Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cooking for a Picky Eater

by Adrienne McGuire of

My seven-year-old son is an extremely picky eater, and has been since the age of two. For five years, we have tried many techniques to get him to eat a variety of foods, and they all failed miserably. First, we demanded that he eat a certain number of bites of each food on his plate. That ended with him in tears and me completely frustrated and yelling. Next, we attempted to let him decide what and how much he would consume. We had to put a stop to that tactic after he became so weak and lethargic that he was not functioning properly. We then started to feed him only the foods that he likes, feeling good that at least he was eating something with calories. This option landed us in the hospital, with him dehydrated and an almost emergency bowel obstruction. To say that his food choices are not balanced would be putting it mildly.

After the hospital incident, my husband and I decided we really needed to include Ethan in the planning process so that he could take ownership over his own health and food. We begin by sitting down with him and reminding him about the extreme stomach pain and hospital stay, and we explained that the only way to avoid that in the future is by making healthier food choices. He agreed, and we proceeded to create a weekly food schedule wherein the entire family eats the same food, and if it is something that he does not enjoy, he just has to try it and preferably, take a few bites. He is now adding a variety of fruits into his diet voluntarily and has been drinking a ton more water and juice. He seems to be developing healthier eating habits that work for him.

At his suggestion, we switched to drinking soymilk, which seems to really help his digestive system. What he doesn't know is that when my husband and I cook dinners, we rely on the book The Sneaky Chef to add covert vegetables into every meal. Neither Ethan nor his nine-year-old brother has ever noticed a difference in the taste, and on many occasions, they have actually complimented meals that contain our special vegetable additions.

What we learned through this process is that you cannot force a child to eat, and it really isn't a good idea to let a child younger than seven years old be totally in charge of his diet. For the best chance of success, you should work as a family to create an eating lifestyle that works for everyone. It helps everyone get the foods that they need to remain healthy, and it can bring you closer together during the planning and creating phase. If you have a picky eater, what are some of the things you tried that were successful? I am always looking for new ideas to make my life easier!

Adrienne McGuire is a writer, website consultant and wellness enthusiast who abandoned the corporate ladder to create the life she really wanted.  Her journey down the road less traveled took her to, where she is now an integral part of the writing team.

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