On Valentine’s Day of 2006, a guy that I liked took me out on our first date. We dressed up nicely, he bought me chocolates, and we drove fifteen minutes from Monmouth College, where we were attending school, to McGuillicuddy’s in Galesburg, Illinois. I remember laughing to myself when the waitress came to our table, and he ordered chicken strips and French fries, something he could have gotten from the school cafeteria. Then he sprinkled salt on all his food and ate it without dipping it in any sauce. Weird.
As I continued to date this person, I realized how much of a picky eater he really was. It reminded me of how a small child eats. He would only eat his burgers plain, ate pizza at least a few times a week and could only stomach about four vegetables. It was hard for me to understand, because I like almost everything and what I don’t eat, I am always willing to try.
Twelve years later, we are married with two children, and I am proud of how he has expanded his taste buds and encouraged our kids to eat healthy as well. It hasn’t always been easy. We have gone through various diet and lifestyle changes, but with love and persistence, I know we are both much healthier and happier with the way we are eating today. From my husband’s and my own perspective, I have compiled a list of suggestions on how to love (and convert) a picky eater.
- Focus on Health and Education
While I was attending IIN, whenever I would learn something new about how food influences our health and well-being, I would share this with my family. I wanted them to know the reasons behind the big food changes, our increased grocery bill, and the struggle we were facing with our oldest at the dinner table.
- No Alternatives
Not only did we not have time to make more than one meal for our family, we also felt like that was extremely counterproductive. If you are facing an issue with food like overeating, a food sensitivity or unhealthy food choices, chances are your kids will face the same issue. Why not get them started early? Make them eat healthy now. I promise, not only will they survive, but they will probably thank you later in life when they see how sick everyone else is around them.
- Don’t Buy It
During the time of my first elimination diet to uncover my food sensitivities, I was doing most of the grocery shopping. I didn’t buy any alternatives. I didn’t make it easy for my husband or my children to eat anything else. I wasn’t doing it to be mean. I was doing it because I wanted everyone to feel better and live longer. For me personally, if the unhealthy food was in the house, I was more likely to eat it at a weak point in my day.
- Choose Your Words Wisely
“Children become what they are told they are.” –Dorothy Delay
If we tell a child he is shy, he will eventually believe that he is shy. If we tell a child she is a picky eater, the child will believe she is picky and continue to only eat foods that feel safe. Growing up I watched my sister abuse the system. She was a really picky eater at a young age and through much enabling, that became her identity. Our entire childhood, she would get away with not eating vegetables, get special meals made for her when it was someone else’s birthday and get to eat unhealthy food regularly. It really didn’t bother me, because my parents made me believe, “Khloe is the best eater. She will eat anything!” This also became true.
- Share the Experience
Everyone in my family helps with the process of making food. Grocery shopping, meal prep, cooking, setting the table and cleaning up are things we all take part in at our house. I want everyone to see, taste, experience, and know the healthiest way to eat and the effort that goes into it.
- Be Patient
It takes time to transition from the Standard American Diet, because our taste buds are programmed to prefer salty and sweet foods. It takes even longer for one to actually enjoy eating real food. Kids go through phases with food, and pickiness is part of kids developing their independence. I feel it’s more important to model healthy eating when kids are young than worrying about every bite of healthy food they eat. As parents, we need to be consistent on our end, and eventually our kids will come around.