Picky Eaters : Born or Made? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 11:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I was talking to a mommy friend about this recently, so I decided to pose the question here as well. I apologize if this isn't in the right forum, I wasn't sure which place I should stick it.

In your opinion, generally speaking, are picky eaters born or made? As in, do you think that the majority of children who are picky eaters are that way because they just are, or is it because of the way they are fed and that food is introduced to them?

The thing that originally sparked up this conversation with my friend is that we're on another mom-site together and people are constantly saying things like, "My picky eater won't eat anything but hot dogs, mac'n'cheese, and chicken nuggets!" and the mothers always say that they "can't" get their children to eat healthy. The general consensus of responses is, "Your child won't let themselves starve, just only serve healthy food from now on."

I know that this behavior isn't necessarily picking eating, since a child can also be a picky eater and eat very healthy, but was just wondering your opinions are on all of this .

Thanks ladies
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#2 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 12:11 PM
 
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Wow... that's a good one. I'm one of those people that silently gets enraged (inside) when I hear that whole "my kid will only eat (nothing healthy--entire diet is crap)" nonsense. Not for nothing--we eat our share of crap even with a restricted diet. I'm not anti junk food by any stretch. But dude: everything in moderation... kwim? Temper it with some healthy choices!

As to whether they're born or made, I think to some extent, it's both. I have a kid in the spectrum and his foods must. be. this. way. Must be this brand. This thing must taste this way and feel this way. He loves tomatoes, but cannot stand tomato sauce and will scream if there's even a speck of it on his pasta (like when I forget to leave some aside for him and have to rinse off the sauce ). To me, that's a picky eater. But what he picks FROM is all healthy foods... kwim? So he only has healthy stuff to pick from. And in that respect, I think I feel like yeah--they are "made" to some extent because if you don't introduce mac-n-cheese (and/or don't offer it regularly) then there's no "habit" to form. The concept of a child whose never had mac-n-cheese suddenly refusing to eat nothing else is something I can't even imagine.

Granted, I don't think anyone enters into feeding their kid knowing that they will wind up with a 4yo (or older) that will ONLY eat the unhealthy stuff. Most people don't look at mac-n-cheese or chicken nuggets as something to be wary of. For me, if any one thing became too big a staple in my kid's diet--I'd start working on it, but I don't think I'm the norm (based on seeing other parents who are neighbors, relatives and at outings). People don't seem to give a lot of thought to what they feed their kid and just assume that it won't be a problem to adjust it if necessary. They see it as "feeding" vs. "habit-forming" or "lifestyle setting". IMO, that's a problem.

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#3 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 12:32 PM
 
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Personally, I think they are made. People think its normal for a kid to eat nuggets and french fries so that is what they offer them. My twins dont know what a nugget is and they arent crazy about french fries the few times we have offered it to them, but give them fruit and veggies and they are :. When they were new eaters, all they were offered was healthy food so that is what they are use too. My friends are always wanting to go to McDonalds with the kids and we can't go. My kids wouldn't eat anything haha! They all think I am crazy anyways and ask "what do your kids eat then?" Their favorite food is rice and fruit....

single mommy to identical twin girls (3/06) Non-traditional mama just : through life.
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#4 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 12:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by angie7 View Post
Personally, I think they are made. People think its normal for a kid to eat nuggets and french fries so that is what they offer them. My twins dont know what a nugget is and they arent crazy about french fries the few times we have offered it to them, but give them fruit and veggies and they are :. When they were new eaters, all they were offered was healthy food so that is what they are use too. My friends are always wanting to go to McDonalds with the kids and we can't go. My kids wouldn't eat anything haha! They all think I am crazy anyways and ask "what do your kids eat then?" Their favorite food is rice and fruit....

: (much shorter than mine)

And I'm sick of the whole "what DO you eat?!?", too. Ummmm... BROCCOLI!!!

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#5 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 12:39 PM
 
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Most are made, I'd say. How would your kid know they "only like" those junk foods if they'd never had them. However, but child will literally let himself starve (probably not for long, but I'm not willing to see how many days he could go) and turn into a monster in the process. But he has sensory issues so he just cannot bring him self to eat most of the food I enjoy. He prefers bland foods, and mostly grains (pastas, breads, rice or oatmeal sometimes,) and very few fruits. But that doesn't mean I feed him mac'n'cheese and hotdogs, either, yk? He's still going to get introduced to foods and encouraged to eat as healthy as he is able.

Poor nutrition is easier, and our society's lifestyle doesn't allow for the time and energy it takes, nor does it value it.
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#6 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 12:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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They all think I am crazy anyways and ask "what do your kids eat then?
Oh man, doesn't that just get under your skin? I've gotten this comment a few times and it seems I can't get those particular mothers to grasp that my son *likes* healthy food. I also loved the reaction I got a couple of weeks ago when I gave my son a bag of chopped celery for a snack when we were out...
"I have some M&Ms if he'd rather have those instead."

I almost wanted to tell her to go ahead...because I know that my son doesn't really like chocolate that much and would actually be angry if I took the celery away to give him candy. For instance, the other day I gave him a chocolate chip cookie (we had a long day so I figured why not?) He started screaming and crying and holding it up going "Noooooo!" with tears running down his face and pointed at the bananas. He ended up eating two whole bananas instead lol.
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#7 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 12:45 PM
 
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I think it's both.

Kids are born liking certain foods, and hating others.

But, so many parents screw this up completely. Half say "He will only eat pop tarts". So, they buy him poptarts, and make sure to never run out of poptarts.

Then there are the others who say "He will sit here until he eats all of those peas".

*I have a girlfriend who hated peas.. so on her fourth birthday, her psycho-mom bought her ONLY a case of peas, and made her sit there ON HER BIRTHDAY and eat a whole bowl of peas*

I think it's fine to take into account your child's preferences, but to make a point of taking special food for your child everywhere you go is just going too far.

I personally believe that if you serve your child what you eat every day, he/she will learn to like those foods too. But, if you have one meal, and your child has chicken nuggets every day, they can't learn to try new foods.

I was a very picky eater. But, I didn't have a special meal at night. I was only allowed a PBJ when we were having fish, tuna casserole, or pea soup. The rest of the meals were a "use it or lose it" deal, and I could eat what I wanted, but, if I didn't that was fine too. I discovered foods I loved, but I was sure I wouldn't like them.

We didn't have snacks in the house. Back in the early 70s, snacks weren't that common. So, if I wanted something later, it had to be a sandwich that I made myself, or cereal, or yogurt.

I have a dyacare boy who litterally eats ONLY top Ramen noodles and crackers for every meal every day. Even at my house, he has a bowl of top ramen noodles for lunch every day, and that is all he eats. Because as his parents claim.. "it's all he will eat".
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#8 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 12:54 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lunar forest View Post
Poor nutrition is easier, and our society's lifestyle doesn't allow for the time and energy it takes, nor does it value it.
Sad and true. And even if you had the time and energy, it also comes down to money--which is criminal. When I have foster kids that qualify for WIC I'm always LIVID that they will not allow organics. Not for milk, not for juice... not for anything. Period.


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I think it's fine to take into account your child's preferences, but to make a point of taking special food for your child everywhere you go is just going too far.
In case you see this somewhere, note that some of us do it because of food intolerances. I never leave the house without food. Often it just looks like a healthy variation of what's being served and so we'd look like the ridiculous healthy eaters. The reality is that often--those are the ones without corn/corn syrup and soy (two of our main avoidances). Like ketchup and hotdogs. Yeah--mine just look like a healthy version. Well, they ARE, but that's not why I bought them (although now I'm glad I was forced to do it).

I don't really tell anyone why and even though it's obvious that I'm using my own--they don't ask. I think they feel like it's rude. So they have no clue. The host/hostess does because I don't want them to feel that I'm insulting their choices, but I don't make an announcement every time I'm using my stuff. It gets old.

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#9 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 01:20 PM
 
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I think it's both.

My dd hasn't ever had mcdonalds, so she's not asking for that. And one of the (many) things she won't eat is hamburgers

But she was offered fruits and veggies (and only fruits and veggies for awhile) yet right now there are few fruits and veggies she'll eat

A lot of it is a stage.

-Angela
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#10 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 01:29 PM
 
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I think it's partially both. For my son, he's definitely been made that way. He has a natural preference away from fruits and veggies and the cooking my husband does reinforces that. Ugh.

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#11 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 01:30 PM
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My toddler is a picky eater and here is my two cents.

A lot of toddlers resist trying new foods. I read somewhere that it takes an average of 10 (?) tries before a toddler will begin to like something new.

So what happens. Parents get frustrated with their toddler resisting new (healthy) foods so they resort to taking the easy way out by giving foods (often less than healthy ones) that they know their children will eat. And bad habits are thus formed.

I know I have been guitly of this and I am really trying to get back on track, but it is hard. Dd never wants to try ANYTHING new and takes A LOT of patience to keep trying. It really is just easier to give her what I know she likes, but I also know if I keep doing that her diet will be so limited as to be unhealthy. And she will remain a picky eater.

So that's what I think

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#12 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 01:37 PM
 
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I have so many thoughts.

First, I think we need to define "picky."

I see a lot of people talking about picky being "eats only junk food" here. If that's the case then of course they're made because there was no junk food (as we know it) for thousands of years and yet humans survived without a lot of accounts of children starving themselves to death because the Big Mac did not yet exist, or whatever.

But if we're talking about just eating a small range of food, that's different.

If we mean do some people have a wider range of tolerance for variety than others, I think that's absolutely genetic. I have a completely unfounded theory that you need both in a tribe – the people who will go try the new foods, and the ones that won't in case the new foods turn out to be poisonous.

Although we talk a lot about healthy eating in a nostalgic way as if before flash freezing everything was healthy, the truth is that in many climates at certain times of the year your typical historic peasant family's food was likely fairly monotonous and wouldn't necessarily qualify as healthy to my mind, like being 80% potato or whatever. So the whole thing about picky eaters being a) morally outrageous/spoiled and b) unhealthy or c) unnaturally created by junk food just doesn't really make sense to me and it always seems to colour these discussions.

If we mean can a family's approach to food impact on the children – of course I think it can, within the range that genetics provides. I do think that by acclimating my son's tastes to a range of wholesome healthy food that I am laying the groundwork for his future choices, as he builds cultural associations with what is a 'treat' or what is a 'meal' or whatever.

But I am not certain it really governs final outcomes. Maybe at 18 he'll choose to eat tons of junk food. Maybe he won't. Control is overrated in the end.

Both my sister and I grew up on a typical 70s American diet – Hamburger Helper being haute cuisine. She does not experiment a lot with food although she eats much healthier than that was. I love variety and ethnic cuisines and try almost anything.

I concentrate on INTRODUCING my son to foods I love and that I think are healthy and in trying to ensure that my family eats in a way that respects our bodies, spirits, and the earth. But after that I truly believe it is under his control, his predispositions, and his personality.

I agree with EVC that what is hard is keeping the course on the respectful stuff.

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#13 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 01:40 PM
 
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I have an older (12) picky eater whose older and younger siblings are not picky. When speaking with a nutritionist last week, having never really written down a list of likes/dislikes, for him it's not about likes/dislikes but sensory stuff. He does not like to chew an overly long time for whatever reason. I have a hard time getting him to eat any form of meat but he will eat many fruits and vegetables and he also won't eat anything on a consistant basis. If we find something he likes if we serve it too often, he will no longer eat it. So I can't play the Quinoa card very often.
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#14 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 01:41 PM
 
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It's both. Obviously, some kids are picky because of sensory issues or undiagnosed allergies. They're being "picky" to protect themselves.

But the kids who are described as only eating mac-n-cheese from a box or Top Ramen? That's a made situation. I'll bet there are times when it's tough, if money/time are tight or there's no real knowledge of cooking/nutrition in the house.

If I don't want my kids eating something, I don't stock it. We don't go to fast food (the occassional McDonald's trip to play in the play area), mostly because I find it disgusting--the smell lingers on your hands for hours, even after multiple hand-washings--ick.

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#15 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 02:01 PM
 
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Well my kids eat A LOT of chicken nuggets & french fries, but I make them myself, so they're not always considered crap. Neither of my kids have ever been to a fast food resturant & both hate burgers (homemade of course)

I have to agree with Alegna & EVC, I think it's a bit of both. I personally get tired of seeing food wasted, especially with food prices the way they are, so I fix DS2 what he likes & try to slip in a few extras along the way. I've noticed that my DD4 now tries more things than she ever did, so I have hope that my DS2 will expand his palate in time.

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#16 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 02:17 PM
 
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Both. Some kids truly are sensory/allergic/just don't like the taste of X.

But a LOT of kids I see are "made" that way. I once nannied for a family where the kids didn't drink water (among the many, many things they "couldn't" eat). Because they didn't "like" it and it made them "sick". So, everything was juice or milk or Hi-C. No water. Well, until the day I legitimately forgot their drinks, and they were forced to use the water fountain and *gasp* they "maybe didn't hate it so much".

Even adults - my husband was super-picky. Seriously. But, he'd never been exposed to a lot of stuff growing up...it was strictly meat and potatoes (swimming in butter, onion dip, and cheese - ew) and broccoli (with cheese)or corn. But, I sneak some new foods in every once in a while and he's learned that he actually LIKES some of them, even if he'd never heard of them (you know, exotics like baked ziti and hummus )

Stages? Yes - my daughter used to love bananas, now won't touch them straight (she'll eat them in baked goods). But, if she doesn't want a banana, she gets an apple or strawberries or kiwi. Not candy or chips, kwim?

I do think part of the problem is most people/families get into a rut where they eat the same 30 foods or whatever over and over and over again, so, there just isn't exposure. I think if most people look at their menus, it's going to be the same 10-12 dinners, the same 3-4 fruits, the same 5-6 veggies, etc, rotated through. We have favorites, but I get bored eating the same things over and over.
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#17 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 02:18 PM
 
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I'm in agreement with a lot of you here -- it's both.

Some kids have sensory issues or just a preference for a type of food. Me? I can't eat dry food, so everything needs a sauce, gravy, or condiment. I also think that people vary in their sensitivity to strong flavors. DH can't eat anything spicy or bitter or sour, and as a result won't eat anything that's mayo-based (can't stand vinegar). He likes bland (to me) food. For all I know, the bland food tastes just as strong to him as super-spicy or strong food does to me. DD hasn't yet shown a preference to any one type of food, though in typical toddler fashion, her interest in specific foods waxes and wanes.

All this aside, we all enjoy healthy food. We all have our preferences to how the food is prepared and seasoned, but overall it doesn't stop us from eating healthy. We don't eat fast food and I cook from scratch every night. I'm more than willing to accomodate preferences as long as the acceptable foods are healthy, too.

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#18 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 02:23 PM
 
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I think these are two different questions really.

Some kids have sensitivities and there is nothing you can do about that. When my kid went through a picky stage he still ate healthy, just only liked certain fruits. His favorite go to supper was chicken and brown rice steamed with veggies. But he ate that for supper like 4 nights a week. It was really annoying.

Sometimes people equate picky eating with junk food eating. Not the same thing. Picky eaters are "born" or rather I think it's normal for kids to go through a picky eating stage, be it 4 months or 4 years of picky eating. But I do think that the junk food thing is "made". I totally get how convenience food is a necessity for a lot of families though.
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#19 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 02:27 PM
 
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BOTH.
Some people are naturally pickier, and need more exposure to foods before being willing to try them, and/or require them prepared in simpler ways or in a familiar manner.
Others are more adventurous by nature.
But I think any child can be encouraged to be picky via parental modeling, willingness to buy/prepare junk food or the same repetitious meal, or lack of exposure. And likewise naturally picky children can become far pickier, but they can also be encouraged to try many things if started young and with the right non-confrontational approach; maybe they'll never be outgoing food critics, but they'll at least enjoy a variety of healthy foods.

I've got 2 not picky eaters, and 1 picky eater.
But all bets are off if there is some physical or other diagnosed disorder that creates a barrier to good eating. That's where food therapists and tricky recipes can help.

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#20 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 02:33 PM
 
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Well I think it must be both because I have a toddler who is driving me CRAZY right now with his food "choices".

We eat really pretty healthy in our house - almost everything with the exception of a few trader joe's frozen meals here and there for nights when I have class are made from scratch...real vegetables...not much in the way of snacks around etc.

So my kid isn't craving french fries and chicken nuggets BUT there are only about few things he will eat:

turkey meatballs
peas
bread (wholemeal)
mac and cheese
yoghurt
hummus
lox (go figure!)

oh yeah...and ANY fruit you put in front of him.

I'm dying because this is just not a balanced diet, but I have failed attempt after failed attempt of trying various vegetables and other meats. My guess is that it is a texture thing. He won't eat turkey but he will eat my turkey meatballs when the meat is all mushed up....the lox is super smooth etc.

I know this doesn't sound like the worst diet but it isn't great either. And I hope I haven't made it worse by letting him eat a good bit of fruit because I want the kid eating SOMETHING with some fiber/vitamins etc (prunes are a big favorite )

But my 2c....I don't think I MADE him this way...and I hope this stage is over soon!
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#21 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 02:42 PM
 
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Another vote for both. I have one of each, and I've raised them the same way. I buy the food, so I control what's in the house. It's mostly healthy with some fun stuff--good ice cream, newman's version of oreo's, and the ever present nutella! The number one snack for my kids right now is hummus with veggies, or frozen yougurt tubes for when it's hot. I fix one dinner with something for anyone who doesn't care forit, ie I almost always have some cut up veggies, sliced cheese, bread and butter on the table, and the kids drink raw whole milk, so no one goes hungry. But i wouldn't fix seperate dinners for a picky eater because too many times my picky guy will eat half a plate of what he says he hates while we're having a nice conversation and not focusing on trying to get him to eat!

My s-in-law feeds everyone whatever they want, whenever they want it. The kids (school aged) cry if their pizza is delivered too hot, so it gets whisked off to the fridge to cool down. At a recent catered family event m-i-law and s-i-law were inside making kraft mac and cheese for the kids. When invited for dinner usually the first question is "what are you having?", which I think is rude (no food allergy issues). But then again, maybe I am being rigid, and her kids feel supported and well cared for by getting their food wishes met? I guess there are two sides to the coin.
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#22 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 03:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
I have so many thoughts.

First, I think we need to define "picky."

I see a lot of people talking about picky being "eats only junk food" here. If that's the case then of course they're made because there was no junk food (as we know it) for thousands of years and yet humans survived without a lot of accounts of children starving themselves to death because the Big Mac did not yet exist, or whatever.

But if we're talking about just eating a small range of food, that's different.

If we mean do some people have a wider range of tolerance for variety than others, I think that's absolutely genetic. I have a completely unfounded theory that you need both in a tribe – the people who will go try the new foods, and the ones that won't in case the new foods turn out to be poisonous.
ITA. There's a HUGE difference between people who truly have a smaller range of foods they enjoy and people who's palate's are conditioned to prefer artificial everything. I was talking about the later in my post, fwiw. I don't think you can deny that different people like different things.
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#23 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 03:18 PM
 
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If we mean do some people have a wider range of tolerance for variety than others, I think that's absolutely genetic. I have a completely unfounded theory that you need both in a tribe – the people who will go try the new foods, and the ones that won't in case the new foods turn out to be poisonous.
This makes a lot of sense to me.

Now, when I hear people discussing this issue, I think it's cool to discuss it as a means of getting information about healthy approaches to food for our own families.

But, just as some folks may feel an inner rage at hearing some other parent say, "My child will only eat xyz" -- it gets my hackles up when people second-guess what other parents are saying about their own kids.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#24 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 03:19 PM
 
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the people who will go try the new foods, and the ones that won't in case the new foods turn out to be poisonous.
I'm sure you didn't mean that to be funny, but it cracked me up.

I'm easily amused though.

I still think kids need to be offered the food anyway. Even if you are positive they won't like it. Just a small amount on the plate isn't that wasteful.

That doesn't mean there shouldn't be something the child DOES like on her plate. But, I don't agree with parents who make a special meal of ONE thing for every single meal every day.

It's my job to provide the food, it's their job to eat it.
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#25 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 03:29 PM
 
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I think kids can be born picky eaters, but kids who will only eat junk are "made". The kids don't have the power to go to the grocery store and fill the cart with crap, so unless the parent has brought that stuff into the house and given it as a alternative to healthier food then it's not possible for kids to only eat it.

My ds wouldn't be considered picky by most people, but he will not touch meat. His father has given him a very small taste of some junky lunch meat once which he did like (gag). But I don't give that to him as an option, instead he gets beans and vegetarian sources of protein. I'm sure if I started handing out hotdogs and bologna he'd quickly become the kind of kid who would "only" eat those.
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#26 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 03:31 PM
 
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I'm sure you didn't mean that to be funny, but it cracked me up.

I'm easily amused though.

I still think kids need to be offered the food anyway. Even if you are positive they won't like it. Just a small amount on the plate isn't that wasteful.

That doesn't mean there shouldn't be something the child DOES like on her plate. But, I don't agree with parents who make a special meal of ONE thing for every single meal every day.

It's my job to provide the food, it's their job to eat it.
That's pretty much my philosophy, but I have an almost-3-yr-old who will eat almost everything, but not on any given day. So it would be impossible to predict what he would eat anyway.

I do know kids who get genuinely distressed about new foods though and if I had one, I hope I would be respectful to the child first (as your approach is too) by providing at least one thing on the table on the 'short list' as it were.

I guess for me the main thing is that I personally find the moralistic stance AGAINST picky eating difficult.

I don't personally believe that not eating a large range of foods is a character flaw (as long as refusals are polite). It may make some things difficult, like being a guest, but it is not up there for me on the list of things I would want to get upset about.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#27 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 04:30 PM
 
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I do know kids who get genuinely distressed about new foods though and if I had one, I hope I would be respectful to the child first (as your approach is too) by providing at least one thing on the table on the 'short list' as it were.
I also like the idea of providing the unfamiliar food on the table, and letting my children see me eating it, over putting it on my children's plates if they've said they don't want any. Some kids get really angry and grossed-out, when something's on their plate that they've said they don't want.

Conversely, they may very well be interested in trying a taste of whatever Mom and Dad are eating.

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I guess for me the main thing is that I personally find the moralistic stance AGAINST picky eating difficult.
I do, too.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#28 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 04:43 PM
 
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Well, my picky eater was certainly born that way, not "made" that way.

And he won't eat hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fruit loops, or french fries, most fruits or most vegetables among a myriad of other things.

Nothing wrong with being picky. It isn't a character flaw although it is challenging to feed such a person.

Mom to unschooling 4everboy since 8/01
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#29 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 04:49 PM
 
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I don't buy food that I wouldn't be happy for my kids to eat. They are past the picky age now, but then and now they are welcome to be as picky as they choose among the food that is available. However, I am not going to cook seperate meals.
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#30 of 168 Old 07-09-2008, 05:12 PM
 
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There was a NYtimes article a few months ago about pickiness- there have recently been some compelling studies that at least some degree of pickiness, typically beginning around 2.5 years of age, is genetic. So some of them are born.

I think if your kid only eats McDonalds, you made that. No kid is born only eating McDonalds. But they might not want fruits or veggies for a long time no matter what you do- it's specifically plants that kids can be genetically pickier about, tasting the bitter/fibrous/whatever more than adults can, and some kids don't mind it while other kids will for a while.

That said, I can't tell you how many parents I know who say their kid categorically dislikes X food or would never try Y food, despite only offering it or something like it once! Kids have to try a new food 10 times before you can develop an actual preference or dislike for it. Before that it's not preference or dislike, it's general kid's distaste for novelty.
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