Recently, a friend was talking about trying to get her toddler to eat vegetables and the pediatrician’s advice for picky eaters. She referred to some parents being “short order cooks”. It took me a minute to understand what she meant. But, as soon as I pictured it, I got it immediately.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, think diner and someone with a white apron and cap working at the grill. If you’ve ever heard the server shout, “Birds in a nest” (a fried egg on toast with a hole cut out of the center) you know what I’m talking about. Crazy-sounding descriptions like these are not as popular as they used to be, in part due to the rise of fast food restaurants. But, the practice apparently continues in some households.
Your littles won’t eat vegetables. They cry, spit them out or even gag. The sort of good news is that you’re not alone; it’s normal behavior. As we know, kids are different in so many ways from adults that we forget that this is okay and part of the process of figuring things out.
Many people grew up hearing things like – “clean your plate!” or, “you’re not leaving the table until you eat that!” All these years later, I still remember trying to hold down the slimy cooked spinach that my father insisted we eat. If you’ve ever tried to wait out a child determined not to eat something, you already know that you’ve lost.
One kid doesn’t like carrots, another decides that they are vegetarian and another won’t eat anything with a face. What fresh heck is this? Enter the concept of short-order cook. Mom or dad cooks something different for each child, regardless of the menu that was planned or the intended dinner. (Who’s going to do that for them when they’re grown?)
Not surprisingly, parents set their kids’ habits in most aspects of their lives. In addition to creating chaos for the cook, cooking on demand sets a precedent that will be very hard to break and habits that may lead to a variety of problems, including eating disorders.
Too much food is NOT a good thing
Insisting that kids eat everything on their plate doesn’t take into account that kids’ appetites are different than adults’. How can we really know how much each child can eat? Forcing a child to eat something she doesn’t want or maybe is too full to finish turns something good into a punishment rather than something to be savored.
Kids’ appetites change with their growth patterns. They’re experimenting with different tastes and textures. What they like today will probably change in a minute. Do you remember hating something as a kid that you now love? (Nope, not cooked spinach).
So, what to do for picky eaters
Not too much really. As long as your pediatrician isn’t concerned and there are no underlying problems – they’ll most likely be fine.
- Make sure they have healthy food at every meal and for snacks – a protein, fresh veggies, easy on the starches
- Be creative. It doesn’t take much to impress a kid
- Introduce something new on their plate and keep it low-key. Tell them you’d like them to try it
- Model the behavior you want them to exhibit. Everyone eats the same thing and together
- Less is more. They’ll ask for more if they’re still hungry
- Keep liquids to a minimum until they’ve eaten
- If they don’t like something, don’t make a fuss. Continue to reintroduce it periodically
You’ll probably fall off your chair when they willingly eat cooked spinach.
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