Are Foodies More Likely to Raise Picky Eaters?
Will my kids stop being good eaters when they’re bigger?
When our 4-year-old was a toddler we took her on vacation to the south of Italy (we lived in Rome then, so it’s not as exotic as it sounds) where they don’t have children’s menus. But they do have seafood. We watched in awe as Phoebe devoured an entire platter of raw, pickled and otherwise brined seafood. Sardines, clams, oysters, all soaked in freshly squeezed lemon.
And at the time, I had only one thought: Well, my work here is done. But I don’t think it is.
There’s a great piece in the New York Times this week about a food writer like myself who once had an adventurous eater in her home, her 2-year-old. Now that guy is seven and not the least bit interested in most foods. Fruit, “snacky things” and plain pasta, yes. Most everything else, no. So what happened? Did she stop introducing new foods to him? Did she start buying chicken nuggets in bulk? No, and not even close.
What happened is his taste buds and his personality shifted into full development mode right now. But is it really that simple? Frustrated and feeling low in confidence (sound familiar?), she consulted Ellyn Satter, a dietitian and nutritionist to get a great perspective:
“He’s doing this because he’s like you,” she said. “His sensory perception is probably really strong. Given your predilection for delicious food, yours probably is too. You’ve learned to make it work for you. In his case, right now it’s overwhelming.”
“He wants to be exactly like you, but he just can’t right now,” she added. “In time he’ll learn to manage his perceptions, but it has to be at his own pace.”
Gourmet cook or not, almost every parent I talk to has some version of this story, especially when I mention my website Foodlets: Mini Foodies in the Making…Maybe. “She was a great eater when she was little! Then she turned two and it all went downhill.” It’s such a universal experience that the best we can all do is keep plugging away. Keep offering new foods. Keep trying different cooking methods. Create spinoffs from successful dishes. But don’t make it a war. Just let it be a phase. And by all means, if you have a great eater at home, now’s not the time to judge those stuck in the “only white foods” stage. Things change, one phase at a time.
Now I have three kids and they’re all hit or miss with food, depending on what it is, how much sleep they’ve had and whether the afternoon snack has come back to haunt us. (Hungry kids are always more adventurous than those who’ve just had a muffin.) The 4-year-old is still our most adventurous but our 1-year-old has yet to eat a single bite of meat. He spits it out every single time. Our 2-year-old is 2, so her success at the table is more about her mood than what’s being served.
Even though I’m a food writer, even though it’s a major focus for our family, it’s still not easy for me to prepare healthy, delicious foods for these kids—and have them enjoy it. They’re kids and they’re individuals, so I’ll keep at it. And if I can’t get them to eat platters of seafood every night, I’m not worried. After all, they got those hyper little taste buds from me.
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