My friend P has an adorable little 2 1/2 year old girl who needs a little help expanding her eating horizons. Here is what P is asking:
"...the hardest meal is dinner. She will sometimes eat ravioli, spaghetti, chicken nuggets, or cheese quesadilla. I tried to sneak in a turkey slice or chopped chicken in the quesadilla but she found it. I do ask her to eat one bite of whatever (we) are eating. The one bite is usually vegetables or some side dish since I usually make chicken nuggets for her if we are having a more 'adult meal.'" A couple thoughts...
- It is great that you have her taste whatever you are eating. Smart move. We call it a "no thank-you helping" and we insist everything (within reason) on the plate is tasted.
- It sounds like she might be a "textural eater," ie, she doesn't like anything that feels funny or different in her mouth? Have you tried making the pieces itty bitty, to try and help her learn to like the taste without being turned off by the texture?
- Since dinner is the most challenging, perhaps try introducing new foods at breakfast or lunch, when she might be more open to change. I know with our boys, if they are overtired or just spent from the day, we have much less success at the dinner table.
- Try letting her have a role in preparing or cooking the dinner. She may enjoy the shopping, washing, or even limited mixing, etc. Perhaps a sense of ownership may help encourage her to try new things.
- Don't limit the types of food you offer her... Think outside the box when offering her new foods...try different flavors, even ones that aren't traditionally kiddie foods. Maybe she has a taste for something that you never would dream of offering a 2 year old.
- ...but do limit her mealtime options... As difficult as it may be, as long as there is no health reason, introduce her to the idea that she is a big girl and can eat what mommy and daddy are eating. Try this idea out during a week when you can make meals that are "adult" but will appeal to her. Or do adult meals that you can *slightly* alter when plating hers to make it more appealing. Maybe start with some pasta dishes that you know she will eat, but that contain things you want her to start trying. Don't be discouraged if she only eats the pasta...the idea is to get her open to the idea of eating the same thing as you. Stand firm. Remember, if she doesn't eat a good dinner every night, she should be fine#.
- ...but go with the flow too. Some kids are picky eaters. I know I was! I read a study about how children of parents who were picky eaters have a much higher likelihood of being picky eaters themselves. This helps me a *lot* when I feel like banging my head against the wall out of frustration!
- Last but not least, if you are concerned about her eating and she just won't budge, you could resort to the "Sneaky Chef" or "Deceptively Delicious" way of cooking for picky eaters.
Here are some other good resources:
WebMD Article on "Parenting the Picky Eater"
UC-Berkeley Parents Network Message Board on Picky Eaters
How about you all out there? Any help for P and her daughter?