When my kids began eating solid food, they gave new meaning to the term “picky eaters.” They hated everything, and most of our meals ended with more food on our walls than in their mouths.
As you can imagine, family mealtime was not a lot of fun. It was stressful both physically and mentally. I would make two or three different meals each sitting, just to get my kids to eat something. Some days I’d cook nine meals for them, only to watch most of the food go right into the trash.
There was a bigger problem, though. The kids weren’t eating enough and were having trouble gaining weight. That’s when I pressed the panic button.
So we needed help — and got it. To deal with our weight issues, I consulted a nutritionist who put them on a high-calorie diet, which consisted mostly of adding butter or cheese to everything. The theory was that even if the little guys ate only a couple of bites per meal, there would enough calories in those bites to give them sustenance.
The new diet worked, and the little guys gained weight, but they still weren’t eating much of the food I made. Eventually I cut back on the butter and cheese, and gave them food that I knew they would eat — processed food like chicken nuggets and hot dogs. It lasted about a year and wasn’t my proudest mommy moment, but, hey, sometimes you have to meet kids where they are.
Then I discovered the best condiment known to man: ketchup. With the help of that wonderful red sauce, I got my kids to eat foods like salmon, chicken, and ground beef. Once my kids started eating, over time it got easier to get them to try new things, like vegetables.
It’s been two years, and I don’t worry much about my kids weight anymore. They’re eating everything I prepare, even vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots, and beets. Yes, beets! Last Sunday I made salmon, rice, and broccoli for dinner and they ate everything. I looked at their plates and almost cried.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy. It took a lot of time, patience, and our progress came in stages. Now, instead of being anxious at mealtime, I actually look forward to our meals together.
Here are four tips for dealing with extremely picky eaters:
Consult with a nutritionist if weight gain (or growth) becomes an issue. Most insurance plans will cover the cost of a nutritionist.
Don’t be afraid to give your children “less healthy,” processed foods. Do this especially if they’re barely eating. After all, processed food is better than no food at all, right?
Condiments are your friend. If adding a little ketchup or salt will get your kids to eat healthy foods like eggs or vegetables, it’s worth it. A little extra flavor can make the difference between a failed meal and a successful meal.
Be patient and keep reintroducing healthy foods like vegetables. Don’t assume that because your child doesn’t like a food now, that he won’t like it six months from now. When my kids were 3, they wouldn’t eat carrots. Now, they can’t get enough of them. So be patient, be persistent, and stay positive. Happy eating!
Notoya Green is a parenting expert and former family law attorney. You can read her blog at www.tripl