Mamas Tell All | How To Get Around a Picky Eater

Sep 24, 2014

Today I'm linking up with the Mamas Tell All party going on over at Everyday Thoughts. The hosts, Brittany from Everday Thoughts, Christine from The So-Called Homemaker, and Ashley at That Southern Mama  came up with a great lists of topics that have to do with the crazy job of being a mama! They're sharing their methods and inviting other mamas to do the same! Today's topic is "How to Get Around a Picky Eater".

Michael and I started learning more about what healthy eating really means shortly before we were married. It was something we were passionate about together and it was nice to have someone to walk beside as we made those big changes to our lifestyle. One of the main things we agreed on was that we wanted these good habits to continue when we had kids. Another thing we agreed on is that mainstream medicine and nutrition isn't always correct.

When we found out we were pregnant with Noah I was 100% positive that I wanted to breastfeed, but didn't know much about when to start foods and what to start with! I did a lot of research in the evenings (as I was trying to stave off first trimester nausea after work), learned a lot of different perspectives on kids and food, and kind of solidified a "food philosophy". This includes:

1. Food is nourishment, not a reward system.
We vowed not to use food as reward/punishment. A healthy view of food is that it is to help our bodies grow and thrive. We don't want to withhold food for negative behavior nor will we offer food as a reward for positive behavior. This hopefully will help avoid emotional, whether good or bad, connection to food and help them view it as "is this good for me?" rather than "do I deserve this?". Sometimes emotions are tied to food and that's not always bad- a memory of your favorite recipe and the person who fixed it, or maybe a delicious dessert that makes your mouth water just thinking about it! But the goal is to savor the memories and the food, but not let those emotions control you (that's a hard one for me!). 

2. Snacks are great as long as they're healthy!
We don't have a limit to how often Noah can snack unless he wants something to eat right before I put a meal on the table. Snacks aren't bad. It's normal to get hungry between meals. Our only rule: the snack has to be healthy - nuts, fruit, veggies, or cheese is Noah's go-to. If the snack is good for you, then it is allowed. We hope this will help our kids learn to rely on their hunger and make healthy decisions. 

3. Start small and stop when you're full.
We won't force our kids to finish their plate (or guilt them with stories of starving children, although we will talk to them about the starving children in different contexts!). We'll give reasonable portions and if they're hungry they can certainly have more. If they get full first and there is still food on their plate, it's alright. The most important thing is that they're not being forced to overeat.

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The amazing thing about breast milk is that it can sustain life and provide key nutrients for up to a year or more. I learned a lot about the guts of babies, what they can/can't handle, and that led us to delay any food until Noah was 6 months. There is a lot of research that shows links between a person's lifelong appetite and what they were fed in their first year. We wanted his first foods to be nutritious, organic, and whole. We knew that even if he followed a tiny bit in his mama's picky footsteps, that he would still have been exposed to all sorts of foods and hopefully we would have created in him an appetite for healthy.
L// Noah's first try of sweet potato at 6 months!                                            R//Noah ate whatever we ate when we went out to eat!
We skipped baby foods, purposely didn't give cereals, and went straight to solids. His first food was a banana which we gave him whole and let him learn how to gnaw and eventually bite off pieces. He loved it. We then slowly began to give him avocado chunks, some meat strips, and other "superfood" vegetables, all the while making sure that he had no adverse reactions and was digesting them well. We avoided all grains and wheat until after his first birthday, did not give him sugar or juices, and only gave water when he needed it. Before and in between meals, he nursed. 
L// Noah's first taste of raw milk                                         R//Noah enjoying his favorite Apple Pie Larabar

Sure enough, as he started to get older and his taste buds developed further, Noah began to give us faces of disgust at some foods we offered (he totally gets that from me. I didn't try brussel sprouts or asparagus until college!). He sometimes would even shudder at the taste of some foods. Of course it's completely normal to not enjoy some foods the same way others do.

When we got to this point, we decided on a few things that I think might help navigate around these developing and changing taste buds of his.

1. Try it
Around here, we don't fix special meals. Noah eats what we eat, has since he started food, and we encourage him to at least try something new if it is fixed. We won't go as far as forcing it into his mouth, but we do try to find creative ways to get him to open up and give it a shot. How will he know he doesn't like it if he doesn't try it? Pretty simple.

2. No Forcing
While we do encourage him to at least try it, he doesn't have to keep eating it if he doesn't like it. Would we want someone to do that to us?! We feel like forcing food sets a child up for further bad experiences with appetite. 

3. Don't Stop Offering
Just because he didn't like broccoli when he was 6 or 12 months old doesn't mean he won't enjoy it now that he's a growing toddler. By submitting to defeat after only one try, you aren't giving your little one chances to adjust to their changing taste buds or try the food prepared in a new way they may enjoy better. If I'm fixing something that I know Noah has not liked in the past, I still put it on his plate. This way, he is seeing that his plate looks the same as everyone else and the foods are still being put on his radar. Even if he doesn't gobble it up, exposure to what healthy looks like is always a great thing!

4. Get Creative
I really enjoy brussel sprouts roasted with garlic, but don't think I could stomach them boiled. I love fried okra (okay, battered and fried is up for debate in the healthy category, bad example!) but I think they're slimy when just cut up and sauteed. Kids are the same way! Change up your spices, roast something instead of boiling or steaming it, mix it with something else, find a fun recipe! I've also seen other moms make mealtimes into art! Who can resist edible palm trees?!

5. Get Them Involved
Allow your kids to be involved in the dinner-making process (when time and your own patience allows, of course!). Let them see and feel the vegetables and other items being prepared. Show them how they are cooked, allow them to chop (age-appropriately), place in the pan, add spices, stir, etc. Not only will they learn valuable skills but their pride in helping prepare might motivate them to want to try it again! This is one I plan on implementing more and more as Noah gets older (and after I get and paint a cool step-stool from Ikea!).

6. Last Resort, Get Sneaky!
I won't lie to my kids, but I'll also put the spinach and FCLO that they can't get down into disguise with a healthy, delicious smoothie and not feel guilty! 

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Overall, our goal when it comes to food is to provide a healthy environment for our family, and that includes overcoming challenges like picky eaters in creative ways! Keep in mind, we're right in the middle of all of this. I'm speaking some from experience and some from research and thought. I'm right there with you mamas! That's what I love about link-ups like this- mamas from all different perspectives sharing what works for them.

Interested in seeing how other mamas deal with picky eaters? Head on over to the link-up and check out some other tips and tricks!


  1. This is a great post with a TON of great information! I love it! Thanks for linking up to Mamas Tell All!

  2. I totally agree with the try it rule. Sometimes we have to resort to bribery in order for my daughter to try something (which is kind of rare because she's really not a picky eater), but usually after that first bite she will then finish what's on her plate. I don't believe in making separate meals either. We eat as a family, and that includes the actual meal!

  3. What a wonderful post! I love the philosophies that you presented, and think that we could do an even better job at this with baby #2! I'm so glad to be linking up as well :) I have to say, my son has had swings of picky-ness but overall I'm glad that we aim for the healthy and had breastfeeding and late intro to solids as a foundation. I think our family could do a better job of not fixing special meals just for our son. I think that will be even more of an issue with more than one kid! Thanks for linking up :)

  4. Great tips! I try my hardest not to give my toddler to much junk since she snacks through out the day. She mainly snack on fruit thank the Lord! :P Thanks for linking up!

  5. We do the same as you all. No "happy plate club" here. The only exception is that we eat a lot of spicy food do our little ones don't have to eat that but I make a similar version with less spice at the same time. And sweet baby #3 gas gotten grains before a year because big brother and sister keep sharing ha! And they all seem to have inherited my sweet tooth!

  6. this is such excellent advice! I always say I'm not a short order cook and I don't make different dinners each night so we're a big "try it first" family. I think one thing that's helped our youngest is we did "baby led weaning" and let her eat what we ate starting at 7/8 months. Great post!

  7. This is some amazing advice, so glad you linked up today! I really liked when you said, " A healthy view of food is that it is to help our bodies grow and thrive". That is so important for kids to not emotionally attach to food, but look at it as sustenance. I'm pinning your post, we aren't at some of these stages yet! I talked about breastfeeding too in my post today, smiled when I saw you did too!

  8. Great post. I'm so glad you give him healthy foods and dont let picky-ness keep you from it! Nothing irritates me more than seeing parents with a buggy full of total junk at the grocery store to feed their developing children. Bravo!