Picky Eaters Cured Over Time

I began my career as a dietitian working in pediatrics. Given my background I felt confident that when I had children I would raise them to be healthy eaters. However, what I thought would be fairly straightforward and easy, turned out to be much more challenging than I expected.

I assumed that by offering a variety of foods and setting a good example, my children would happily eat all types of foods. Yet, both of my children were extremely picky eaters when they were young.

Now, I am happy to report that both of my children, now grown, eat a wide variety of foods from all of the food groups, drink huge amounts of milk, do not have “food issues”, eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.

Boys CookingHow did we get from the picky toddler years to their successful eating status today? We used the division of responsibility approach outlined by Ellyn Satter, set a good example and were very patient. We served foods family-style, in a very neutral fashion. We did not force them to take bites or put foods they did not want on their plate.

Research shows that if you force kids to eat a food, they are less likely to eat it when they are adults. Reflecting back, I am glad that I didn’t override their internal abilities to regulate their food intake.

I don’t remember exactly how old my son was when he asked us to pass the broccoli, but I am guessing between 8 and 10 years old. I remember passing the bowl of broccoli as if it was an everyday occurrence, but on the inside I was cheering:  “Yes, this process works!”

From that day forward, they both tentatively tried new foods and slowly became more competent eaters. When they went through their teenage growth spurt, they really expanded their food choices.

Developing a healthy eater is an ongoing process and a continual discussion. My sons are now in college, and I’ve been proud of the efforts they’ve made to eat healthy food during their first years away from home!

Taking the long view of raising a healthy eater made it possible to relax when my boys were young and picky. I was confident that in the end they would eventually learn to eat well. And, that’s exactly what happened.

1. Ellyn Satter Institute Website. Division of Responsibility in Feeding. Madison, WI  http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/dor/divisionofresponsibilityinfeeding.php Accessed March 29, 2015
2. Satter EM. Child of mine: Feeding with love and good sense. Palo Alto: Bull Publishing; 2000. 
3. Satter EM. Your child's weight...helping without harming. Madison, WI: Kelcy Press; 2005. 
4. Satter E. Eating competence: definition and evidence for the Satter Eating Competence model. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007 Sept-Oct;39(5 Suppl):S142-53. <br?></br?>