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Living With My Picky Eater

When you have a picky eater like my 4-year-old son, getting down a meal is a constant struggle. It didn't start out like this. In the beginning, my son was only fed organic baby food. Once the solid food began, he was sitting right there next to me, eating my eggplant Parmesan and devouring my dinner plates, saving barely any for me.

There are two types of kids in this world, my friends: the ones who attempt and experiment with food, and the ones who look with disgust and turn their tiny little heads.

But, at the age of 2 it was like a switch was flipped, and my little adventurous eating boy was gone forever. He was suddenly scrunching his nose up to all his favorite foods. For a food lover like myself, who thrives on cooking up all kinds of fancy and mouthwatering creations, it was devastating! I couldn't help but ask myself, "What did I do?"

Alas, after all the woes, I've come to learn that there's nothing I've done wrong as a parent, but that it's very common for children from ages 2 to 5 to become picky eaters. There are two types of kids in this world, my friends: the ones who attempt and experiment with food, and the ones who look with disgust and turn their tiny little heads. All I can hope for is that he grows out of it.

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In the meantime, I will try as hard as I can to help him overcome his finicky ways and use my super mommy abilities to balance his diet as best as I can. All we mommies really want is to have our children grow up strong and eat healthily, isn't it? Parents with picky eaters just have to work a little harder at it!

My son is a strictly chicken nugget, pasta and bread kind of fella. When dinner time comes around, at least twice a week I place whatever starch or vegetable we are having on his plate—making sure, of course, it doesn't touch anything else on the plate (parents of picky eaters know what I mean). I stick to a small portion. Most of the time he won't even touch it, though sometimes he gives it a nudge with his fork. But either way, it's there, and you just never know when that day will come that he will get interested or his tastes change.

The way foods look and their texture is what makes him scrunch his tiny nose at all these foods I wish he would eat. If I introduce a new food and it doesn't go over well, I always make sure to bring it back a week or two later. Testing different foods in various textures can be surprising. My son won't lay a finger on an apple wedge but adores applesauce. I like to be persistent and try to get him to try at least one bite of a new food. I don't make him eat anything, but I do try to get him to at least acknowledge the food. You should see the things I do to make those mashed potatoes look like a big fat chocolate cake. You never know what might appeal to these little beings!

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Grazing on snack foods is my son's favorite. Some days, it feels like that's all his diet consists of—but what can I do? He has to eat. When meals are refused, the snacks are there to get something into him. I make sure that all his snack foods are as healthy as possible. Instead of cookies, we stick to crackers. Instead of fruit snacks, we offer all natural fruit strips. Now that my son is a bit older, I love bringing him grocery shopping and letting him pick out some different snacks and food. It's fascinating to see what he wants to bring home.

Whenever I am worried that my son isn't getting enough nutrients or vitamins, I take action and use the mommy trick of concealment. Concealment is our friend. I often make muffins with grated zucchini, carrots and a sprinkle of chocolate chips. These chocolate chips—which hide tons of veggies—are a godsend. He'll eat the muffins for breakfast or as snacks. The possibilities of what I can conceal in these muffins are endless, so I'm regularly making a batch to have around on days when meals aren't going my way. He eats macaroni and cheese, so one day I added some finely chopped up broccoli, and he loved it! I was jumping with glee and ever since then that is one of his favorite dishes.

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Coping with a picky eater can be difficult, and on a daily basis I try my hardest to not succumb to his finickiness. Whether it's the environment around his food or the choices he's offered, there's always something I can do to help. With that power, there is nothing stopping my finicky kid from growing up and enjoying an asparagus and Swiss cheese soufflé. Oh, how I dream!

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