I’m often asked why my kids eat so well or how I keep them from being picky. I’m fortunate—I never set out to not raise picky kids or to be a food Nazi, but apparently I have accidentally succeeded in raising children who aren’t too particular. In retrospect, here are a few reasons I think that happened. Again, it was by accident. And I’m not claiming it’s foolproof. I might end up with a picky kid tomorrow. But for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve done that has (apparently) worked.
I breastfed exclusively until 6 months. No bottles, no cereal, no fruit; just good mama milk. I have read that babies’ palates develop through mother’s milk and even while in utero. This is good news for me (except that my kids must be addicted to peanut M&M’s and Reese’s peanut butter cups. Oops.).
No baby food. Once they were 6 months or older (a couple of mine have not really cared for solid food till 8 months or later), I mashed up whatever we ate for baby, especially fruits and veggies. (I avoided high-allergy foods like strawberries, peanuts, and egg whites, of course.) If they like it, fine. If not, they were still getting plenty of breastmilk. I also never gave my babies much juice or other flavored drinks. If they got a sippy or bottle, it was for water. They never knew the difference! Since my kids are developmentally normal, I am really low-key about introducing solids. They will eat when they are ready. They are all very healthy and rarely sick.
Once they were older, I didn’t prepare separate “kid food.” When we had spaghetti, I didn’t get them pizza. When we had grilled chicken, they didn’t get nuggets. When we had fajitas, they didn’t get nachos. They ate what we ate. (If we ate junk, so did they—haha!) I don’t force my kids to eat stuff they really hate, but I am not a short order cook and I’m not fixing a bunch of separate dishes just because they are kids. The concept of “kid food” is a modern phenomenon. If I do require them to eat a portion of something that is not their favorite, I will serve them a tiny amount, like a teaspoon full. I’m not really into creating food battles.
I make most of their snacks such as cookies, muffins, etc…and I try to make them healthful or at least more healthful than the boxed alternative. Sometimes I serve fruit or veggies with dip. My kids love and adore processed junk food, but they also love real food made from scratch because that is what they eat most of the time. They even sometimes love foods that I think are disgustingly healthful.
They’ve participated in growing some of the food they eat. Most years we have had some kind of garden, even if it’s small. I have found that when kids “own” the process of food production, they are much more willing to try those foods. My kids readily eat foods not typically considered kid-friendly such as squash, lettuce, kumquats and Japanese plums because they have watched them grow and then get to harvest them themselves! There’s so much fun in that!
I get this question a lot, so there you are, for what it’s worth!