My interest in kids’ nutrition habits and especially picky eating piqued about a
decade ago when I had recently completed my nutrition degree and training and
was in medical school. I knew enough about nutrition and health to understand the
recommendations of what kids should eat. But at the time, without kids of my own,
I didn’t fully appreciate the how of actually getting kids to eat healthy foods—foods
such as bitter vegetables, which our taste buds as humans aren’t really equipped to
like at first. Spending one very stressful and unenjoyable lunch with my sister and
her 2 young daughters was the event that set off my pursuit of wanting to under-
stand and implement strategies that would help kids want to be healthy eaters
and free parents of mealtime battles and struggles trying to force them to eat
their vegetables.
My nieces were about 6 and 8 years old at the time. One liked to eat only carbohy-
drate foods such as pasta and white breads. The other one was a true carnivore and
wanted to eat only protein-loaded foods such as meat and fish. Neither was much of
a fan of fruits and vegetables. The only way that my sister could get them to eat in a
more balanced way was through coercion and bribes. “Marion, eat some vegetables
or you are not getting dessert.” “Annie, you cannot just eat meat! Put some fruit on
your plate. You are not getting up until you eat it.” “Please just try one bite. You will
like it. Just try it. Come on.”
Not too long after that experience, it was my turn. My son, Thomas, was born in
2008. I knew I had just a couple of years until those battles would likely start brewing
in my house unless I did something differently. The first couple of years with him were
fairly easy. Like most kids, once he was about 6 months old and ready to begin solid
foods, he eagerly ate anything I put in his mouth. But when he got to be about 18
months, he decided he was opposed to anything green. He didn’t care so much for
vegetables in general. Then he didn’t really want much fish. No way would he try
something spicy. With my son, I didn’t know all the tools and techniques at first,
despite my research. Since then, we’ve spent a lot of time undoing his picky eating,
experimenting with different strategies that might work. The advice included in
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