As Primary teachers, Jeezy and I have come across an incredible amount of picky eaters. The ones who never eat their lunch, the ones who have to have a special lunch packed for the trip to the organic farm because they don’t like vegetables. The ones who only eat junk food because some calories are better than none. I always felt a connection to these children because I was one of them too. Raw carrots were the only vegetable I would consume. I snuck all sorts of cookies and treats from the cupboard to fill up and my mom always made me separate meals. Once I moved overseas, I was forced to be a bit more adventurous and I was quite disappointed that I had been missing out on so many unique flavours and interesting dishes. Jeezy on the other hand, ate anything always. He was adamant that our daughter would a varied palate. I really wanted that for her too but I had no idea how to help her to develop this non-discriminatory palate we strived for.
Jeezy had a plan! We would offer a variety of foods at meal times. She can choose to eat what is on her plate. If she chooses not to eat what is on her plate then that is fine. If she asks for food later though, we give her back the unfinished plate. If she asks for something else, we ask that she eats what is on her plate before we get out any other food. I think this is a really good lesson in food waste as well.
After approaching eating like this for a while she is almost always happy to eat anything. We often get comments on what an amazing eater she is. Every now and again she tries to trick us though.
Yesterday we went out to a Mexican restaurant and she was excited for her mini burrito and cheese roll up. She ate some of each but didn’t want anymore. We wrapped it up and took it home. At lunch today, Jeezy gave it back to her. She wouldn’t eat any and just asked for crackers. He explained that she can have some crackers after she finished her burrito. She said she was all done and got down from her chair. She continued on playing. When she asked for food again, I gave her the burrito. She started whining and asking for hot milk tea (warm milk). I explained that if she had room for hot milk tea (a treat in her eyes) she had room for her burrito. She refused. By this time it was bed time. When she said she was all done, I told her that was fine. It was bed time though. She got upset and said she wanted food. I reminded her one last time that she could eat her burrito or it was time for bed. She quickly devoured her burrito and drank her hot milk tea. She asked for some berries too, I happily gave her some.
I always have moments where I think, should I just give her something else because she hasn’t had much today. I try to remind myself that skipping a meal is not going to have a significant effect. Realistically, if I stick with the plan, I always find that she does eat it.
As she gets older, I would like her to have input in what we are making dinner on some nights but I also think it is important to learn that every meal is not going to be our favourite food.
I wonder whether this just works for our child, or would it work for most.