My first rule for food is:
If I will not eat it, I will not feed it to Samantha. If I will not feed it to Samantha, I should not be eating it.
There are a few exceptions to this rule.
I am allergic to dairy and eggs, but Samantha is not, so she eats them. Eating differences due to health requirements is completely understandable. If there is a compelling reason, such as a life threatening nut allergy, you may choose to eliminate a food from your house some of you can enjoy. It depends on the medical issue and the amount of support your child needs.
When Samantha first started eating, she had everything in a puree, which is not the form I would choose most of the time. Even now, the form I give Samantha takes into consideration her 4 teeth ability to chew, and her habit of shoving as much food into her mouth as she can.
But as a rule, we eat the same stuff.
For example, I ate cherries while Samantha ate cherry puree. Now I eat cherries with pits, and she eats them pitted. When she gets older, I will give her cherries with pits, the same as me. Did I mention I love cherry season?
Can you say the same is true for you? In many cases, one of two things will happen, both of which can have a negative effect on your family.
You want your child to eat healthier than you eat.
In this one, you might get a sandwich and fries, while you give your child a sandwich and carrots. This can have two unintended effects on him and one major effect on you:
- He watches you, and wants what you have. He will start to crave the fries you don’t want him to have.
- He will also note that you never eat carrots, decide that something must be wrong with carrots, and start refusing to eat them.
- When you are eating unhealthy food all the time, you will have to live with the long term health issues it can cause.
Your child may be a picky eater.
In the other, your child may have decided she was picky, and demand different food. You or your partner may have told her she cannot leave the table until she eats something, or tried to bribe her with that desert if she just finishes her peas. Again, this has two unintended effects on her, and one major effect on you.
- She is learning that she can get her way if she manipulates you. She may start to look at other ways to manipulate you.
- Food will become about power here, your power to make her eat, and her power to refuse. Every time she wins (and she will win), she is encouraged to look at food as power, and not a healthy part of her life.
- You are going crazy in the kitchen by making a different meal for everyone. Do you really want to spend your spare time as a short order chef?
Both of these cases can be solved by the same simple methods. With everything, they sound simple, but often are a little harder to implement. However, they will make your life better.
First, your family should eat the same food. If your child is eating carrots, make sure he sees you eating carrots. If he sees you eating fries, give him a fry. Just be sure to limit the total amount of junk food your family eats.
Second, don’t force your child to eat. If she does not like peas, put some on her plate, but let her decide how much to eat. A one bite rule may help some children, but the one bite rule must apply to everyone in the family, including you and your partner.
If your child rejects carrots and wants fries when you are serving none, roll with it. Put the carrots away and try again another time. As a child, my sister had an aversion to salmon after getting the flue the night it was served. It took her 20 years to come around to it again. It was an option, but not forced upon her.
Be patient, and except that your child might not like all foods. After all, do you? If you don’t, why is she being picky if she just honestly doesn’t like the taste? If she doesn’t taste it, just keep modeling how good it is by eating it yourself.
Finally, if your child is done before his plate is cleared, save the food for a snack. That way, he will learn that he can’t get different food options just by waiting an hour to eat.
Don’t worry; your child will not starve. If weight loss is an issue or you are unsure of this approach, feel free to talk with your doctor. When I was growing up, I only once remember not eating when I was really hungry. The issue had to do with mayo made with egg, an unknown allergy at the time. To this day, I hate mayo. But that one meal did not starve me, as I was able to eat at dinner time (I had to skip lunch and afternoon snack).
While Samantha is still young, I am applying these to her with good success. For a while she was not interested in bread. My husband pointed out it was right after she had started eating more foods, and was probably excited about the tastes.
For about a month, she wouldn’t eat any veggies after loving them. One day, she decided to try them again, and while she prefers some other foods, she will happily munch on them.
The one thing I have noticed is she likes flavor. Potatoes are not a big hit with her right now (though she does eat them), but she is at a stage where she wants to feed herself, so I leave them plain most of the time. The wonderful thing about that is she eats foods most one year olds have never tasted and would probably object to. I was stunned when she gobbled up the blue cheese the second time I offered her some.
So far, this strategy is working for me.
What strategies have worked for you?