There is this expression in French “la pomme ne tombe pas loin de l’arbre” which neatly translates to “The Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. As a parent, once I came to term with the fact that my picky eaters were probably just taking after me, it made it much easier to relate to them and feed them accordingly. Don’t get me wrong, it actually took many dinners tossed in the trash for me to come to the conclusion that despite the fancy literature flooding the parenting market, French parents – just like everyone else who has been dealt a picky eater for an offspring- suck at this! To be honest, it took one specific evening after our daughter went once more to bed without touching her dinner, me at the dinner table, in tears, complaining that my life was ruined (Drama queen much…) for my Finnish husband to calmly explain to me that for someone who ate their first broccoli at age 21, I seemed to be have unfair expectations for my own children!
This very moment redefined my entire parenting approach in regards to Food! So my kid could literally swallow half a tube of toothpaste, but wouldn’t touch a french fry with a stick ? Enough with the pressure to get them to eat things that I wouldn’t have even considered when I was 6 years old (I mean lettuce?? seriously?), I would stop comparing my kids eating preferences to this mythical 5 year old at a Sushi restaurant enjoying Sashimi and asking for more, and certainly I would no longer believe that because their passport said “French” my little humans should be expected to ask for a second serving of Boeuf Bourguignon! No more food drama – Starting with me!
I then realized that I wasn’t alone out there, and asking around, the mere mention of “picky eaters” would trigger a myriad of fantastic ideas from those parents who tried it all. I’m happy to compile a few of those principles that helped me when, like You, I was dealing with what felt like an unsolvable situation.
The 10 commandments of the Picky Eater!
- Build on the Things they already like – When she was 3 my daughter loved pancakes, so one day while discussing the recipe, we played with the idea to try and make one without flour… Omelette anyone? She actually liked it and to this day is convinced she taught me how to make it!
- Show must go On: Funny Shape, Funny Stories, as long as it’s entertaining it might make them try something new. We cut chicken bits into little stars, or made little shredded vegetable Monsters with raisins for eyes * and told countless stories about George the GreenPea so lost and alone in this big white plate!
- Ketchup is your friend: I’m not much for ketchup but if it helps to try new things, then go for it. You will have evidence that whatever they ate was indeed NOT poison and maybe can get them to try with a bit less ketchup next time!
- Conceal but don’t hide: Vegetable meatballs, Spinach pancake, zucchini sprinkles on Pizza, even carrot cakes qualifies as far as I’m concerned. Try recipes in which you can add a few pureed or shredded “Ugly vegetables” (Thanks Ita for coining that term) and be honest about it if asked! Luckily my kids liked soup so I could always rely on that. If it’s not your case, then a few shredded carrots and zucchini in a tomato sauce can go a long way. I’m also proud to introduce my very own invention: A.K.A the “vegetable Sprinkles”! When making Pizza with the kids I would pre-cut tiny bits of vegetables, and place them in separate bowls next to the grated cheese; each kid would have the right to “decorate” their Pizza to their fancy and would eventually enjoy it proudly for dinner!
- Cook with them: From very early one, try to involve your child in the kitchen. dull knives to cut button mushrooms for the soup, brushing the carrots in cold water, or kneading shapes with bread dough. It might make the process a bit more messy, but it ensures that there is no food mystery and that they can see the process, the ingredients and maybe, bite on a carrot in the process!
- You don’t have to finish, but tasting is a must: Our daughter was so particular about texture and smells, that the first step was that she would even hold the object of her dislike in her hands. Once she got over that, then she could also try and give it a little kiss. The next steps after that was that she would try and lick it … it took many months of playfulness and sticker charts rewards to get her to eventually try it, but we got over it, ingredient by ingredient!
- Help yourself: It has been a great improvement once I allowed my kids to take as much of a dish as they wanted. As soon as they were big enough, they could go and take food for themselves. When they thought they wouldn’t like the dish, they only took a little and committed to eat that. When they loved it, they were allowed as many servings as they wished.
- Bring It Back: If a dish was enjoyed (or even if it wasn’t) it makes sense to serve it many times, Once it becomes familiar, the odds are greater it might actually get eaten!
- It stays on the plate: I would cut a small bit of cucumber or tomato and place it on the plate. They didn’t have to eat it, but it had to stay on the plate so as to get it visually familiar.
- Cook Once, season twice: My rule is that I cook only once. That means that the dinner offered to the kids is the same that we ate ourselves. The only change I would make is in case the “adult” version might be better spicy, I then take out enough for the kids’ dinner and season the rest to my liking. Don’t fall into the 2 dinners’ trap as it will make it nearly impossible to get back to the “cook once” wagon!
Finally, remember my Broccoli story, Don’t get discouraged- Everyone is entitled to their likes and dislikes! Can you confidently say that you eat everything? I can’t! If you have to pick between finishing the plate and crying while doing it, then settle for sitting together in a calm, drama-free, family centered moment. One day they’ll get over it and try the damn corn!
Little Monsters Latkes
- Peel and rince the vegetables
- Shred the vegetables using a hand-grater or a electric processor with the small size holes
- Squeeze out the liquid from the vegetables
- Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper
- Beat the eggs, and mix the eggs, flour to the Shredded Veggies.(opt. you can add some shredded cheese)
- In a hot pan, add some oil and cook on both sides until nice and brown at medium heat. Cover half way to ensure the vegetable are not crunchy.
Do you have any tricks or tips to feed your picky eater?
Tried these little monsters? Share them in a comment below or using #hungryinhelsinki on Instagram or on the HungryInHelsinki FacebookPage!
Special thanks to the Expat Parents in Helsinki Facebook Group for their contribution to this post! @Salecia, @Noora, @Anisha, @Saloni, @Gerry !