How do you raise a non-picky eater? I am still learning, but one thing that has worked for us this far is lots of VARIETY.
Growing up, I was a pretty picky eater. I have heard my parents say, “When you were a baby you ate everything,” many times. But I remember not liking a lot of vegetables, wanting most of my food pretty plain, and not being open to trying new things. As I have gotten older, my palate has expanded tremendously. I love all seafood, I continue to add more fruits and veggies to my “like” list, and I’m always trying new things.
As parents, we’ve all been told the first years of a baby’s life are some of the most important years for mental and physical development, which can put a lot of pressure on us. So, when our pediatrician recommended we start introducing our son Wally to foods, it was like entering a whole new world and we wanted to make sure he had a healthy balance of all foods while working to expand his palate immediately. It was recommended that we begin introducing foods at 4-6 months, but since we had just gotten the whole formula thing down, we decided to split the difference and start introducing foods when he was exactly five-months-old. Wally is now 14-months-old and is already a much better eater than I am now! There is very little that he will not eat and even then, he will eat it another day. He is definitely his mother’s son as he is a mood eater, loves breakfast, and likes to eat his different textures separately.
Because we offered such a variety of meals from the beginning and we were not scared to try new things, I really believe that has helped Wally be a non-picky eater. Some tips that have helped us are:
- Timing out and pairing food – If we are introducing new food that I am not sure he will like, I usually give that to him to eat first without any sides or other foods to choose from. After he tries the new item, whether he likes it or not, I will offer another food item that I know he loves to eat. This gives him a chance to really taste the new food and gives him some time with that one flavor to better decide if he likes it or not. Sometimes he tries it and likes it right off, sometimes it takes adding other foods alongside the new item for him to try it, and sometimes I just have to try it again another day.
- Seasoning – Do not be afraid to season your baby’s food! Once I realized this, it was a total game changer. As I am sure you can imagine, green vegetables such as peas, green beans, spinach, and broccoli were a little harder to get Wally to eat than others. I am guilty of not eating greens as much as I should, so I did not know how to really prepare them. I followed directions on the package, but Wally quickly got bored with the bland tastes and was not interested in eating them anymore. My husband, Kyle has always eaten his greens, so he suggested we season them with a variety of different flavors. We started with seasoning green beans with a beef bouillon cube and it worked like a charm. Since then we have continued to season all of his food just as we would season our own, with a few exceptions (low spice and low sodium).
- Same meal for everyone – When we were first introducing foods, it was your typical baby food of mostly pureed fruits and vegetables. Now that Wally is older, he eats whatever we eat and we just modify it as needed. Most nights, Wally goes to bed before we even start cooking our own dinner, but we always cook enough to have leftovers and we just reheat as needed for Wally the next day.
- Making mealtime work for you – As mentioned, much variety is our friend when it comes to feeding our baby. Not just with flavors and different foods, but how mealtime goes. Some days I spend an hour cooking and Wally has a big weekend breakfast with pancakes, bacon, and eggs or a delicious dinner of grilled salmon with crispy Brussels sprouts and apple sauce, but other days he has a Smucker’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Uncrustable Sandwich with a fruit cup or a pre-packaged Gerber Lil Meals. We learned very quickly to be flexible with mealtime to fit into our lifestyle and schedule, and it works for us.
We are very blessed with an easy-going baby who loves to eat the entire food pyramid and we hope this continues, but we are prepared for different phases and changes and will figure them out as they come. I find help and have learned so much about nutrition for kids and adults by following a couple of my favorite dietitians on social media. You should check them out!
Facebook: Lauren Kroeger Wellness
Kids Eat in Color
Facebook: Kids Eat in Color