guest post: the lazy parent’s guide to raising not-picky eaters

October 8th, 2014 · 9 Comments

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Today’s guest post is from my friend Susan, who was a fellow cheerleader with me in college! (Photo evidence — from way back in the day — here!) Susan’s blog, Smartly Momming, documents her new life as an ex-pat in London with two young kids — it’s a really fun read and I’ve gotten great ideas from her already!  Hope you guys enjoy her post today.)

What did your child eat for dinner last night? Nuggets and noodles? You can change this, I promise.

Our girls are not picky eaters. I use the phrase “not picky” because “good” implies to me that a kid cleans her plate. I want our children to eat vibrantly and to enjoy real food. If it is edible, our girls should try it. Of course, snooty eaters stink. I would be mortified if my girls asked at a friend’s house “where’s the tapenade?,” but at the same time, when we are at a café in Paris, we all eat the snails.

Our 18 month-old’s gustatory antics have become something of a party trick among the London set. Parents chuckle as she goes right for the adult food: okra, leeks, smoked salmon tea sandwiches, caviar, lamb kidneys, foie gras, stinky cheese, escargots, bratwurst. There is not yet one thing she has shunned (follow #thethingssheeats on Twitter and Instagram).

Here’s the thing, though: this not-pickiness was borne primarily of my own laziness.

Seriously, who has time to cook two sets of every single meal?

Embrace your inner slacker and I promise you, your children will start eating most everything you put on the plate.

Children Eat When They Are Hungry.
It’s true. If your child is not eating, she probably is not hungry. 
A close corollary here is that your child will not starve from missing a meal. Malnutrition takes time. When your child tests you and refuses her lunch, let her eat the side dish and a piece of fruit. Do not whip up a PB&J. Am I a cold, insensitive parent for saying this? Maybe so, but my kids ate all their lamb, leeks and rice last night.

Three Bites of Everything
No explanation needed. Just take three bites. Big ones. If you don’t like it, eat the other parts of the meal. Most of the time, after three bites my children realize that that the broccoli mash, or salmon patty or whatever else I have cooked is actually pretty tasty.

Lie.
“Of course our cousin eats curry.” “We ran out of peanut butter.” It’s all for the greater good.
More importantly, it works. Much food fussiness is begotten of an overabundance of choice. Put it this way: if you thought you could eat pain chocolate every meal of every day, would you ever try anything different?

Never Say, “You Won’t Like That”
I am always confused when parents preemptively tell their children “oh no, honey, you won’t like that” and then hand over a stick of American cheese. If your little one reaches for roasted peppers or tikka masala, let her try it. Then lie and tell her how much her favourite cousin or friend likes the food.

Kid Menus are For Sissies.
After an exhausting day walking around gardens in Paris a few months back, I took the girls to lunch in our hotel. Our sleepy four year-old wanted chicken nuggets, so I ordered them. €26 later, we had the same nuggets I buy at Tesco served on a china platter. This is why I don’t do kids menus. Your children can eat nuggets at home. Restaurants are for trying new and exciting things.

Due to my splendid lying capabilities, the girls now love plenty of things I have never once cooked at home: crab cakes (“Daddy’s favourite”), meatloaf (“Grandma’s recipe, shared with the restaurant”), calamari (no lies needed) and squid ink risotto. When in doubt, stick with the 3 bites rule. 

Over time, your children will develop real likes and dislikes. I honour those dislikes (our four year-old, for example, doesn’t eat scallops) for a few months at a time, then explain that tastes change as you grow and we try it again. So far so good. Two girls who eat most everything.

The only problem is that my food is now ripe for their picking.

Check out more from Susan’s blog on Smartly Momming here!

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Tags: guest post