The other night at dinner my 8-year-old, who was a picky eater for many years, said, out of the blue, “Do you remember when I used to be picky? I’m so glad I’m not anymore.” We then talked about how much things have changed and memories he had from dinners when he was younger. It was a wonderful moment because it showed how much his identity as an eater has changed. As we talked, it struck me as an amazing opportunity to learn more about a child’s experience as a picky eater, so I asked if I could interview him.
An Interview with My Formerly Picky Eater
What is your favorite food?
Do I have to say one thing? Pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, burgers.
What is your least favorite food?
I don’t know because I haven’t tried many bad foods. Well, I don’t like stir-fry.
Do you remember when you were a picky eater?
What did it feel like to be offered a food you didn’t like?
Well, I didn’t even eat it. But I also felt sad that I wouldn’t eat anything. [Note: the rule in our house is that dinner is dinner, I am not going to make another meal. That said, I always strive to have at least one food on the table that the kids can fall back on if they don’t like the main dish, even if that is just plain rice or salad.]
What about when you tried a food you didn’t like?
I felt like I would never eat it again. Mostly I didn’t like the taste and sometimes I didn’t like the feeling in my mouth.
Do you remember me or your dad trying to convince you to try foods you didn’t want to eat?
How did that feel?
Frustrating because I thought that it was going to be gross and decided it was going to be gross and, no matter what, I wouldn’t like it.
Do you remember playing games with food?
Yes. I remember pretending to be a giant eating and that soup was a lake with boats and broccoli was trees and I was going to eat it.
Did that change the way you felt about certain foods?
Yes. It convinced me to expand my horizons.
Can you think of a food you used to not like but now you do?
Mixidihno [a Brazilian fried rice dish].
How did that change?
Putting meat in it, because then I wanted to try it. [Note: this is so true! One of the tricks I discovered with him was that if a dish had meat in it, even just a little bit, he was much more open to trying it because he loves meat so much and it is not something we eat everyday, so it made the food feel more special.]
What made it easier for you to try foods you weren’t sure about?
Knowing that even if I don’t like it, it’s fine, as long as I don’t say it in a rude way.
If you could tell picky eaters anything, what would it be?
Smells and looks shouldn’t determine what food tastes like and what you are going to like or not like.
If you could tell the parents of picky eaters anything, what would you tell them?
Not to get mad because their kids are picky. There is always a way to help your kids to not be picky. You just need to try different ways.
I hope that this glimpse into the mind of formerly picky eater was helpful to you! If you would like to help your picky eater to become more adventurous, sign up for a free two-week trial of The Scramble and not only will you have access to our family-tested recipes through our online meal planning service, but you will also be able to watch our six-part video series, Simplify with The Scramble. In these “bite-sized” videos (and downloadable audio files), I share ways that you can shift the dynamics around the dinner table and make it more conducive to encouraging your kids to try new foods all while simplifying your dinner prep.