I’m no expert on picky eating, but I would guess that half of what makes a picky eater is their personality. Some people are born with more adventurous tastebuds while others stick to the tried and true. In that case, perhaps the other half of what makes a picky eater (or the opposite, a not-so-picky eater) are the habits and foods they were exposed to.
LO is absolutely a not-so-picky eater. That doesn’t mean that mealtimes are 100% stress-free, but in general, LO will eat almost anything we serve him, from crab tortelloni pasta to arugula salad with beets and goat cheese. Again, I’m not sure why that is, and perhaps it’s just the luck of the draw. But there may have been things we did and currently do that help him along.
Not one to ignite any debates (especially since I wanted to quit breastfeeding, oh… every day for the first six months), but I do think that breastfeeding LO helped introduce his tastebuds to the idea that there are different tastes from day to day. Who knows if he can actually discern particular flavors (“Oh, there’s that tasty carrot flavor!”) but more likely his brain realized that there can be a variety of flavors.
Home made baby food
As annoying as it is to steam, peel, and puree fruits and vegetables, I think home made baby food also helped widen his taste. We bought jarred food once in a while, and that’s when I noticed how limited the options were. Whereas since we made our own food, we could puree any food and even blend a few together to make new combinations.
Eat what the family eats
Once LO graduated from mashed food to more solid and textured food, he ate pretty much what my husband and I ate. In the beginning we had to alter it a bit: remove the nuts, omit honey, not add too many exotic spices. Otherwise, he gradually started to eat what mama and daddy ate. And since we ate a variety of food, this guaranteed that LO would too.
No food prejudice
Knowing how much LO loves fruit, it’s easy to tell him, “If you eat all your salad, you can have bananas after!” It seems like hyping up certain food—even healthy food like fruits—downplays other equally delicious and healthy food and makes them simply a means to an end. The fruit (or dessert) shouldn’t be sitting on this high pedestal and everything else must be gobbled down in a hurry. When we offer the sweet fruit, it’s done in the same manner as when we offered the main meal. And we don’t use food to reward for anything.
Alternate with a fave food
There are meals that LO just could care less of. Let’s say he isn’t excited about sesame and cilantro vermicelli salad (I know, I don’t know how he can not like that!). What we’ll do is we’ll offer it along with a fruit. So one bite will be the pasta salad, and the next will be a pear. In the past when he didn’t like a food, we would give the pasta salad with the pear on the same spoon. As weird as this seems to me, he’ll usually accede to this.
(Now that I think about it, I wonder if combining the food on the same spoon really made a difference, or was he just exercising his negotiating skills? Hmm…)
Some food just sucks
And if he really doesn’t like a food? Then wow… that food must just suck. This happened to us last week. I made LO pureed roasted parsnips. He wouldn’t eat it on its own nor alternate with another favorite food. I tried putting it on the same spoon with another food he liked (chicken and dumplings), and while he did actually eat it, his face distorted in confusion as to the weird flavor. Since I didn’t want him to think all of a sudden that chicken and dumplings tasted bitter (because of the added parsnips), I just tossed the parsnips.
When my husband and I tasted the parsnips afterward, we agreed—it tasted terrible.
How do you encourage good eating habits? Do you think picky eating is ingrained or something we create?