Picky Eaters Unite!

So I was reading this local parenting magazine, and I came across an article on picky eating. Since my children will not even eat macaroni and cheese – macaroni and cheese! Nectar of the comfort food gods! – I read every single picky eating article I come across. After reading, I realized that it was written by someone I know, which was exciting, and yet depressing, as I know for certain that her children regularly eat everything set in front of them. I have the utmost respect for professional opinions, but when it comes to picky eating, I think you actually have to live with a picky eater before you can offer advice on how to deal with it. Otherwise, it sort of feels like getting parenting advice from a non-parent, a phenomenon which has happened to all of us I’m sure, and is especially lovely when it comes from a relation who likes to visit and tell you how you are DOING IT ALL WRONG. But, I’m not going to go there.

Some picky eating advice is quite decent, like paying attention to the food presentation, or involving your children in meal planning and preparation. I do all these things, but yet, the variety of foods consumed by my children is fairly limited. Mark can happily scrub an entire sink full of potatoes, but is about as likely to eat one as he is to don a tutu and dance the Nutcracker. Which is to say, not likely.

I may be going out on a limb here, but if your child eats a fairly rounded and balanced diet, who really cares if he doesn’t eat certain items. I mean, sure, it’s great to expose your children to new foods, but it’s also great not to waste time and money on preparing things that will almost certainly be not eaten. It’s great if your child will happily dig into everything you prepare, but hey, that is totally not the situation in my house. Add that to the fact that I am really not an enthusiastic cook, and you get the following rules in my house:

1. Breakfast is always eaten and always contains at least two or three food groups.
2. Juice is fine at snacktime, but only milk or water at dinner.
3. Fruit and veggies are served generously at snacktime, along with home-baked goods (that contain sugar! Bad bad mommy indeed).
4. Dinner consists of a vegetable, a grain, and a protein. If the protein I have prepared is not to your liking, yogurt may be substituted.
5. Yes, yogurt is acceptable at dinner. I care more about calcium and protein than drawing a line in the sand with regards to acceptable dinner foods. This may or may not be the result of my own childhood memories, in which I am forced to sit alone at the table, long after everyone has left and the kitchen cleaned, crying into my plate of liver or hamburger casserole that I must consume before leaving said table. Which leads me to number six.
6. Eat until you are full and then you may be excused. We do not have a “clean plate” rule in my house. This means that small portions are served to reduce waste and seconds and thirds are available, if needed.

My children are healthy and tall, they take their vitamins, they eat vegetables and fruits, and they are picky eaters. Sure, I wish they would try a few more things, that they wouldn’t grimace when I cook something different, but on the whole I would rather not fight with them about eating. I think dinner should be pleasant and social, rather than stressful and experimental.

Do you have a picky eater? If so, how do you deal with it?

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