Childrearing

Stop Telling Parents To Force-Feed Their Picky Eaters

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little-girl-picky-eaterEven the most health-minded people struggle to get their kids to eat enough vegetables. Lots of kids go through a phase during which they are relentlessly picky, even if they were formerly great eaters. Usually parents can relate and stand united in the struggle to get our kids to eat their vegetables, but there’s always a few people out there asking why we don’t just sit kids down at the dinner table and shove kale into their faces against their will.

I found a recipe this morning for homemade gummy fruit snacks infused with greens for a nutrition boost. The snacks are made with a blend of frozen berries, pure pomegranate juice, and ‘green powder,’ which is basically plant additives in powder form. Fruit snacks and powdered greens aren’t really things you’d ever find in my house, but I thought the idea seemed like a good one for people who might be into it, so I was surprised to scroll down to the comments and see overwhelming negativity.

People were taking the author to task for everything from not forcing her kids to eat what they’re served  to not teaching them to appreciate vegetables in their ‘natural form.’ Ideally, I think we’d all like our kids to eat vegetables straight up, no questions asked, and have a healthy, balanced diet. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible.

I’m the mom of a very adventurous eater who woke up one day at two years old and decided everything she used to love was gross. She went from eating raw bell peppers with hummus to picking even the tiniest piece of diced bell pepper out of her meals. I can empathize with struggling to get kids to eat things that are good for them, even when you think you’ve done all the right things.

The refrain that picky eaters are created by their parents and that kids should be forced to eat anything we put in front of them is a common one, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Most experts agree that picky eating is a normal part of child development and that forcing kids to eat things they don’t like reinforces existing aversions and creates negative associations with food. It can also teach your kids to ignore their natural satiety cues and encourage overeating.

In other words, attempting to push past your kids’ boundaries only makes things worse, so why are so many people still advocating for that approach?

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