When It Comes to Picky Eaters, It’s Best to Keep Quiet

An ongoing reel of memories seems to be part and parcel to raising kids. It’s kind of like living with little ghosts. I see their taut limbs draped across bedclothes while they sleep and flash back to a pair of chunky thighs curled up in a bassinet. I hear heavy footsteps coming down the hall, and recall the tiny patter of a toddler’s feet, along with the distinct sound of a diaper in motion. It was only yesterday, really.

For me, food memories are the most predominant of all. Like the time I took my daughter, Isabelle to brunch at friend’s house. Barely old enough to stand upright, she ambled over to a low table and snatched a blini with smoked salmon and crème fraiche from a serving platter. My first inclination was to bend down and say, “Oh honey, you’re probably not going to like that.” But a light bulb went off, and I realized I shouldn’t make any assumptions with regards to my kids’ food preferences. Indeed, when it comes to kids, and especially when it comes to picky eaters, it’s best to keep quiet.

Since then, I’m forever marveling over what they’ll eat without out blinking an eye: squid ink pasta, stinky cheese, seaweed salad. I wonder what would have happened if I had hesitated every time one of them wanted to try something unusual, or if I had refrained from cooking foods not considered “kid friendly.”

As parents, we have enormous influence over how our children perceive the world. Tell them they won’t like grilled eggplant, and they just might not. Let them overhear you groan about how they “don’t like the food I cook” or “never eat green vegetables” and perhaps they’ll live up to their reputation. I’m no psychologist, but consider the possibility that saying, “you are picky” or “you don’t eat that” may only bolster a behavior or pattern you may not want to reinforce.

The fact that my daughters’ muscled thighs will give way to girlish curves at some point is inevitable. But the potential for what my children, or yours, will choose in the world is open. Give them a little room, and maybe they’ll surprise you by reaching for that smoked salmon-crowned canapé after all.


03.10.2011 at4:08 PM #


What an insightful and funny piece this is! Thanks for the smile that emerged as I read ‘food for thought’ and thanks for your wisdom! It occurs to me that what we even say to ourselves has impact! Words are powerful!

03.10.2011 at10:24 PM #


Amen! How many times have a I heard a child say that they don’t eat a certain food only to find out they’ve never tried it! The parent who advertises all the things s/he “doesn’t eat” in front of her/his child is another reinforcer of the picky eating behavior. On the flip, I find the more wildly enthusiastic I am when demonstrating the pleasure I am taking from eating what I know will be a new food to my toddler, the more excitedly she herself dives in. I have a 22 month-old who loves artichokes– leaves and hearts! To your point, we were hesitant to even let her have a go at the leaves until we saw how closely she was watching us eat them so we invited her to partake. Never underestimate the adventurer your little one can be. It is the very thing that allows them to learn the world around them!

02.27.2013 at10:58 AM #


Wise, wise words. So much here for me to think about — I grew up a self-proclaimed picky eater and I think I’ve allowed that to be the reality for my older daughter. I need to consider the alternative, as you aptly illustrated, not only for her but for me!

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