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How to Get Your Two-Year-Old to Eat Octopus

healthy food“Why are so many children picky eaters? Nancy Trigali Piho asks.

Trigali Piho blames it on the parents — or more specifically, the larger culture which assumes that kids won’t like anything other than mac and cheese and chicken nuggets.

After kids get past the age of eating baby food around their first birthday, according to Trigali Piho, “children should be eating essentially what you eat. (This is presuming your diet to be generally nutritious and healthful, and rich in variety and flavor!)”

Trigali Piho is the author of the wonderfully named book “My Two Year Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything.”

The book addresses answers many of parents’ biggest questions about food and kids. For instance, do you bribe them with dessert? Do you make them clear their plate? Do you ask them what they want for dinner? By the way, the correct answer to all of the above is “No,” but how many of make these classic mistakes?

In short, Trigali Piho’s goal is to encourage parents to teach their kids to love food. She warns parents not to fall into the trap of catering to their kids’ taste buds and feeding them separate foods at a separate time than grownups. If you wouldn’t snack on something or eat something for dinner, why serve it to your kids?

This all sounds like perfectly reasonable advice to me. The only problem is that I’m afraid it’s too late for my picky 8-year-old daughter. As a toddler, she was an adventurous eater, but by the time she turned four, she had stopped trying new things. We, in turn, fell into the habit of feeding her “kid food” like chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.

I want her to expand her culinary horizons, but I also don’t want meal times to be a battle. Besides, according to recent research, picky eating is a highly hereditary trait. After examining the eating habits of 5,390 pairs of twin between 8 and 11 years old, researchers concluded that children’s aversions to trying new foods are mostly inherited. Apparently, 78 percent of food aversion is genetic and the other 22 percent environmental.

The good news is that by age seven, most kids are willing to start trying new foods. Unfortunately, my daughter, who turns 9 in February, isn’t one of them.

For other tips for dealing with picky eaters, check out The Family Kitchen.

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