Picky eaters: how can he know he doesn’t like it until he takes a bite?

English: By Ruth Lawson. Otago Polytechnic.

Never, ever take advice from me on potty training. Or weaning. Or cleaning house. (But if you ever want to feel better about the chaos in your house, come see my kitchen when I’m on deadline. Last week, I was ankle-deep in stuff. Stuff=shredded egg cartons that Ender destroyed with a cheese knife while I tried to get the last paragraph for a profile of a leadership transition at an oil sands company nailed down just right.) But if you want, you can take advice from me about food. I’ve raised three garburators—by which I mean not children who eat junk food, but children whom no one can ever call picky eaters. They’ll eat anything.

But, wait. There’s a caveat. Not anything all of the time. Taste buds change, see, and sometimes kids don’t have the taste buds—or have taste buds that are just too sensitive—for the food we’re offering them.

One of the things we’ve always talked about as Cinder and then Flora didn’t like something / didn’t want to try something was that “taste buds change.” (Interlude: yes, it’s possible to know you won’t like something without tasting it. I will not eat steak tartare. You cannot make me. I will not taste it. I extend the same right of total refusal to my children. If they think it looks and smells gross, that’s enough. One day, they might think differently. Until they do, I will not force them. Back to tasting change buds… er, changing taste buds:) So when my eldest went off broccoli, when I’d make broccoli, I’d ask him if his broccoli taste buds changed yet–and he’d sniff it or look at it, and say no. And then one day he said, yes, but only in soup.

It’s easiest to relate to this if you’re recently gone through a taste bud shift yourself. During my Ender pregnancy, I totally went off broccoli too–formerly one of my absolutely favourite, could eat it every day vegetables. It’s been years, and those taste buds haven’t come back yet. I seem to forget this every week and order broccoli… and then look at it wilt in our fridge through the week, taking it out every couple of days to
look at it with disgust, (I don’t have to taste it to know I don’t want it) until, finally, I put it out of its misery and puree it into a soup my children devour while I watch them and eat something else… or, if I’m too lazy to fix myself a second lunch, drown my bowl of broccoli soup with hot sauce so I can’t taste its foul cruciferousness.

Mmmm, hot sauce…

Point: when introducing children to food—offer. Put on the table. Eat it yourself. Make it again. Ask if they’d like to try it. Ask if their taste buds for [X] have come yet. But never, ever force. Not even one bite.

Unless, of course, you’re willing to reciprocate? When Jocelyn is making a yummy mud pie with dirt and worms and beetle carcases, would you need to take a bite to be able to assert that you don’t like it?

Unfair comparison, I know. Switch mud pie for something you haven’t liked forever and ever. Shrimp? Egg? Sushi? Tripe? Would you have a bite if I offered it to you?

Don’t expect more of your little ones when it comes to food than you would of yourself. That, I think, is fair.

What do you think?

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8 thoughts on “Picky eaters: how can he know he doesn’t like it until he takes a bite?

  1. Absolutely agree. I’m a survivor of being forced to eat things I knew I wouldn’t like, along with many other strategies that my parents used to try and get my brother and I to eat (the one they didn’t use: let us eat the things we LIKED and not fretting about it. Apples and bread with butter really aren’t that expensive and are much more nutritious than getting nothing because you won’t eat the nastiness Mom boiled for dinner). It’s one of those things I would never ask of anyone else (to try something they don’t like), so why force the little people I love more than anything to do it? I ask them to try it just to see – but if they refuse that’s ok. There’s no bribing or keeping food they like from them until they try. I think it makes it worse and it affects how they feel about mealtime in general. Grateful my Mother in Law is understanding of this idea, as well, since she makes me special pronta with pureed veggies instead of getting mad that I won’t eat eggs with peas like everyone else at the breakfast table ❤ Makes me want to be with everyone for a meal instead of dredding it and feeling sick ahead of time!

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