No Food Fights: Raising an Adventurous Eater

I love expressing creativity. This not only includes my profession, my decorating style and my hobbies, but it also naturally spills over into the kitchen. We have had very creative concoctions over the years, some were good, some were, well, not so good. I enjoy sharing new things with my kids. They are not always as excited as I am, but they have learned to embrace their role as guinea pigs.

My niece on the other hand is an extremely picky eater. I honestly believe it is a combination of having a natural aversion to certain textures as well as the fact she trained her parents very well. They bend over backwards to give her foods on her very short approved list, such as strawberry yogurt without any lumps and chicken nuggets.

The following tips worked for me, but I am well-aware they would not be so easily enforced on my niece.
Once certain patterns are in place, it takes a lot of focused dedication to change. If you decide to set a rule in place, be prepared to deal with the consequences until your child realizes you mean business. Once they do, the rest is gravy.

One for all.
If a child does not like what I am serving for dinner, so be it. They do not have to like it, but if they choose not to eat it all that is their problem. One of my New Year resolutions last year was to eat dinner around the table at least four nights a week. This is continues to be a challenge, but it would be harder if I had to do double duty as a short order cook.

If you are worried this harsh stance will harm your child, this passage from The American Academy of Pediatrics, “Guide to Your Child’s Nutrition” is very reassuring. “Children will not become ill or suffer permanently if they refuse a meal or two, but parents sometimes act as though youngsters might shrivel up and die.”

Three bites rule
Although the above rule holds true in my home, I do not let my kids off so easily. They must try three bites of the meal before declining the entire plate. My creativity does not always translate into attractive meals, but that does not affect the taste. If after three bites of the mystery casserole my child does not want anymore, I will concede. One bite is not enough to decide.

I have used this three bite rule since my kids were very young so they are used to the drill. When I tried it on my five year old nephew, it was not a pretty site. So my advice is to start early or use at your own risk.

Up the ante
I am not above bribing or otherwise making a situation look more attractive. From the very simple, “No treats if you do not eat your meal” to the slightly sneaky, “Since you are not eating your sweet potato fries, can I give them to your sister?” This second one works best on dawdlers. Faced with the prospect of his little sister eating his portion usually spurs my son into action.

On nights when I am feeling especially creative, I also try to have something available for dessert. This little bargaining chip can make all the difference. Amazing what the promise of a cookie or bowl of ice cream can have on a child’s appetite.

More by Sylvie Branch:

Four Fun Ways to Burn Energy with Your Kids

Tips for Reinforcing Good Behavior

Helping a Child Deal with Disappointment

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