Pushing Away All Healthy Food
The problem: A two-year-old whose picky eating suddenly went extreme―he shunned anything but waffles, grilled cheese, French fries, and ice cream. “For six months, we tried reasoning with him,” says Samantha Meiler of Millburn, New Jersey.
The fix: Surprise! “Doing nothing at all,” she says. “We put different foods in front of him. If he didn’t eat them, we didn’t make a big deal about it.” (There was always one option they knew he would eat, like fries, in addition to the others.) It wasn’t always easy. Meiler says she would occasionally leave the room to avoid getting frustrated. But the patience paid off. About a month into the new approach, “he started trying things. Suddenly he was eating chicken, strawberries, raisins, apples, corn. We were diligent about exposing him to new foods, and one day he simply ate them,” she says. (Research shows that kids may need to be exposed to a food 15 times before they’ll readily eat it.)
The expert take: “Hunger becomes a teacher,” says Leman. “When a kid refuses to eat something, don’t fuss over it.” Many parents underestimate the downside of being too pushy, says Long: “Sometimes if we back off, they’ll try things on their own. When you’re more relaxed, their curiosity can take over.”