Author Sally Sampson and pediatrician Natalie Degate Muth have been working with children and parents to overcome a common source of stress in some families:
Picky eaters — children with a limited repertoire of “acceptable” foods who refuse even to try any other type of food — can wreak havoc on a peaceful family meal. While most pronounced in toddlers, pickiness often extends into preschool and elementary school years. Undoing picky eating at this age is particularly challenging since food preferences by now are pretty firmly established.
Together, their Picky Eater Project for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog takes the eating goals of each family member and helps plan ways to achieve them. They expect everyone to follow these “mealtime rules”:
- As parents, we will be good role models. We will only ask the kids to eat foods that we are willing to eat ourselves.
- As parents, we will decide what foods are offered, when, and where. As kids, we will decide of the food that is offered, what we will eat and how much.
- We will value the process of learning to be more adventurous eaters. We will be willing to try new foods, even if it is just a tiny bite.
- We do not have to clean our plates. We will listen to our bodies and let hunger be our guide.
- We will not offer food rewards. In other words, we do not have to ‘eat our vegetables’ in order to get dessert. We will not reward good behavior with sweets and ‘treats’.
- Mealtimes are a family affair. As often as we can, we will shop, cook, and eat together.
- We are one family, and we will eat one meal. We will not make separate meals. But we will be sure to include at least one thing each family member likes at each meal.
- We will learn together about food, nutrition, farming, and cooking.
- We will have fun, play, and experiment with new foods.
- We will be consistent in following these rules, but not rigid.