June 28, 2018 3 min read

By Caitlin Deville (THL owner, pediatric physical therapist, and reformed picky eater)

I was an extremely picky eater when I was younger.

I remember regularly ordering a baked potato with French fries on the side when we went out for barbecue.

I remember frequently eating only bread for dinner when my parents served such atrocities as lasagna or spaghetti. (There’s a classic story where my step dad served me spaghetti with chocolate syrup because I had such a sweet tooth. It was, not surprisingly, horrendous.)

I remember being forced to take a bite of food I politely (in my mind at least!) refused while eating at a friend’s house. I gagged on the food, it came back up, and I was sent home for rude behavior.

I remember voluntarily eating a salad for the first time. In college.

I really don’t have a good answer for why I was such a picky eater, beyond that I just didn’t like the way certain foods tasted. Sometimes, foods I didn’t like made me gag and that was unpleasant so I avoided it. Maybe over time it became about control. Or maybe being picky became part of my identity. Who knows.

This story has a happy ending, as I am a perfectly fine eater now. I eat sushi! And vegetables! Sure, I may still be a bit particular. Raw vegetables sometimes gross me out. (Seriously, raw broccoli?!?! Shudder.) Trying new, unfamiliar meats is not my fave. But generally, I willingly eat a wide variety of foods most of the time. 

Now I have a two year-old daughter. In general, I feel pretty confident about my parenting skills but trying to help her develop healthy eating habits makes me feel like a fraud. What do I know about helping young children become good eaters? I was the ultimate picky eater! 

So, as is my nature, I’ve been reading a lot on how to handle mealtimes with toddlers.

I’ve picked up several tips along the way such as:

  • Modeling healthy eating habits (partial check, does not modeling horrible eating habits count?)
  • Cooking in front of children (check, thanks to Hello Fresh)
  • Allowing children to be part of meal prep (partial check, only when I have the energy)
  • Not preparing a second special meal for children (confused about how to do this as a working parent because she’s usually eating her dinner while my husband and I prepare ours, which is often consumed after she goes to bed… work in progress)
  • Helping her recognize when she’s full or hungry, and validating her choices when she says she wants to eat or she does not want to eat (check) 

But lately I’ve been reading about something RADICAL that I kind of want to try: not treating sweets differently than any other food group.

For example, do not reward “good” eating at dinner with a treat. No, “if you eat this, then you get that.” Instead, serve a small treat with dinner OR serve a small treat at the end of the meal, regardless of how much your child has eaten. (Mind. Blown.)

The theory behind this approach is that it eliminates the endless mealtime negotiations, and also that it doesn’t over emphasize the importance of sweets. They’re just like every other food. They become less exciting and have less control over kids. Theoretically.

Thinking of trying it! Am I crazy? Anyone else doing this?


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