Born to be Picky


My wife and I were both notoriously picky eaters, and still are today. What we don’t eat typically leaves people giving us looks of both shock and awe. I don’t like mac-and-cheese, and my wife nearly died eating a grape (in her 20s) because it grossed her out to the point of choking. It should come as no surprise that our two boys (3- and 6-years-old) are picky eaters. Then again almost all little kids are, right?

Chicken fingers rule our household. As long as they’re the ones shaped liked dinosaurs. I’ve learned that chicken fingers that don’t come in fun shapes “are yucky.” Exception being the ones that come from a fast food restaurant. We’re also good on cheeseburgers as long as daddy doesn’t cook them too long. If our food has any burnt parts, odds are it’s going to take an act of Congress to eat them. Other popular foods at our house include pizza, peanut butter sandwiches and noodles with butter. Baked chicken and pork chops are sometimes accepted, and neither will eat steak. Are we sure these kids are mine? Who doesn’t love a good steak?

I recently saw a list of tips from the Mayo Clinic on keeping mealtime from turning into a fight over food. The list pretty much said everything I do is wrong. One big no-no is something nearly every parent does: offer dessert as a reward. Who hasn’t said, “Eat two more bites and you can have ice cream.” The article explained that this teaches your kid that the dessert is the best part of the meal, which it is. And this is wrong how? It seems to work for us. The Mayo Clinic also says you shouldn’t bribe your kids to eat certain foods or clean his or her plate. That’s especially difficult when Pop Pop offers the boys a dollar to clean their plates. I also make the mistake of letting the kids fill up on juice at snack times, which may decrease their meal appetites.

While our kids are both really picky, they do love their fruits and vegetables. Loved fruit includes apples, bananas, strawberries, various melons, and even those dangerous grapes that nearly killed their mother. We also eat plenty of carrots, celery, corn, peas and broccoli. If my kids are eating broccoli, we can’t be doing too bad on food exploration.

Still feeling a little nervous, I hit up Google on a search to find something that made me feel like a better parent when it comes to food and nutrition. I found something interesting from a professor at Penn State University. The professor explained that it’s normal for kids between the ages of 2 and 5 years to resist new foods, and that they may have only four or five favorite foods that they readily accept. We’ve got at least that many and more.

Here’s where it gets really scary. A little one may need to try a food 10 to 15 times before being willing to eat it. Is that number the same for adults? Seems like a lot of wasted food to me when we can just have chicken fingers or pizza instead. We’re trying to get Tyler to sample more foods and started making a list of things he will agree to try. He said to us “I’ll try grapes, potatoes and beer.” I’ll try mac-and-cheese again if you give me a dollar. I’ll try beer again for free.

Derek James is a host on WCCB News Rising, and lives with his wife and two sons, ages 3 and 6. Read more from Derek in his Daddy Derek blog.