I think I love Claire McCarthy, M.D., a Harvard-trained pediatrician who works at Children’s Hospital Boston. With her educational training and established career, she is one of those pediatricians that you might feel funny around, say, if on a well visit, she asked you about your picky eater’s fruit and veggie consumption. You (meaning me) might want to be less than forth coming about your son’s diet because no matter what you have tried, he is not a great eater. But you’d be wrong, because Dr. McCarthy can relate, so much so that she wrote a post for the Huffington Post entitled, “My Embarrassing Admission As A Doctor: My Son Has A Terrible Diet.” It’s a bit refreshing.
She writes about how she sees the same dilemma in her own practice quite often:
When I ask parents if their children are eating fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods, it’s really common for me to hear, “He won’t eat them.” It’s really true that once kids are no longer babies, once you are no longer literally spooning the stuff into their mouths, it’s hard to get them to eat things they don’t want to eat.
As moms of picky eaters have realized, it’s just not that simple to get a kid to eat any particular thing when he or she really doesn’t want to. Like with her family, my daughters are great and varied eaters, but my son is a challenge. He’d live with no veggies or fruit at all if he could find a way to work that out.
His diet consists of the same limited things over and over again. On a good note, he’ll gladly eat most any breakfast food (except eggs), but balks at the large majority of vegetables. He’ll eat carrots, eggplant, and corn — that’s it. He’s tried a variety but ultimately goes back to these veggie staples so I try my best to supply an abundant supply of fruit, which he is better at eating regularly, including red grapes, apples, navel oranges, bananas — but only if they have no bruising whatsoever. If he sees a glimpse of a brown spot, it’s over. For protein, he does eat chicken (grilled, cutlet or drumsticks) and steak, but no fish. And again, like Dr. McCarthy’s youngest son, Liam, he’ll eat almost anything from the “white and sugar diet”, like pasta, pretzels, bagels, etc.
I’m hoping, again like the good pediatrician, that it is something he will outgrow. I am steadily trying a mini version of McCarthy’s three bite rule (one bite and I’ll be happy rule), and he has recently acquired a taste for lean sliced turkey and fat free lemon yogurt. He’ll also take a vitamin every day. Baby steps.
I love when a doctor, or anybody really, can admit that they are trying to do this thing with their child and despite their best effort, it’s just not working for whatever reason. It’s not always as easy as it looks. As Dr. McCarthy suggests, meals for picky eaters become “all about compromise”. If I only had my daughters, I would think that raising healthy eaters was a no-brainer, but that wouldn’t be true. Every child is uniquely different with various preferences. So if takes my son a little longer to learn to eat healthy, the way it might take others longer to learn to walk or read, than so be it. I’m doing my part, he’s doing his, and Dr. McCarthy has certainly done hers in openly discussing her shared issue.
What are you embarrassed to admit as a parent? What’s your best tip for raising a picky eater? If you had a picky eater, did he/she eventually grow out of it?
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