I get a lot of questions from parents about how to deal with their picky eating kids. “Little Johnny won’t eat his veggies!”, they proclaim, “he’s so picky!”; or, “Little Sally doesn’t like ANYTHING!”. On seeing their plate, the toddler cries “I don’t like it” or “don’t want it”, though they haven’t even eaten the food but simply the sight of it is offensive enough to deem it unacceptable. And so begins the battle of wills between parents and child, and in the end, no one wins.
Parents have the best intentions to teach their kids how to be fully functioning human beings. Sneeze into your sleeve, use the potty, eat healthy food, etc. And with those best intentions, we encourage or discourage our kids to eat certain things that we feel are acceptable. What often happens, however, is that our best intentions turn sour, potentially contributing to “picky eating” or sending unhealthy messages about food. In this post, I review some of the most common strategies that parents use to cajole their kids into eating healthy food, and how these well-intentioned verbal cues may be inappropriately interpreted by your child.