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PH had a softball game yesterday, and as I was standing around chewing a hot dog and handing the onions to my baby, someone commented on the fact that he is a “good eater”.

He really is. So far.

I have never really found anything that Babby doesn’t like, with the exception of some spicy sausage that was a bit too hot for his taste.

The kid eats pickles. And lemons. LEMONS.

You know how, when you are looking at your food and you see the one thing on your plate that you don’t want to eat, you say “I’ll give it to the dog”?

Well, in our house, it’s “let’s give it to the baby.”

Don’t want the zucchini that came in my salad? Babby will eat it.

Don’t want the lemon from my diet coke? Babby will eat it.

Don’t want the yolks from my boiled eggs? Babby will eat them.

Too many sauteed onions on my hot dog? Babby will eat them.

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I assume that his taste buds must not be fully developed, and I know that many kids begin pickiness in toddlerhood, so I’m not ready to gloat over my “good eater” baby yet.

I have to say, though, that I do agree with articles like this, which scold parents for succumbing to their child’s finickiness.

“Sneaking” vegetables into kids food seems to be all the rage these days, and while I agree with Dirt&Noise that it is always good to make all things as healthy as possible, I also agree that if you are always trying to trick your kid into eating healthy, your kid isn’t learning long term habits from it.

When I was in that Post Partum group, a nutritionist came to speak to us. She assurred all of the mothers, some of whom had babies or toddlers who were eating solids, that it was okay if their kid “just wouldn’t eat” certain foods. Then she said something that I have mentally tattoed across my brain for evermore:

It is the PARENT’S responsibility to provide healthy, nutritious, balanced meals at regular intervals. It is the CHILD’S responsibility to eat them.

She went on to say that if a child refuses to eat this or that occasionally, that’s ok. As long as you keep offering it, and as long as you offer other alternatives in the same category at other meals, he’ll be all right.

Forcing a child to eat something he hates won’t help, and neither will giving him something else instead. A child needs to be taught how to take responsibility for his own food choices.

“A child will not allow himself to starve,” she said, “and missing the occasional food group, or entire meal – or even several meals in a row – will not have a serious long term affect on his health. However, making him chicken nuggets when he turns his nose up at the salmon WILL have a long term affect on his eating habits in general, and that’s worse than going hungry now and then.”

Apparently this “eat or don’t, but it’s all your getting” approach even works on hardcore cases.

The Baby Led Weaning book that I bought says very much the same thing. It warns me not to mind if Babby won’t touch his food today, because he’ll very likely eat everything in sight tomorrow. It says that kids rarely eat a balanced meal all in one sitting, but rather balance their own meals by eating a lot of protein today, a lot of vegetables tomorrow, and a lot of grains the day after.

Studies show that when a kid is allowed to pick and choose, he does actually eat vegetables voluntarily. I am to offer him something from each food group each meal, and if he doesn’t want it, then fine. I will do it again next meal, and the next, and he will balance his own meals.

I have definitely found this to be true with Babby. Two days ago he turned his nose up at the egg that I offered him. He nibbled one piece and then deliberately dropped it onto the floor. Today he spent half an hour happily picking at the eggs I gave him.

A few days ago he ignored his vegetables and chowed down on piece after piece of meat. The next day he ignored his meat and gobbled green pepper after green pepper.

Babby is a “good eater”, but not because he eats everything all the time. He is a good eater because he eats something most times and eats most things most of the time.

The first time I gave him potato salad he wouldn’t touch it. The next day I offered him some again and he couldn’t get enough. Is that pickiness? Or just daily variation? I call it variation.

He probably will get pickier as he moves into toddlerhood, but I feel prepared, thanks to my BLW book and that god-sent nutritionist.

I know that I won’t panic when he refuses to eat his dinner, because I will know that he’ll make up for it at breakfast, or lunch, or dinner the next day. I will focus strongly on my responsibility: providing him with healthy and balanced options, and letting him do the rest.

I have heard of some parents who become slaves to their kids’ picky preferences, and it happens out of love. You don’t want your kid to starve, and if he WON’T eat his salmon, maybe you should cook him some chicken nuggets.

Only the nutritionist told me not to, and I won’t.

I don’t agree, though, with people who claim that pickiness is entirely to be blamed on the parent’s feeding methods. Studies have shown that some people (me included) are more sensitive to bitter flavours than others. Those kids are likely to be the picky kids, because stuff just tastes worse to them.

So if your kid is picky, it isn’t your fault.

But it doesn’t follow that your child should have to subsist on cookies and french fries, either. You provide the healthy food, and if they won’t eat, they won’t eat.

I heard a story recently which strengthened my resolve to let Babby be picky if he wants to be, without falling into the trap of rewarding that pickiness.

A friend of mine was out with some friends and their three year old daughter at a fair. The mother asked the child, “what do you want to eat?”

(Open ended question – Danger! Danger!)

The kid said “Pizza!”

There is no pizza at the fair. Hotdogs, burgers, corndogs, mini doughnuts and cotton candy. No pizza.

They told her this, and she threw a tantrum, because she had already gotten it in her head that she wanted pizza. So then she refused to eat anything. The mother became so anxious over her child going hungry that she begged some cookies off of my friend, and plied the child with those.

“Here, honey, will you eat these?”

Really? You’re worried that you kid can’t survive without food for a couple of hours, so you give her sugar cookies? You do know that sugar cookies are not the same as burgers and hotdogs, right?

If the kid isn’t hungry enough to eat non-pizza food, then maybe the kid isn’t hungry enough.

They say that hunger is the best sauce.

When I worked at the service dog school, I can’t tell you how many puppy raisers anxiously told me at turn-in time that the dog was “picky”. I was sometimes given elaborate instructions on what was required to get the dog to eat. THIS kind of food only, he doesn’t like the other kind. Add some gravy. Give him the first few mouthfuls out of your hand. All kinds of nonsense like that.

We didn’t have time to beg Labradors to eat. We put them in the kennel with the others and gave them their daily rations. If they didn’t eat their meal, their kennel mate would.

Pickiness vanished overnight. Within days those “picky” dogs whose puppy raisers had spent months anxiously wheedling and coaxing to eat their meals were gobbling their meals in ten seconds flat.

Yeah, I’m glad that Babby is a “good eater” and I hope he stays that way, but if he doesn’t…

Eat it, or don’t eat, it’s your choice.

I can handle that.

How do you deal with your kid’s pickiness? Was your baby a “good eater” who turned picky, and what did you do?