My kids are varying degrees of picky—from one who likes basically anything to one who turns up her nose at a lot of foods. We do sometimes make and issue out of food, but I don’t force them to eat if they are not hungry and accept that there are certain foods that they just don’t like. There are a few things that I don’t like and don’t eat, and I think it’s fine to allow my kids that (within reason) as well.
That said, all my kids like healthy food. They love junk food too, some more than others—but they all eat healthy food for the most part, and like it. Here are a few reasons I think this is so.
1. I breastfeed. I’ve heard that children’s palates begin to develop with the foods the mother eats during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I eat fairly healthfully, so they develop a taste for healthy foods early on.
2. I introduce solids at some point after 6 months, but I don’t use baby food. They start out eating what we eat. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve bought baby food. There’s no great mystery to this. I just puree or mash up whatever fruit or veggie we are having. I feed them oatmeal or bear mush (whole wheat cream of wheat). My favorite is a creamy rice cereal from Southern Brown Rice, but I have a hard time finding it. So yummy! They get used to the taste of real food right away.
3. We don’t eat junk at home. Not much, anyway. Junk food—anything made with white flour or sugar, chips, etc.-- is a special treat. When we go out and they get donuts in Sunday school or birthday cake at a party it’s OK, because that’s not their normal diet. Once in awhile is not going to hurt anything.
4. We all drink water. Rarely juice and never corn syrup sweetened drinks at home.
5. We don’t do “kid food”. If we have grilled chicken, the kids do too. I won’t serve them chicken fingers when we have real chicken, nachos when we have beans and rice, hot dogs when we have pork chops, or pizza when we eat spaghetti. They eat what we eat, so they don’t expect anything different.
6. I make most of our treats. Yes, it’s a pain in the neck and sometimes very inconvenient. But I’d rather that than have my kids grow up on food that will make them sick. They got so excited last night when they found out I was making whole wheat sweet potato-pecan muffins (pictured above, and rendered unhealthful by the addition of too much buttter--ahem!). I was surprised myself, but they have been eating them like cupcakes. They think this kind of food is normal. Ha!
Again, some of my kids are pickier than others and they all like unhealthful food. But I’m really pleased that they eat good food willingly, and I think the above tips are some of the reason why. That and maybe they just like to eat!