life: super powers not included

Picky Eaters

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Welcome back. I hope you guys all had a great weekend. I spent Sunday with my two nephews and niece, which was all sorts of fun.

So I’m sitting there on the couch, basically one of the two places you’ll ever find me in the apartment (hint: the other’s the bed). The fan’s blasting, and I have my feet up. My 5-year-old nephew sits down next to me and stretches out so his feet are up on the pillow with mine. He turns to me and says, “This is nice. Relaxing. I never get to relax anymore.”

I died.

I just died again, typing that. Parents, how do you not self-combust with such adorable kidisms around you nonstop?

Speaking of kids…

In an effort to help parents, I thought I’d explain how to handle a picky eater. No, I don’t have kids. But I was a crazy picky eater when I was little. True, I still have a few food quirks (I won’t eat onions or garlic, for instance*) but on a whole I eat 70 percent more of different foods than I did as a kid.

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My point is that picky kids might don’t necessarily equal picky adults. If anything, picky kids equal somewhat-less-picky adults. And, truthfully, I’m a work in progress. Five years ago I hated avocados (it was a texture thing), but now I eat them in pretty much every meal.

Will I ever try bone marrow or sheep brains or pate? Probably not. But that’s okay. The point isn’t to be the most adventurous eater out there. It’s to eat a diet that’s well-balanced enough for you to get all of the nutrients you need. Technically living without ever eating truffles is still living. For serious.

There are two ways to deal with picky eaters. 1. Feed your kid whatever you eat so they get used to a variety of tastes. That’s the easy way.

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2. If you already have a picky eater on your hands, number 1’s not going to work. Unless you want to clean your floors with asparagus spears. Here’s what you do: Nothing.

Maybe this flies in the face of every parenting book—I did warn you that I don’t have kids—but being a picky eater isn’t like, oh I don’t know, not eating at all. Find some nutritious foods your kid will eat and make sure he or she eats them.

They’ll come around on their own. I promise. Tastes change as we age. It does for people who love everything and it does for picky eaters.**

Another thing, take that picky eater to the store, and ask them what they want. Yes, there’s a good chance you’ll leave with five boxes of mac ’n’ cheese, but they may discover something new. For me, it was fruit. As much as I hated trying new foods, I was on a mission to try every exotic fruit out there. So whenever we went to the grocery store, my mom bought me some. Focus on the healthy things your kid will eat.

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And, if all else fails, pay them off. I ate calamari for $20 and have loved it ever since.

Are you a picky eater? What’s one thing you’ll never, ever eat?

*I get a bad stomachache when I eat these. (And now garlic also makes me flare.) I thought it was just me, my mother, and my sister, but I recently read that onions and garlic share a compound called allicin. Some people online say they’re allergic or intolerant to the compound, and I’m starting to think that may be behind the pains I get after accidentally eating some.

**I know people who are Andrew Zimmern clones but hate tomatoes or lima beans or some other food I love. We all have foods we don’t like. It’s a matter of taste. So go easy on a kid who swears five ways till Tuesday that he’ll never, ever, not in a million years eat onions. Maybe his taste will change or maybe he’ll be 29 and still picking the onions out of his salsa.

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36 comments

1 Joanna Sutter (Fitness & Spice) { 05.23.11 at 7:31 am }

I don’t think of myself as a picky eater until I step back and discover I really, really am! I don’t eat meat, or much bread, or much fish, or dairy, or potatoes, or chips, or…

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Tracey Reply:

Ha ha. I guess food restrictions automatically make you pickier. :)

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2 Alex @ IEatAsphalt { 05.23.11 at 8:31 am }

I think garlic and onions are a type of nightshade vegetable, but I never realized there was a specific chemical that could upset stomachs. I wonder if it’s also in cabbage (which kills me).

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Tracey Reply:

Hm, I’m not sure. I know tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes are all nightshades and I’m fine with those. Strange. I guess some people just can’t handle certain foods.

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3 Clarissa { 05.23.11 at 9:08 am }

My dad used to pay my sister and I 50cents / shrimp when we were younger because he was mortified that in New England at my grandparents we refused to eat seafood. Now I love shrimp! Just bring on the cocktail sauce with it… I now eat lobster but only with cocktail sauce :)

I too hated avocados recently – including guac. Also, a texture thing. Now I like it a lot! Probably because it’s the only veggie I find filling.

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Tracey Reply:

I did the same thing! I grew up in MA and every summer we’d go to the Cape and my parents would stop at all of these seafood places. I’d eat fried clams (I have no idea why) but they always asked us to try the lobster. One time, when we were up in Maine, my parents got this super fresh lobster, the best they’d ever had, they said. And they offered to pay me and my sister $30 to try it. We passed. Now I love it.

I think it’s because lobsters look like they’re staring at you. It’s kind of creepy. :)

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4 Heather C { 05.23.11 at 9:59 am }

I am not really a picky eater and probably the only thing I will refuse to eat is eggs or any custardy type thing. You will not see me ordering flan. That said, I do have this weird thing when it comes to food and freshness. The milk gets near it’s date and I toss it, deli meat can only last a few days in my house and then I am convinced it is slimy and it gets tossed, and so on. I blame my mother for my food wasting affliction. She was notorious, in her cheapness, for not wanting to waste anything even if it had an off flavor.

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Tracey Reply:

Ugh, slimy deli meat make me nauseous. I’m with you—pitch it.

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5 Carly { 05.23.11 at 12:30 pm }

I’m pretty far from a picky eater, I’ll eat almost anything. I won’t however eat cucumbers, and the other day drove back to a restaurant because after specifically asking they take the cucumbers out of my wrap (to-go), I bit into a cucumber…and threw up. Someone who likes cucumbers just can’t understand how truly disgusting this was for me!

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Tracey Reply:

I love cucumbers, but I get your disgust. That’s how I feel when I accidentally get an onion in one of the millions of foods cooked with onions.

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6 Personal Trainer NYC { 05.23.11 at 12:44 pm }

That’s a great point about letting taste changes came about. Just like how your body is constantly changing (and developing new allergies)… your tastes are constantly changing too. As your body senses that it needs different nutrients and minerals, it will start to crave different things.

Listening to your body is almost always a good thing.

My body constantly wants Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream… so yes there are instances where you don’t have to give your body EVERYTHING it says it wants… haha

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Tracey Reply:

Ah, yes, the body doesn’t always know best. I’ve been craving a cheeseburger like a pregnant woman the past few weeks!

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7 Kelly { 05.23.11 at 3:47 pm }

I am probably the least pickiest eater on the planet. I will basically try anything and have foundd very few foods I actually don’t like. I can probably list them on one hand: beets, brazil nuts, orange juice, lamb, and goat cheese. But that’s all I can think of at the moment. I have had my fair share of weird foods too: rattlesnake, alligator, octopus…all fantastic.

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Tracey Reply:

Wow, you’re adventurous. I have no desire to try any of those. :)

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8 Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons { 05.23.11 at 6:46 pm }

bahahahahaha! I’ve mopped my floor with asparagus but for entirely different reasons =) and I was super picky too! My mom said her grandpa used to pay her off to eat things so she ate everything in sight =) but for me… I needed things to be named fun things or I wouldn’t touch it! haha

nice.. er…. calamari? yeah. nice calamari! mwah!

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Tracey Reply:

Hey, whatever works, right?

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9 Kara { 05.23.11 at 6:48 pm }

I have to disagree a little with this: 1. Feed your kid whatever you eat so they get used to a variety of tastes. That’s the easy way.

I’ve been giving my baby a vast variety from day 1 (well from month 6 when she started solids) and some kids are just born picky. You’d think they’d be born as blank templates ready to be imprinted upon, but no, they are little people from the start and sometimes they hate certain tastes. You actually have to give a kid something 17 times to be able to say they don’t like it, but as a parent, I’m seriously not going to do that. If my baby hates mango, then I’ll try a different fruit instead of beating my head against the mango wall.

I still have a dream of avoiding having a kid who only eats mac ‘n’ cheese and chicken nuggets, but my kid will do that if she knows it bothers me :)

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Tracey Reply:

Well, you’d know better than me. I haven’t actually tried #1.

She’ll come around and move past the nuggets and mac ‘n’ cheese one day!

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10 Maren { 05.23.11 at 7:13 pm }

I was totally picky growing up and not really anymore! I just won’t eat any red meat….the thought of a burger makes me want to vom.

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11 Michelle { 05.23.11 at 9:05 pm }

I have 2 kids — 1 is a VERY picky eater. The other eats like it’s going out of style. There’s no method to the madness and they have been like this since they started eating. I introduced the same foods to them at the same ages/stages. I think a lot of it has to do with texture and tastebuds and obviously they differ for each kid!

That said – even though my kid is picky, I can still get him to eat and eat healthy. I don’t force him to eat. I give him choices. I let him think he’s in charge (surprise! he’s not) and if he doesn’t want what I’m serving? Well, too bad. He doesn’t go hungry for long, but he has gone to bed without eating dinner before. I do think eating around his peers helps.

I don’t remember being picky growing up, but I didn’t really venture out of my “comfort range” for food until college (and some cases last year!). I serve my kids food that my parents never touched or cooked – so at least I’m ahead there :)

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Tracey Reply:

“I let him think he’s in charge (surprise! he’s not)” <—Ha ha ha

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12 Lu @ A Mix of it All { 05.23.11 at 9:58 pm }

My son is the least picky eater I know. He balks at hot dogs and chicken nuggets, but will fight you for olives and brie. I’m serious. We just said when he was a baby that he would eat what we ate. It’s worked so far.

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Tracey Reply:

Wow, that’s awesome. A kid who doesn’t like chicken nuggets is a rare find.

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13 Katie @ peacebeme { 05.24.11 at 3:29 am }

I am kind of strange (ha!): I am a really picky eater in my everyday life, but I will also try anything once. I have tried a lot of interesting things: sweetbreads (not recommended), octopus, salmon roe, deer sausage, fried silk worms in Thailand from a street stall, etc. But on a normal day, I don’t stray far from peanut butter sandwiches.

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Tracey Reply:

Ugh, I’d never try sweetbreads. The name sounds so good, but no times a million. Also, fried silk worms? Yikes. You’re very adventurous.

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14 Becca { 05.24.11 at 6:26 am }

It’s weird – I never considered myself a picky eater, because there are so few things that I don’t like, but in the case of those things, I can hardly even bear to have them on my plate. 99% of the time, I can pick from a wide range of things on the menu, but every so often, I come across a really stodgy, proper-English menu that kills me.

I won’t eat porridge, oatmeal, rice pudding, mashed potatoes or custard. I have tried numerous times, but just can’t bear the consistency.

Also, I’ve decided that as I’m now an adult, I have the right to reject all kinds of offal without trying them. That’s my reward for spending childhood summers eating fruits de mer and fish with heads still attached, with no complaint!

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Becca Reply:

I can’t believe I forgot peanuts! Ugh. Those things are so so so so wrong. Someone was eating them on the plane next to me a few weeks ago and I almost threw up on him.

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Tracey Reply:

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know the exact difference between porridge and oatmeal, but I get that they’re the same consistency.

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15 Nicole, RD { 05.24.11 at 3:00 pm }

I think your advice is spot on! Forcing kids to eat is not effective. In the course I teach, it encourages that the parent should be the gate keepers — offering balanced meals with several choices of foods, but ultimately, the child chooses what and how much they eat.

P.S. That photo with the onion was hilarious. And so was the story about your nephew and “relaxing” :)

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Tracey Reply:

Isn’t it? I love that photo!

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16 Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) { 05.24.11 at 4:09 pm }

Im totally intolerant to garlic. I write about my loathing of it but it’s more than just loathing…it actually makes me SICK. I litearlly get sick, have almost a panic attack reaction, break out in a sweat, i cannot handle it…so no dice for me and garlic.

Btw, THANK you for your email and time…you are amazing :)

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Tracey Reply:

You’re most welcome. :)

And, yeah, no one believes me but garlic makes me physically ill, too. I get terrible stomach pains.

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17 Ameena { 05.24.11 at 6:20 pm }

We don’t combust around the cute comments because there are plenty of annoying ones that sandwich the cute ones. I assure you of that.

Something I will never eat? I had brains once. I never will again. It’s part of the reason I am a vegetarian and it’s part of the reason I will never trust my father again.

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Tracey Reply:

I guess you kind of get used to those types of comments when you’re around a child all the time.

Also, the thought of eating brains scares me. I hope your father rewarded you with a good dessert after that.

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18 charlotte { 05.24.11 at 11:48 pm }

Ok, this is SO encouraging because I have one who is such a picky eater that I swear a fresh fruit or vegetable hasn’t passed his lips in 3 years. Only jarred applesauce is saving him from rickets. Great advice!

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Tracey Reply:

I hope he grows out of it soon! I’m not entirely sure what helped me try new foods. Anything fried was easier to test. So fried clams, fried scallops, but not plain fish–that came later. True, the frying was unhealthy but eating those things on occasion let me know that I liked seafood.

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