There is no such thing as a picky eater anymore. Just selective or particular eaters. It's like the word picky got sucked up by the political correctness vacuum. Which means, of course, it must be replaced by something kinder that doesn't make a kid feel bad because they don't like green vegetables or meat that isn't chicken.
This is all simply ridiculous, I say, because ALL kids are picky eaters. The degree to which they pick and choose their food varies, but all kids are selective about what they will eat.
Take my kids, for example. More than once I've been told that my kids will eat anything, or that they are such good eaters. Um, not really folks. Sure, they love sashimi and will eat game meat even when we tell them what it is. The Monster, however, will not eat rice, mashed potatoes, the tops of broccoli, the bottoms of muffins, any filled pasta but one particular shape, and an egg any way but scrambled. It is a random day when Smilosaurus happily eats all her vegetables without any comment from me and she is rather particular about how things get cut and served.
That being said, I don't consider my kids picky. I consider them kids.
Kids are inherently fickle, most love a good routine and struggle with new challenges, and they respond to our lead like sponges wiping the kitchen counter.
I've said it before, I think picky eaters are made, not born
. How we, as parents, approach food and feeding our children has more to do with your kids than anything. It starts right at the beginning when we give them their first soft purees. From the flavour to the texture we are indeed molding them. It's about more than introducing them to every taste in the book before they eat a chunk of food. It's about setting up the ritual of dinner - from the making to the eating.
When we give them their first chunks of fruit and grain we cut off the crust or the peels. We get into that habit and suddenly we have a 6 year old who doesn't eat the crusts. (Or you don't and they still don't eat the crusts, suddenly, one day after eating them for years!) We give them the choice of a rainbow selection of plates then have to deal with meltdowns when the pink one isn't clean. Before long and without intending to, many of us become short order cooks.
It sounds like I'm criticizing parents here, I understand that. I also make no apologies for it. We parents care about our kids and we should always take a critical eye to what we are doing. I include myself there too. I do think that a big part of picky eating is indeed what we parents do to create the situation.
The other thing we parents do is react to the situation. We worry that they aren't eating enough, they are eating too much of one thing, that they will never like the tops of broccoli, that somehow this makes me a bad parent... We often create a problem or think we have a picky eater because we struggle to get our kids to eat cottage cheese, not flavoured yoghurt. But this is OUR issue, not the kids.
There are great articles, resources, and tips out there to help you "break" a picky eater, banish picky eating, or even help a kid recover from picky eating habits. You can search on-line for days to get through all the tips. Seldom will you see the words Relax and Step Back. That is precisely what I suggest parents do.
Easier said than done.
Here are some tips to help you with that. These aren't about getting your kids to eat more foods or different foods, these are about accepting your kids as kids, regardless of how they eat. They are about accepting our role as parents without putting labels on them.
1. Kids don't need as much food as you think they do. One good meal every day or two can be good enough, augmented by some snacking.
2. Kids eat in cycles. One week they seemingly devour any and all food you can put in front of them, the next almost nothing.
3. Kids are fickle. One week they'll eat the crusts, another week they won't. And there is no explanation why.
4. Kids can indeed survive, in the short term, on odd diets like bread and butter with fruit.
5. You are in control of what food goes on the table. They are in control of whether they eat it or not.
6. It is perfectly okay to say no to your kids' requests for cookies for breakfast, a snack 20 minutes before dinner is on the table, and juice 24 hours a day. It is perfectly okay to ignore the tantrum that ensues when you say no.
7. Kids will not starve if they don't eat dinner. If they don't like what you are offering then don't offer them alternatives.
8. Shop, cook, and eat with your kids as much as possible.
9. Keep some guaranteed favourite meals in your back pocket and in the pantry. Pull them out on days when everyone is tired or when it's been a bit since they had a good meal.
10. Offer the best food you can. Focus on the quality of the ingredients even when they are limiting their diet.
It isn't political correctness that makes me want to lose the term picky, it's this notion picky eating is something to be tackled and eradicated like a disease. Kids are kids, and we need to respond to them like adults, not short order cooks or narrow minded politicians.