Dealing with a picky eater can be one of the most frustrating things as a new mom. You want them to eat healthy and grow at a good pace, but how do you deal with a baby who simply refuses to eat? Sebastian has been a picky eater since day 1. He’s always hated milk. I switched formula 4 times and every time he would drink the milk the first week or so then start to reject it–he would scream bloody murder as soon as he SAW the bottle some days. He would eventually drink his milk when he got hungry enough, but the entire process was so frustrating and downright exhausting!
When I got the OK from his pediatrician to start him on solids when he was about 4 months old, I left the office with a sense of relief and some anxiety. Ok, he hates his milk, but maybe he’ll love solids? What if he hates solids EVEN MORE than he hates milk? I was determined to make solids work. The first few weeks he would close his mouth shut and refused to open it for any solids. He would grab the food and toss it on the ground, feed it to the dog, or just straight up refuse to crack his mouth open at all. I thought to myself, ‘here we go again’ it’s like milk, but worse.
I had recently started reading Bringing Up Bebe, which is this really cute book on the difference between American parenting and French parenting. The book points out how French children are so well behaved and they’re actually willing to eat gourmet meals and try just about anything. So what’s their secret? What am I doing wrong?
The book points out that if French parents introduce a food their child dislikes, they’ll try again several days in a row but with different variations. If their child hates avocados, the next day they’ll try mashing it up with some olive oil and a little salt and pepper. If they hate steamed broccoli, they next day they’ll try sautéing it and serving it. In the end the children ended up eating whatever was served to them, but sometimes it just comes down to preference of how it’s made or seasoned. I was fascinated with this so I asked my pediatrician. She told me I’m free to serve Sebastian anything I like as long as it’s not honey. Onions? Sure! Spices? Go for it. So that’s what I did. I tricked my picky eater into eating butternut squash but adding a little olive oil and pepper. I got him to eat egg yolks but adding some butter and salt. Instead of feeding him cubed chicken or meat, I took some ground turkey, added some breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper and baked them into a little nuggets. I hid broccoli in cheesy potato balls. He thought he was eating something fun, but he was actually getting a great mixture of vegetables with healthy fat.
If you have a picky eater on your hands, first and foremost, I’m sorry. I feel your pain. But you have the capability to outsmart your kids-you just need the tools. Here are some great tips to help with a picky eater:
- Spice up the presentation: turn broccoli into cheese balls. Hid veggies in a sandwich that looks like a happy face. Arrange some veggie sticks in a fun way. Sometimes kids eat with their eyes, if it looks interesting and fun, they’ll most likely at least try it.
- Don’t overdue snacks that are full of empty calories and have no nutrition. Sebastian loves those little star puffs. But they’re not doing anything for him on the nutrition side. And if he’s snacking all day long, chances are he’s not going to be hungry for actual food when it’s time to eat. Try to keep the snacking to a minimum.
- Start the day off with a big meal: Sebastian is up at 6:30AM every morning on the dot. I load him up with his milk, eggs and yogurt every morning. He eats every single thing I give him so I make sure he starts the day off with a full belly.”Children who eat a nutritious breakfast tend to make better food choices for the rest of the day,” says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Your Child to Eat – and Eat Healthy.
- Give your baby control: Sebastian loves to hold his own spoon. So when he’s in a picky/grumpy mood I put the food on the spoon and hand it over to him. Even when he refuses to eat from me, he’ll eat when there’s food on the spoon and he’s holding it himself.
- Introduce as many foods as you can: as long as your pediatrician says its ok, let your child experiment with different foods and flavors. Just make sure to avoid honey until they’re at least 1 years old.
- Let your child help with the process: let them crack an egg for the meal, or give them a wooden spoon to help mix. It’s amazing how helping prepare a meal with stimulate their appetite.
*These tips are based on my personal experiences with my son, please speak to your pediatrician about your child’s needs and the precautions they recommend you take.