Eating is one of life’s simplest but more enjoyable pleasures. It brings people together, renews your energy, and just makes you feel good. So as a parent, it can be difficult to understand why your little one refuses to eat, scrunches their face up at the sight of certain foods, and even spits them out. The dinner table can be a daily struggle for many parents, even a battleground that can end in tears, and not just for the child.
I can’t tolerate liver. It got to the point that my mother tried feeding it to me by candlelight so I couldn’t see what it was. It didn’t work – something about the texture, I threw up and my mother never tried to feed me liver ever again.
Whether you’re entertaining for a crowd or simply sitting down to a quiet weeknight meal, it’s worth it to make your food look good. Studies have shown that artistically-presented food actually tastes better, and that when you eat something that you truly enjoy, your body actually makes more efficient use of its nutrients.
It’s true that if you don’t like it, you won’t eat it. I overheard a father talk about that he had to specifically get orange cauliflower because it would mix in with macaroni & cheese. His daughter apparently was a very picky eater… I remember my parents trying similar tricks, but absentmindedly told me about the squash/etc mashed in with carrots. In retrospect, I wish I’d known to suggest to the parent to look at colcannon recipes for a little more variety in the child’s diet. I have an article for tips on helping with picky eaters – fine for children, but tread carefully with adults as they could be dealing with allergies, sensitivities, or ideologies.
A while back, some were suggesting the “Instagram diet”. The idea was to minimize hunger by looking at food. Which is really odd – Pavlov’s tests helped demonstrate that we physically respond to the sight and/or smell of food. Our digestive system fires up in preparation, including that we literally salivate. Additional to the counterpoint is the recent research about the impact on those who watch cooking shows…
For our sixth installment of little kids reviewing restaurants, Isla and I took four-year-old Evan Huelsbeck (favorite food: “a lot of stuff”; least favorite food: “salad”) to Animal in Los Angeles. Animal is a meat-centric restaurant (obviously) and an ideal spot for a miniature food critic who hates salad.
There is nothing funnier than a four-year-old who can’t read a menu. My other favorite part about it is how upset people get that a kid is being treated to something that he may not be old enough to appreciate.
My mother calls this ‘Grandma’s revenge’: I drove her crazy with my picky eating as a child, and now I’m raising a picky eater of my own. Lucia is just shy of five, and we’re at our favorite pizzeria, Philadelphia’s Pizza Brain, where my daughter loves the plain “Jane” slice—minus the basil leaves. She’s not sure about the oregano either. I remember inspecting my food for green specks just the way she does.
It took me until my twenties to recover from picky eating, so I have to wonder: is she doomed to the same fate? What can we as parents do to expand the culinary horizons of a person who only eats about five foods? It’s normal for preschoolers to be picky, and our pediatrician’s advice is not to push: as long as she’s eating, she’ll be fine. She’ll grow out of it. Medically, experts agree that this sort of picky eating isn’t a huge problem; socially, though, it can get awkward as children grow older. I remember dreading meals at friends’ houses, where the food might be unfamiliar, and my mother loves to tell the story of me eating a peanut butter sandwich at Thanksgiving dinner. Can we at least spare my daughter that?