Caution: minimal science below. If you want citations, good luck with that. (Hungry Monkey does summarize and cite much of the research if you really want cites.)
So, supposedly kids whose moms eat varied diets while they’re pregnant or nursing are happy eating more different foods than moms with boring diets. I believe the research that came to these conclusions involved carrots.
As we mentioned before, there’s no real science on what order to start foods. Different cultures do things differently and the human race would probably have died out a long long time ago if there was only one way to get kids started on solid food. People say things about starting rice cereal first or not starting rice cereal first or starting veggies but not fruit first etc. I kind of doubt that it matters if a kid’s first taste of food is banana or broccoli, but some people think if you start with a veggie you’ll get a less-picky eater. We didn’t start with rice cereal because refined grains aren’t allowed in our house (insulin problems). (If you care, banana was our first food… DC was not interested in solid food one day, then next day ze stole my banana from my hand and ate it.)
All the baby stuff says to keep introducing things until kids like it. Our kid started solids late and was only interested in things ze could pick up with hir pincer grasp, but ze would eat *anything* in that subset. (The only mushy things we gave were naturally mushy things, ze did love applesauce and oatmeal and bananas.) At this stage we got lots of compliments on what a great eater ze was.
Then suddenly, without warning, somewhere in the mid to late 2s, DC stopped eating vegetables entirely. And anything green. If you stuck a green apple lollypop in hir mouth, ze would totally eat it, but would not touch it unless you were sneaky about it. Once-loved avocados were picked out and refused from everything (very sad, though we were always happy to take the leavings. Nom.). Fruit was hit and miss (except bananas, our go-to snack).
The internet was not helpful. Lots of the same advice with no research behind it… don’t make a big deal of it, don’t let kids have separate meals, allow a boring back-up meal, etc. Hungry Monkey totally was helpful! Apparently the picky eating stage coincides with mental categorization. Many green things are bitter and dangerous. Therefore kids will mentally group all green things together and avoid them. Don’t reinforce that grouping. As the child gets older, the child will be better able to separate out that apples are not avocados are not broccoli are not turnip greens. There may still be likes and dislikes, but the categories will be smaller.
And almost all kids go through the picky eating stage. Even kids of food critics. Even kids of famous chefs. Most will grow out of it if just left alone. Plus even the pickiest get enough vitamins and minerals throughout the week so long as they’re only offered healthy options. (Processed foods designed to fool our palates like chicken nuggets or potato chips or soda can be a problem though.) The Hungry Monkey guy told his daughter she would like more foods as she got older, and she believed him. “I don’t like this now,” she would say. So we did that too, “Auntie #1 didn’t like onions at your age either, and mommy didn’t like tomatoes, but we like them now! Maybe one day when you’re older…” I think that growth rather than fixed mindset about food helped everybody not stress or focus on the pickiness. Temporary problems are easier to deal with.
By the end of the book, the author’s daughter was just starting to like a few more foods.
For us, the change was more immediate. About 2 weeks before it happened, DC realized that avocados were actually quite tasty. A miracle. Then on day t-1, DC fussed about us adding onions to the food and having to pick them out, as usual. It was such a PITA, that when DH made spaghetti the next day, ze kept the onions aside and only added them to the adult plates (I would never do this because I am a much lazier parent and perfectly happy to tell a fussy kid to either pick them out or leave the table if ze can’t stop fussing). DH told DC that he hadn’t given hir any onions. DC demanded onions. Okay… you can have onions. DC ate the onions. We quietly contained our excitement.
Day t+1, DC ate everything offered to hir. It was as if that entire 2-3 years of picky eating had never happened. DC has been trying new foods and eating almost everything ever since. Ze still has strong preferences (ze eats the yummy stuff first), but there’s no fussing, no refusals, no ages spent picking things out… an amazing change.
This change happened at the same time as lots of sleeping and a few potty accidents– signs that DC was undergoing either a growth spurt or developmental change. So… as we say in our household, DC leveled up, and picked “eating a variety of food” as a new skill (also some math).
Oh, btw, even during the picky stage, little kids seem to LOVE sardines. Like beg for them at the grocery store love. I loved them too, even though I don’t care for them now. Apparently they’re full of all sorts of good stuff for growing bodies (and, depending on the kind you get, are low on fish-related toxins). We both love eel! Also frozen peas, which are apparently magical.
Did you or your kids go through a picky eating stage? Did it pass? What do you suggest for someone with a picky eating 3 year old?