I recently worked with a family who’s child was “failure to thrive,” with years of extreme feeding difficulties, feeding therapy, GI visits etc. I was dumbfounded to hear what happened when the child expressed a liking for cucumbers and raw spinach.
When the family happily reported he was actually enjoying foods for the first time, the G.I doc’s stern response? “Don’t bother with those foods. Not enough calories! Douse them in ranch and then give them to him.” Argh!
This little guy was showing a first glimmer of pushing himself along with eating. He was, for the first time expressing an interest, and eating, of his own free will… food. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he sought out foods he had likely never been pushed or encouraged to eat. By denying and spoiling those first steps to a healthy relationship with food, that doctor was doing more harm than good.
Remember that integral to learning to like new foods is to have a pleasant time at the table, to actually enjoy the experience, and not be in “fight-or-flight” mode. Anxiety kills appetite for the small and picky child. Small children who are pushed to eat more or try more foods will likely eat less and grow less well. Attitude is step one when learning to eat. This little guy was starting with cucumbers and spinach, but given time, patience and lots of neutral exposures to a variety of foods, he will push himself along with his eating.
To parents of extremely picky children, or those with feeding disorders, what were the first foods you remember your little one really enjoying? Were you able to sit back and enjoy it, or were you pressured to do more, faster?
How about you? Were you a “picky eater?” What do you remember about the first foods you learned to like?