4 stages of dealing with a picky eater

Have your kids boarded the train to picky town? Jennifer PInarski can relate and is here to share some wisdom on how to deal when your kid will only eat white foods—that of course can not be touching on the plate.

This is one of the meals my kids will eat. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski
This is one of the meals my kids will eat. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

For almost six years, I was that smug mother who posted photos of my family’s meals and boasted that my kids weren’t picky eaters. At 18 months, my son’s favourite food was spicy chickpea curry. At the same age, my daughter preferred butter chicken to chicken fingers. And as they grew up, their curiosity about different flavours grew, too, to the point where I wondered if I was raising food snobs.

But their adventurousness has come to a screeching halt. My kids have entered what I call their “beige period.” It’s kind of like Picasso’s blue period, with the same dreary sadness of monochromatic colours, except it’s on their plates. At least Picasso mixed colours; my children do not mix food. Absolutely no food on their plates can touch because, in case you didn’t know, touching food is disgusting—at least according to my six-year-old daughter.

If your adventurous eater has suddenly boarded the train to Picky Town, you can probably relate to how I’m dealing with my children’s menu requests.

1. Denial
“No, my kid isn’t picky. It’s just a stage—I’m sure of it.”

At first you think your child is simply under the weather or maybe there was too much garlic in a dish. Perhaps they didn’t want scrambled eggs—I mean we did run out of ketchup. But deep down in your heart, you know that your kid’s eating habits are changing—and not for the better. You buy extra ketchup and a loaf of white bread just in case.

2. Desperation
“Please, please, please eat your supper!”

Up until now, we’ve successfully used registered dietitian Sarah Remmer’s “one bite to be polite” taste-test technique to get our kids to try new foodsexcept now we find that we’re using the same technique to get our kids to eat foods they’ve always loved. It has kind of backfired on us, though: My daughter now says “one pinch to be the grinch” and then eats a pinch of mashed potatoes or stew while making gagging sounds—but at least she’s eating.

3. Shame
“I can’t possibly post this meal on Instagram.”

Your meals have gone from a vibrant rainbow of brightly coloured vegetables, fragrant spices and varied textures to a mushy and pale (literally) shadow of their former selves. No matter what Instagram filter you use, you can’t disguise the fact that your kids’ meals are varying shades of white. Pasta, bread, chicken and rice lie lifelessly on their plates—not touching, of course. The only white thing your kids won’t eat is mashed potatoes because, well, don’t you know that mashed potatoes are poisonous?!

4. Acceptance
“My kid is a picky eater.”

You box up all of your favourite cookbooks, donate them to the library and start clipping coupons for white pasta and alfredo sauce—not that your kids would mix sauce and pasta together, but the white ingredients fit their new palates. You’ve stayed committed to making only one meal for your whole family: one beige, bland dish that, with enough Sriracha sauce, is palatable.

On the bright side, all those beige meals taste better with white wine.

Read more:
7 healthy dinners even picky eaters will love
Science says picky eaters aren’t a thing—parents everywhere scoff
6 tips to help your picky eater

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