Whenever I speak with a group of parents, I always have at least one parent approach me at the end of my talk with a look of desperation on her face. “My child will ONLY EAT TWO FOODS!” she’ll say. “That’s it! What should I do?”
I feel for those parents. But when I ask them more questions and dig deeper about what their kids eat, they usually end up listing off many, many more foods.
There are definitely children who eat a very limited number of foods and have emotional and physical issues surrounding eating, such as being frequently upset around food and falling off their growth curve. Extreme Picky Eating is real, and you can learn more about it (including how to get help) here: 5 Common Problems At the Root of Extreme Picky Eating.
But in some cases, I think we can be quick to catastrophize when it comes to our kids.
So if you’re in that place, try this: Take a moment to write down all the foods your child will eat. Divide that list into foods your child will always eat, sometimes eat, and very occasionally eat.
How can this list help you?
- It eases your frustrations. In your mind, it may feel like your child ONLY EATS TWO FOODS! But when you see the list on paper, you may change your attitude from totally desperate to simply dissatisfied. Those are two very different states of mind. Being stressed and anxious around food with your kids can worsen the situation, so shifting your emotional state can really help.
- It gives you ideas for what to serve. For example, if your child will very occasionally eat peas, bring them to the table a bit more to give her more exposure to them and (pressure-free) opportunities to eat them.
- It offers important clues to the foods your child MAY eat. If your child will eat chicken nuggets, you could try chicken strips. Seems like a tiny change, but very picky eaters often need to go slowly–and chicken strips may someday turn into chicken breast.
Keep in mind that something may be causing your kids to seem pickier than they are. Find out what that is: Is Your Child As Picky As You Think?
Here’s even more help for picky eating: