Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It's probably not what you want to hear. But, it is very hard to get a picky eater to eat. You can't force someone to eat. In fact, it is kind of counter intuitive. The more pressure you put on the picky eater. The more you try to force them to eat. The more attention you give to the children who are NOT eating. The more they will resist eating.

Nothing is more difficult than letting a picky eater not eat. (Of course, you need to have dinner first and dessert second around here so often my picky eaters eat just to get whatever yummy dessert is beckoning.) I try not to bribe my kids--because I know it doesn't work in the long term. It's just "dinner first" and "dessert second"--you need to have a balanced diet to be healthy. But, I have been told to make eating less emotional. If you bundle up emotion with eating then it leads to eating disorders. So the more calm and relaxed you can be about your picky eater (or non eater!) the better. Obviously all this is easier said than done, but knowing about it is a first step to doing it.

These days, I try to make dinner more of a fun family event and less about eating. Focusing on the beautiful set table and all the yummy food in a bunch of little plates distracts everyone from how much they don't want to eat. Turn on some music and the forget about the food. If that doesn't work turn on the music louder or try playing a game.

Sometimes eating issues can be masking other health issues. Low vitamin levels can cause kids to be picky eaters so sometimes it is a good idea to visit an alternative doctor who has a knowledge of underlying health issues that cause eating issues if you are concerned about the nutrition or growth of your children. Undiagnosed celiac and low zinc levels can both cause a person to look like a picky eater even though their pickiness is just a symptom of an underlying medical condition. And intolerances to dairy and gluten can also cause picky eaters to only want to eat foods that contain gluten and dairy--these kids are getting a little high or stoned from dairy and gluten so it is all they want. Ear infections, constant sickness, red cheeks, or hyperactivity can all indicate problems with food.

But if your kids are growing and thriving and just picky, then the best you can do is to try to make eating together as a family a fun, social event that everyone wants to be a part of. And even if you need to intervene nutritionally you still should make mealtime a fun, social event. Below are some related posts about fun ways to get kids to eat healthy food and about the vitamins that can cause picky eating.

And by the way, I was the pickiest eater growing up. And at 19 years old I went to cooking school and worked in a restaurant, Le Bernardin, that only served fish even though I would run screaming as a child when my mom cooked fish. And guess what? I learned to love fish that was fresh and well prepared--although I still don't eat sushi--which disappoints my husband. Children grow up.

Which doesn't mean that you shouldn't intervene nutritionally for your kids when there are issues. It just means take the focus off of food at mealtime and serve them healthy, nutritious food and let them choose to be a part of the fun. Many kids who are picky eaters do need a nutritional make over but it doesn't happen at the dinner table or over breakfast. It happens behind the scenes and with no pressure.


tagskie said...

hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day!

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