Having a Kid Who Is a Good Eater Is A Lucky Break, Not a Gold Medal for Parenting
Before I had a baby, I knew exactly how to raise an un-fussy eater. I would eat an array of healthful foods and bold flavors while pregnant and breastfeeding. Once my kid started eating, I would offer a variety of different foods and different flavors. I would not make her separate meals if she did not want what I prepared. Everything would be perfect, and I would secretly be kind of smug when my toddler asked for. Clearly it was that easy, and all those “picky eaters” I heard about were just unfortunate kids who had parents who must have done something wrong.
Before I had a baby, I was kind of an idiot about babies. Sure, introducing lots of flavors and attempting to expand your baby’s horizons is all well and good, and sometimes it can help, but sometimes a kid is just going to refuse to eat anything but cottage cheese for a year, and there’s not much you can do about it.
Contrary to what the know-it-alls of the world might say, it’s not the parents’ fault, either. I know people who did everything “right” and who are raising deeply adventurous and sophisticated eaters. I know people who followed the exact same protocol, and whose kids eat only white rice and apple chips.
A picky phase is not necessarily permanent, and it’s certainly not a sign that the parents need to lose their “foodie” cards, if they carry such things. I worked in food media for nearly a decade, and after I had a baby I started hearing all manner of parenting stories about how Famous Chef’s daughter would not eat green foods, or how Legendary Food Editor’s son went a solid year eating only white rice.
“But now he works in a restaurant kitchen, so it’s OK,” he said.
If your kid is refusing all food and you feel like you did something wrong, try to relax. You’re not a bad parent. Your kid is just being a weirdo about food. Most likely, it will go away when he or she gets older. And even if it doesn’t, the world is full of happy, successful, well-adjusted people with food aversions. Or maybe your kid is a super-taster, and you can boast about that. (Don’t boast about that. It’s just a fluke that makes people taste things more strongly than others, and usually seek out bland or simple food in response.)
If your kid is an adventurous or “sophisticated” eater, do everyone a favor and try not to act smug about it. It’s probably not because of something you did, and if you lord your toddler’s palate over everyone, you’re going to feel very silly if your toddler suddenly decides that he will only eat playground rocks and Jolly Ranchers.