Is your child a picky eater? Are you?
My parents might say I was a picky eater as a child. There were foods that I would not eat.
I didn’t eat bread other than biscuits — not even pizza — until I was in my late teens. (Now, bread is a major weakness for me.) I also have memories of sitting at the table on “hash night” staring at my plate long after everyone else had abandoned the table. Hash was out.
My husband was a picky eater as a child, as well. An often-told story in his family is about how he first ate chicken when the power went out and he couldn’t see what he had been served for dinner.
The product? Our child is a picky eater. I’m not joking when I tell you that the foods she eats can be counted on your fingers. And some of those items come from very specific places. For example, she loves macaroni and cheese… but ONLY from Swallow at the Hollow. And only after the “toppings” are removed — you know, that delicious baked-cheese crust that tops homemade macaroni.
A few months ago, I wrote a story detailing my horror when she professed a love of fish sticks at age three. But honestly, now I would be thrilled if she were adventuresome enough to try something as “exotic” as fish sticks. This wasn’t always the case. She used to eat many more foods.
I am comforted by the story of former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl’s son, who only ate white foods — mashed potatoes, turkey, milk, custard — until he was about nine years old.
But according to Jeffrey Steingarten, author of “The Man Who Ate Everything,” there is hope. In the book, he details some of his own food aversions (kimchi, clams, Greek food) and how he conquered those. He says,
Scientists tell us that aversions fade away when we eat moderate doses of the hated foods at moderate intervals, especially if the food is complex and new to us. Exposure works by overcoming our innate neophobia, the omnivore’s fear of new foods that balances the biological urge to explore them… Most babies will accept anything after eight or ten tries.
That makes sense. Haven’t you come to love a food that at one time you were less than fond of? This happened to me with beets. At one point, I wouldn’t dream of touching a beet. Now I enjoy them immensely.
I have been testing this strategy at home with my children and it works. (Although, as an aside, have you tried to get a child to eat a food they didn’t like eight or ten times? Righto.) My daughter now eats pistachio-encrusted chicken, scrambled eggs, and we are close to adding roasted sweet potatoes to the list. Next up: something green…
So, if you have a picky eater or are one yourself, give it a try. Let us know how you do.
–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog
– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.