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Valley Parents: The Stress of Raising a Picky Eater

  • A wall decoration in the Dean family's kitchen shows Grace Dean when she was younger in Claremont, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2018. Grace's mother Nicole said she has become a fussy eater since Grace started talking. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • As her brother Henry, 1, works on his third helping, Grace, 3, is reluctant to eat her dinner under the watchful eyes of her parents Brandon and Nicole Dean in Claremont, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2018. "Grace has been a picky eater for about a year," Nicole said. "Henry would eat a shoelace if it was cut into small enough pieces." (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • After Grace Dean, 3, fussed about eating her dinner, she gladly ate her small cupcake for dessert in Claremont, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2018. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Brandon Dean, of Claremont, N.H., wipes his son Henry's face after he had dessert in Claremont, N.H., on Oct. 22, 2018. The one-year-old is a happy to eat whatever is put on his plate. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley Parents Correspondent
Monday, November 05, 2018

When you’ve prepared a meal for the family, there is little that is more annoying than hearing your child proclaim, “I don’t like that!” Unfortunately, just like pushing boundaries, picky eating habits are a natural part of child development.

“Accept this is normal,” said Dr. Mary Bender, a pediatrician at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center. Bender said that it’s rare that a child’s picky eating will begin to impact his or her overall health. “If growth is normal — and there is a very wide range of normal — a picky eater is just a picky eater.”

While it’s reassuring to hear that your child’s refusal to eat anything green isn’t going to do long-term damage, dealing with picky eaters can make mealtimes stressful. Here’s how three Upper Valley moms cope with picky eating, without making mealtimes a battleground.

We Don’t Fight Her

Nicole Dean, a Claremont mom of two, knows that her daughter’s picky eating isn’t her fault, because her son will eat anything.

“My 4-year-old is very picky, while my 1-year-old would eat a shoelace if it was cut into small enough pieces,” Dean said.

Dean serves up items like avocado, perogies and sausages that fit her daughter’s eclectic taste, and sneaks in added vegetables when she can.

“One of the things that I hear the most is ‘just give her the things that you want her to eat, she won’t starve herself,’ ” Dean said. “But honestly, who wants to deal with a 4-year-old that not only is coming into her feelings and throwing temper tantrums, but is now hungry? In my own personal experience allowing my picky eater to eat something that she likes, or tricking her into sneaking some healthy options, is easier for me than fighting with her and watching her dig her heels in.”

We Make Healthier Options

Megan Cross, a Lebanon mom of two sons ages 8 and 10, tries to accommodate her boys’ tastes and infuse their favorite foods with more nutritional value, especially for her younger son.

“We had to get creative. When it comes to nachos he has to have two vegetables on them and they are veggies of his choosing. With pancakes we add in peanut butter and bananas to add fruit and protein and use whole wheat flour or mix,” Cross said. “It’s taken some time to get him in the habit of doing this, and he did resist at first, but we stayed firm and told him he could have these things.”

At mealtimes the boys need to try one bite for each year of their age, and if they don’t like the meal after that they don’t need to eat it. Overall, Cross said she tries not to make a big deal over her son’s eating quirks.

“I know how it feels to be a picky eater and having pressure as a kid. It was no fun and I would never want to put my son through this,” she said. “Eating is his choice, not mine, and if he chooses to go hungry then so be it.”

We Stay Strict

With four kids ranging in ages from 1 to 8, Tammy Havlir, of Claremont, has a lot of people to please around the dinner table. Havlir said that involving the kids in food prep gets them more excited to eat whatever she’s serving, but the issue of not wanting dinner still arises.

“With four children and four different personalities, we often hit the wall of someone pitching a fit at the dinner table,” she said. “We leave their meal out until it’s time to brush teeth and if they still haven’t eaten what we made they can choose a piece of fruit. No arguments, no exceptions.”

Although Havlir strictly adheres to this policy, she understands where the kids are coming from sometimes.

“It’s got to be hard as a kid,” she said. “We cannot expect them to always be overjoyed about the current dinner options.”