This is a reader story by Amy Artiga, a stay-at-home mom of two healthy eaters, ages 3 and 5. Amy also blogs about personal finance. If you’d like to submit your own real food story, you can do so here.
When our family switched to real food, both my husband and I lost weight. However, our greatest accomplishment was with our kids’ eating habits, especially my picky kid.
My firstborn is a very picky eater. As a toddler, all he wanted to eat was crackers, cereal, cheese, and milk. And of course sweets. At his very lowest point, there was only one kind of produce that he would eat. I knew that at the rate he was going, he would be one of the stereotypical overweight, pre-diabetic kids that are becoming the norm here in the US.
I had to do something, but what? I couldn’t force him to eat good food, but I could take away all of the bad food. So that’s what I did.
It’s been several years, and we’ve gone through seasons of great progress and seasons of almost no progress. It’s been very trying at times, and I’ve been forced to be creative. But it has been worth it. Now in kindergarten, my son eats a variety of healthy foods that would make any parent proud.
How I Did It
Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried countless ways to get my son to eat better. Some were great successes and others were epic fails. And some worked wonders for a season before he lost interest.
Here are a few things that worked well for us:
- Eat the Rainbow
For about two months, I got my son to try to eat the rainbow every day. We got a notebook, and on each page, I would draw a rainbow in pen. He would get to color it in as he ate produce of different colors. He would rather eat foods he didn’t particularly like than have a rainbow that was missing a color. It did wonders for expanding the variety of produce he ate.
- Take Advantage of Summer
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a short summer growing season, but the produce is delicious during that time. If there is ever a good time to try new foods, it’s when they are at their peak during summer. There are a number of foods that my son was willing to eat fresh off the plant (pea pods) or from the farmer’s market that he wouldn’t eat from the grocery store. Once he got used to eating them during the summer, he kept eating them year round.
- Eat 100 Foods
When he was older, I challenged my son to eat 100 different foods. We got out a notebook and wrote the numbers 1 to 100 on the lines. Each time he ate something different, he added it to the list. He tried a lot of things for the first time that he normally wouldn’t have just so he could add them to the list.
- Play with Your Food
It’s amazing what kids will eat if it looks like a frog or a ladybug or a sailboat (pictured on the right). We even made booger eggs (he would eat his boogers but not eggs, haha) by turning them green with a little spinach and adding a lot of cheese to make them stringy.
- Pair New Foods with Old Favorites
For a long time, the only way my son would eat most vegetables was with cheese. He has since been weaned off the cheese, but it was a great way to get him to try them. Using the same method, we successfully introduced chicken, fish, and scrambled eggs into his diet by adding them in small doses to his favorite thing – quesadillas. Now he eats those things on their own.
- Be Consistent
If you are consistent, your kids will eventually accept your healthy ways as the normal way to live, and what you tell them will become their truth. My kids don’t question the fact that they’re supposed to eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal. My son is fully convinced that even though he may not like something now, he will like more and more things as he gets older, so he is willing to retry things from time to time. And the kids don’t even beg for junk food in the store because they know we don’t buy it.
It’s taken time, but I’ve been amazed at the progress I’ve made with my picky eater. If you have one too, don’t give up. Picky kids can eat real food if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.