Kristin Fontaine is a pediatric outreach lead at the UVM Medical Center’s office of Community Health Improvement.

At 12 months, my twin boys would eat just about anything. I could put tofu, broccoli, chick peas or whatever healthy concoction I imagined in front of them and they would eat it enthusiastically. My husband and I frequently patted ourselves on the back for our superior ability to feed our children, thinking those other parents of picky eaters were clearly doing something wrong.

And then things changed. Quinn, who had always loved all things green, slowly rejected every single one, even his formerly beloved avocado. Elliott would no longer slow down long enough to sit in his high chair and snack on chunks of roasted veggies, or hummus and crackers. They would only eat foods that were white and bland or completely processed, and they wanted to do it on the run. Suddenly I felt like a complete failure and developed a lot more empathy for other families struggling with the same issues. What were we suddenly doing wrong?

I strive to raise my children with a healthy relationship with food. And yet, I found myself bribing, cajoling and basically begging them to eat anything other than potatoes and chicken nuggets. We tried different tactics depending on our state of mind. Some nights, I was just too worn out to struggle and I would make them a separate meal from ours, made of up foods I knew were on their “accepted” list.  Other nights, I had more conviction and declared that the dinner in front of them was what they were eating.  And most nights were something in between, where we required at least one taste of everything on their plate with the quiet understanding that they could have a peanut butter sandwich or yogurt if they didn’t like it.

As I started to talk more to those other families with similar frustrations I learned that this was a totally normal toddler behavior. They were starting to assert their independence. Eating all fruit one day and only veggies another was also within the realm of normal. Learning this helped me relax . . . some. I still worried about their nutrition and their relationship with food. But I started to look at their eating over a week as a whole, rather than by the day or even a single meal. Over the course of the week, their nutrition looked a lot healthier than when I judged each individual meal. Having a little more information about this developmental stage helped me and my husband relax and come to more of a consistent message about mealtimes.

Several years later, these are still issues we deal with on a daily basis. I am excited that Tracie Clarke, a Registered Dietician on the Community Health Team will be offering a free Healthsource workshop on this topic because I know I’m not the only parent who can use more ideas and information to keep me calm about this loaded issue, and to keep my kids on the right track to develop a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

“I don’t like it!” Learn How to Help Your Child Overcome Picky Eating

WHEN Monday, October 15th, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
WHERE Medical Center Campus, Burlington

Do you struggle, too, with what to feed your kids? What’s worked to improve your family’s diet? Share your experience in the comments here.

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