When my son was younger, I thought of him as my “prickly pear.” On certain topics he had to be approached in a particular way to elicit cooperation. Looking back now, I believe that he had sensitivity issues that were glimpsed but not fully comprehended, i.e. not liking the beach because of the feel of the sand, anxiety when traveling (worried about getting lost) and a most definite aversion to most foods. Almost every situation could be negotiated with reason, comedy and positive peer pressure -he has a great sense of humor and a very social aspect to his personality, as well as an older brother who could sometimes talk him into doing fun family things. Eating poorly, however, because of its very life and death nature, was an area that for me was fraught with dangerous consequences.
A great part of nurturing, of course, involves food and the role it plays in the life of a healthy and thriving child. However, when our best efforts are thwarted by what seems to be mere stubbornness on the part of our offspring, it can be frustrating and hurtful, especially if we see resistance as a reflection of our parenting skills. It’s easy to see how food then becomes so inextricably entwined with our emotions, usually love. If we can take a step back and look at what else may be happening with the child, we may be able to employ strategies for de-escalating the conflicts arising at mealtimes. You might find that being a little flexible helps lessen the stress and signals to the child that you are paying attention to what their aversion to certain foods may signify. Of course, the issue is a complex one with many variations on the theme, depending upon the individual child and family, but, if it is any consolation, know that you are not alone!
With that thought in mind, there are a plethora of resources with ideas for making those food-related interactions more bearable.
- Starting with the toddler/preschool set, the Baby Center gives some straightforward advice: http://www.babycenter.com/0_7-new-strategies-for-feeding-a-picky-eater_10360322.bc
- Although playing with our food was once forbidden, who hasn’t tried that old “airplane” ploy, or something like it, when spoon feeding a baby? Parenting Magazine’s website has fun recipes and tips for enticing the pickiest of eaters: http://www.parenting.com/recipes/picky-eaters
- The Mayo Clinic has some words of wisdom from nutrition experts:
- Pediatric Occupational Therapist and mother Alisha Grogan has a website that addresses sensory issues and more: http://yourkidstable.com/
- For the results of a scholarly study on what researchers term “selective eating”:
- Also, it’s a great idea for kids to be involved in the planning of their meals, including shopping and planting vegetable gardens:
This is just a small sampling of the many online sites a desperate parent could find useful. Some also cite additional sources for further information on the topic.
Of course, here at the library, there are print resources for parents
(please check our catalog):
- Weelicious Lunches : Think Outside the Lunchbox with More than 160 Happier Meals
by Catherine McCord
- Food Fights : Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup by Laura A. Jana & Jennifer Shu
- As well as downloadable eBooks: Helping your Child with Extreme Picky Eating: a Step-by-Step Guide for Overcoming Selective Eating, Food Aversion, and Feeding Disorders by Katja Rowell and Jenny McGlothlin
- And Audiobooks: Say Goodbye to Fussy Eating by Lynda Hudson
For the kiddos themselves, we have many non-fiction, highly-illustrated books that talk about nutrition and the importance of eating healthy foods:
Here are some colorful and instructional gardening books to let them understand where certain foods come from and to help grow them:
- Garden to Table: a Kid's Guide to Planting, Growing, and Preparing Food by Katherine Hengel
- Blue Potatoes, Orange Tomatoes by Rosalind Creasy
- The Nitty-Gritty Gardening Book by Kari Cornell
- Grow Your Own Monsters by Nicola Davies
Cookbooks geared toward children with simple and fun recipes so that they help create what goes in their mouths:
- Kids cook 1-2-3: recipes for young chefs using only 3 ingredients by Rozanne Gold
- Salad people and more real recipes : a new cookbook for preschoolers & up by Mollie Katzen
- Cool kids cook: fresh & fit by Kid Chef Eliana with Dianne de Las Casas
Fiction authors use picky eaters as characters in their usually humorous stories:
- Tales for Very Picky Eaters by Josh Schneider
- The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: a Tale of Picky Eating by A. W. Flaherty
- D.W. the Picky Eater by Marc Brown
- Gregory, the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat
Hopefully, with all this advice now available, parents and children will be able to reach a peaceful accord and make mealtime a much more harmonious occasion. As for my son, he has reached the ripe old age of 25 by eating snow-covered trees (cauliflower), olives (pitted, slip on fingers), elbow macaroni (the only acceptable shape), and spoonfuls of peanut butter, and, even though you would have to tie him down to make him eat cheese (involves mold, utterly disgusting) he still manages to be one of the healthiest people I know!