Guest Blog post by Dr. Jamelah Tucker, MD, MPH
From “picky eater” to “new flavor learner”
As a pediatrician, I’ve often wondered if we ask too much of our infants and toddlers to go from enjoying the easy look and texture of breastmilk, formula, and purees to sometimes interesting-looking and odd-textured whole foods. Imagine if you – as a grown-up – were picked up and dropped onto a new planet with shrubs, berries, flowers, and animals you had never seen before. Now imagine being asked to eat some or all of these things… How would you decide what to eat?
Most of us would start by studying what the people who had been there longer were eating. We would use all the senses available to us (sight, touch, smell, hearing how a food sounds as we touch it or crunch it, taste) to explore it… Anyone who’s ever eaten with a toddler has seen all of this! Don’t these behaviors seem so relatable now? Let’s congratulate our little humans for being amazing problem solvers in the face of – what is to them – a whole new planet of food novelty.
Thinking of our “picky eaters” as “new flavor learners” may be a helpful paradigm shift. We can help our learners by modeling healthy eating, giving them repeated flavor exposures in positive contexts, and being patient with their multi-sensory exploration of food. This doesn’t make the process any less messy or stressful for us grown-ups :) Hopefully, thinking of the process in this exploratory way makes it less parenting drudgery and more parenting adventure!
Getting kids to explore veggies particularly is a challenge that most American families face. Drop by easypeasie.com to see our how our family did it – with our veggie-sneaking palate primers and “reciPEAS.” We made the vegetable learning experience less stressful us, and fun for the kids. Win, win!