This book review is part of my 2018 Resolution to read more books of substance. It was chosen for the category “a book to make me a better parent.”
You know that scene in When Harry Met Sally when they’re ordering at a diner?
“I’d like the chef salad please with the oil and vinegar on the side, and the apple pie a la mode,” Sally says.
“But I’d like the pie heated, and I don’t want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side. And I’d like strawberry, not vanilla, if you have it. If not, then no ice cream, just whipped cream….but only if it’s real. If it’s out of the can, then nothing.”
“Not even the pie?” asks the waitress.
“No, just the pie, but then not heated,” Sally replies matter-of-factly.
Harry, sitting across the table from her, looks at her as though she’s crazy. It’s the same look my husband gives to me whenever I order at a restaurant.
Sally and I are very particular eaters.
Having a baby has made me very aware of my eating habits. I mean, I always knew I was a picky eater. But seeing what I eat through the lens of a child has made things much clearer.
Not only have I become more intentional about what I eat (thinking to myself, if I wouldn’t give this to my child, then why am I putting it in my body?!), but I have also realized how many good things I am not eating – things I want to make sure my baby eats to have a healthy life.
Basically, I have decided that I need to cure my picky eating.
Now some things I just won’t eat. Nothing can convince me to eat a liver or raw fish. But things like spinach, squash, and maybe even brussel sprouts might need to make appearances in my diet.
If I want my child to eat vegetables and other healthy foods enthusiastically, I need to model that behavior myself.
I didn’t come to this conclusion on my own. In my efforts to make sure I didn’t raise a picky eater, I came across a book called Getting to Yum. The author Karen le Billon says that teaching your children how to eat, like you would teach them how to walk or tie their shoe, is the key to raising adventurous, eager, wholesome eaters.
Teaching your children how to eat – it seems so obvious! But it was really mind-blowing for me.
You teach your children how to eat using what le Billon calls the “7 secrets of raising eager eaters,” which range from “marketing” new food to creating healthy eating routines.
However, the best secret is that kids, or anyone, can learn to like…even love…healthy food. This happens through repetition. It can take up to around 12 distinct tasting occasions for someone to learn to like a food.
This means your child needs to try (or you need to try…) a food 12 different times at 12 different occasions to begin to like it.
So to this end, le Billon suggests you adopt the family rule:
You don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it.
It seems crazy and almost too simple, but I can confirm it does work. After years of refusing to eat lettuce and salads of any kind, since reading this book, I have taught myself to eat romaine, iceberg, baby green, and (I am most proud of) spinach and arugula salads.
To clarify, I don’t “like” salad in the same way I “like” croissants. But I will eat it and not gag, which is a huge improvement.
This is empowering not only for myself, but as I begin to introduce solid food to my daughter. If she happens not to like something, it’s not a big deal! Over the course of time and consistently introducing the food to her, eventually, she will at the very least resign herself to eating it.
To complement this very helpful strategy, le Billon also gives us creative recipes for every stage of childhood to introduce new and inspiring flavors. And even though each recipe is targeting a specific age (purees for a baby vs. chunky dishes for a 5 year old), they are delicious for all ages.
For example, to encourage tomato-eating at every stage of life, le Billon shows you how to make:
- Gazpacho (6 month old)
- Ragout (1 year old)
- Stuffed Tomatoes (toddler)
- Tagine Casserole (big kid)
Each dish gets progressively “chunkier” and more intricate and adventurous for advancing chewing abilities and taste buds.
Even though I am reading this while my daughter is very young, le Billon “discovered” these tricks as she navigated life with two very picky toddlers. So, you don’t need to read this ahead of time to implement the strategies. Anyone with kids who are picky eaters (or even just non-adventurous eaters) can benefit from the lessons she learned and shares with us.
It’s never too late to start teaching someone (…or yourself) to be an eager healthy eater!