Picky Eating

When I was a kid, I was a very picky eater. I became less so when I went off to college and wanted to impress my friends, who didn’t think it was cool to be a picky eater, but I’m still not a fan of certain foods, like pot pie. I feel like pot pie is where you take perfectly lovely meat and/or vegetables and you coat them in goo made of who knows what and then top the whole thing with a pie crust, which also isn’t my favorite food to eat. (Although, it’s one of my favorite foods to make–rolling out a pie crust is so soothing to me. I know, I’m odd.) One time when I was little, my mom made pot pie, and as usual I refused to eat it, so my parents told me I had to sit in front of that pot pie until I ate it. I sat there for probably 2 hours, until it was bedtime, at which point they sent me to bed without offering any other food. I didn’t care if I was hungry, that didn’t matter to me. What mattered to me was that I was not going to eat that pot pie. And I didn’t.

After that, my mom didn’t serve pot pie very often, because she knew I wasn’t going to eat it. She’d try to get me to eat foods I didn’t like, but if I refused, she’d just make sure there was something on the plate I’d eat. In short, she adapted her meal choices in part to suit her picky eater. Nowadays, that’s frowned upon by the Parent Education Industrial Complex. They say to just keep offering that food over and over again because eventually that kid will eat it. Apparently the Parent Education Industrial Complex doesn’t know what stubborn looks like. If my mom had offered me pot pie 1000 times I still would have said no to it. In hindsight, I think my mom made the wise choice to feed me things I would eat, so that I could grow, rather than watching me not eat every night. I was literally that stubborn. I needed to come to the idea of eating outside my comfort zone in my own time and in my own way. And, I’ve never struggled with obesity or eating disorders, so, I’m pretty sure she made the right choice for me.

The Boy is a picky eater too. I think he may even be pickier than I was, because he won’t eat chicken nuggets anymore. He wasn’t always a picky eater–when he was 2, he’d eat Indian food and jambalaya and all kinds of stuff. Now, it’s easier to tell people what he will eat instead of what he won’t because it’s a shorter list. I tend to do what my mom did and offer foods not on his “I will eat that” list, but when he refuses, I provide something we know he’ll eat. Especially now that he’s on ADHD meds that can affect his appetite and slow his growth.

I feel like I’m going to be judged for that, because it’s not what the experts recommend, and I’m sure people will say “He’s never going to learn to like other foods if you only feed him stuff he likes.” In fact, I have friends who brag about the foods their kids will eat that I know The Boy would adamantly refuse to try. But then I remember, parenting isn’t a competition. And I also remember what it felt like to be that kid who didn’t want to eat the pot pie with the weird goo in it (Mom, I’m sorry I keep calling it goo as though you’re a bad chef–I’m sure it was a lovely gravy to anyone who isn’t so picky!), and wishing I could just have food that didn’t weird me out, and being excited to eat when my mom made foods I did like. I guess I just feel like maybe there isn’t one right way to approach the complex relationship that kids have with food in our society. Because every kid is different, and some kids, like me, are never going to eat pot pie, and that’s OK.

4 thoughts on “Picky Eating

  1. As we prepare to travel to the hinterlands (the Midwest) for a month to spend time with my “oh-so-well-balanced” extended family, I dread the food discussions. Even our most laid-back Australian friends counsel us on the need to institute the “one-bite-rule”…but I ask them, how many times does your kid need to puke at the dinner table before you’d throw that “rule” out the window? When your kid can gag at the scent of even his favorite foods if it’s wafting his way at the wrong time of day? When your kid is already so issue-laden that food seems like the very least of your battles? I think picky eating attacks are just an excuse to pick on parents – because there just aren’t enough of those in the world after all! So you and The Boy come over and I’ll serve you up a bowl of white rice with steamed tofu (or cold if that’s your poison) and a side of cardboard, and we’ll have a grand time! 😉
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  2. Oh, the hell with people. Our son has a very, very short list of foods that he’ll eat. He has the same rules as everyone else. He gets to eat what we’ve decided to serve, or he can have protein + fruit + vegetable or make himself a bowl of cereal. Now that he’s older, he can also make quesadillas, scrambled eggs and a few other things.

    For me, it always comes back to this: My brother lived on nothing but beef and saltines with cheez whiz for something like 15 years. He’s fine and eats all kinds of different stuff now that he’s an adult.

  3. My kids aren’t terribly picky, and neither was I, but I remember sitting for hours staring at peas and liver, because I refused to eat them. I only serve frozen or fresh peas to my kids, and I’d never dream of serving liver…that is the absolute ickiest food I can think of and I can’t for the life of me understand why my mom even made it. I don’t bother battling with my kids on the foods they won’t eat. If I make a veggie I know one hates, I just serve two veggies that night. It’s not worth the argument.
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  4. I sat in front of a plate of peas until bedtime as a child. As an adult, I’ll eat peas–but only if they’re the frozen kind. I still won’t eat canned peas. (I just got a shiver even thinking about those canned peas. EW.)

    In our house, neither of our kids is picky (although Hubbinator likes to think so), but their palates aren’t as open as they used to be. We encourage them to try new things, but don’t force it. They’re both pretty good about it–the Girl more than the Boy. However, when we go out to dinner, the Boy is the one who will order (and enjoy) foods I’d never have expected. His favorite dish at a local italian place had feta, spinach, pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes. Go figure. And if they really don’t like what we made for dinner, I let them make a sandwich or something.

    Remembering the “battle” as a kid and the issues with food that I had / have from being forced to eat some things, I decided that I was going to let my kids drive that bus instead. And, I’m really happy with how things have turned out at this point (13 & 14).
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