Moms everywhere with small children often experience, at some point or another, picky eating.
It’s one of the most stressful and frustrating parts of the day, meal time. Your previously perfectly balanced child is suddenly refusing to eat anything other than cheese puffs and strawberries.
Mealtime can mean that instead of sitting and enjoying your own meal, you’re now spending your time begging your child to just eat. And like me, you start to fret that your baby will begin to waste away to nothing – doesn’t stress bring on the strangest thoughts?
If the nutrition of your children is a topic of contention in your home, don’t panic. You aren’t the first and you certainly won’t be the last panicked mother at the dining table. Children go through stages of not wanting certain foods.
Eating isn’t just a way to stay alive, it’s a sensory experience for children. The mix of sauce with solids, such as spaghetti, can be a difficult mountain to master for little ones. The food preferences of your children will take time to mature and grow.
Until then all you can do is be patient; don’t worry, I get that this is hard. It’s important to learn how to sit on your hands, bite your tongue and close your eyes to it (sometimes all at the same time) when it comes to your children and their meals. You want them to eat a whole and balanced diet, but you can lead a child to food and it won’t make them eat.
Give them grace and time
If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force the issue. There are six magic words that you can use at the dinner table to help your child to try new things.
Those words are: you don’t have to eat it.
Believe it or not, this little phrase can do everything that your months of begging and pleading never did. Children need a choice.
You could find the ripest tomatoes and make perfect Italian sauce. You could find fresh scallops and cook the healthiest, balanced meal with the best greens. If your child refuses to eat, there’s really just not much you can do about it.
I mean, you could yell, slap the table, and end the evening with everyone in tears, but really, who wants that?? In our house, the kids have the choice not to eat their food, but they know they get no snacks or special treats between meals for the rest of the day. If they choose not to eat supper, then they don’t eat until breakfast. That’s just the way it is.
And sometimes that’s the choice they make.
Food is a choice
Children have little control over things in their lives, and food is something that they can (somewhat) control, and they will do it. Where possible, stick to the routines that you’ve always had in place with food and be patient when it comes to trying new things. If you think it’ll work, introduce a sticker chart and reward any new foods that have been tasted.
Your children – like you – aren’t always going to want certain foods. Go with the flow and don’t force it. They won’t starve themselves!