municipal reporter with The Journal News since January 2003. She is a native of Putnam County and grew up eating Peruvian food. She didn't realize until she was 13 that rice did not come with everyone's meal. After several years of living in Los Angeles -- where she grew a fondness for Thai food -- she returned to Putnam County where she now lives with her husband and daughter. Zyla (rhymes with Lilah) just turned 1 in March and, so far (her mother is pleased to note), loves to eat everything.
Swapna Venugopal Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, a Journal News reporter, started her career as a journalist in 1999 after graduating with a master's degree from New York University. Before joining the paper in 2006, Swapna worked as a municipal reporter for the Home News Tribune in New Jersey, and took a baby sabbatical to care for her two children, now ages 7 and 5. She has currently outsourced feeding her children and husband to her mother, who is visiting from India. Her friend and colleague Katie O'Connor, informs Swapna that she wouldn't mind being fed Indian food by her mother, too.
Randi Weiner Randi Weiner has been a reporter with The Journal News since 1989, having covered police, government and schools in Westchester and in Rockland. An Ohio native and 1976 graduate of Bowling Green State University, she worked for daily newspapers in Ohio and Michigan before moving east. She has tended bar and danced in a beledi troup and sat on the boards of two community theaters. She plays mandolin with the Shamrogues, Connecticuts largest Irish band. Randi lives in Connecticut with her husband and has three children.

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