It is not unusual that during conversations with parents and caretakers about their children’s eating habits, I often learn about the eating habits and preferences of the adults themselves. Often children eat and drink beverages in the exact same way as the adults in their lives do, which makes sense because the adults purchase the groceries. Of course, there are also parents who are health conscious, or not, but at least not picky, and they tell me how “picky” their child is when it comes to eating.
Whenever I like something, I am often enthusiastically offering it to not only my daughter Claire but also my husband Dave. In fact, if you were dining with me at a restaurant, or a party, or enjoying food in the same setting, I can pretty much guarantee I will likely say to you, “Try this. It’s fantastic!” When something tastes great to me, I may get a bit bossy and insist you try it also, believing that you too will enjoy what my palate has decided is “good” or “great”. Of course, sometimes we taste something so horrible, likely showing a dramatic facial expression of disgust as well as strong vocalization after our taste buds are offended, and we are either the type that wants someone else to taste it and validate how horrible it was, or save someone from the negative sensory experience!
Often as parents and caregivers, we may unconsciously limit what our children eat based on our own preferences. Such preferences have been fortified over the years, many meals, early childhood, perhaps even from interesting stories! If I dislike brussels sprouts, or asparagus, I probably won’t insist that my own child develops a love for them either. But what if you are a “picky” adult eater? What if you only eat meat and potatoes, and frankly wouldn’t care if you never had to eat a bite of vegetables again?
It’s not necessarily your “fault” that you don’t love everything, in fact, as adults we have to make conscious decisions about our own choices and whether we are truly committed to eating in a way that makes us healthy. I have come to appreciate the perhaps unrealized importance for adults to be fully aware and separate what they do for themselves versus that of their children. Of course, it may be difficult to get your child to eat broccoli if you won’t take a bite. Since all baby animals probably imprint from their parents as a way of survival and as a result of evolutionary biology, from very early on our children are watching and mimicking us.
There is a single Chinese vegetable I will not eat, it’s called “bitter melon”, and I remember it as an ingredient in soups and broths, being true to its name as the bitterness lasts for what feels like hours. My parents of course always talked about how it decreases one’s “chi” and is “good for you”. Please, sometimes one simply can’t care how good something is for them if it tastes that bad. You better believe I have never asked Claire to try a bitter melon, and thankfully here in America it’s hard to find this irregular green “corn-without-the-husk-looking" vegetable unless you are at a Chinese or Asian grocery store.
I have learned that even if I don’t like something, food or otherwise, it’s important for me to remind myself that my husband, daughter, and others deserve to experience and decide for themselves what they like or dislike. When it comes to food, no two people will likely have the exact preferences for everything. As a family unit, often times everyone eats what the majority will eat since no one has time to cook individual meals to cater to each person, nor should. No one will like anything more by not ever trying it or not trying it repeatedly, even in different preparations.
Life is an amazing adventure, and what we eat enriches that adventure. From the colors, textures, how we prepare the food, what we serve it with, who we eat with, all aspects of eating and feeding can be joyous, healthy, and even memorable. Challenge your child to try something you don’t like, and see what happens.