The Innocent Path to Short-Order Cooking (and preventing picky eating)

Depressed and sad woman in kitchen

By: Kristen Yarker

As a busy Mom you have many job titles. Titles such as taxi driver, educator, nurse, and house-cleaner. But there is one job title that you do not want:

Short-order cook.

It happens so innocently. Yesterday your 10 month old doesn’t seem to want to eat the blueberries that you set out for her on her highchair tray. So you pop up to the kitchen and grab a banana. This she gobbles down with a big smile on her face. You can’t help but return her smile. Today you’re making salmon for dinner for yourself and your partner. Your daughter hasn’t ever eaten salmon when you’ve made it, so you warm up some leftover chicken for her.

This is the path to short-order cooking. And, your child being a picky eater who only eats 5 foods.

What is a short-order cook? The actual position is the cook in a diner who makes different dishes for individual customers – and quickly.  As a busy Mom you are working the “short-order cook” job title when you make different dishes for different family members at the same meal. For example, for dinner on Monday you make noodles and cheese for Amy, cook an individual frozen pizza for Billy and salmon with veggies for your husband and yourself.

Short-order cooking adds to your stress because every day you have to come up with not just one answer to the question “What’s for dinner”, but 3 answers (or more).

Short-order cooking also takes away from the powerful quality family time that sharing a meal can bring. Because, you aren’t sharing a meal – you are each having your own meals. By catering to each person’s wishes, you miss the opportunity to teach your kids sharing, compromising, and taking turns. You are also missing the opportunity to teach the life lesson of making due when your favourite food isn’t available. And, you’re allowing them to retreat to eating only their very most favourite foods, which likely isn’t giving them the variety of nutrients that they need.

I’ve never met a parent who says that she wants to make different meals for every family member. But, here they find themselves, cooking different dishes for their 3 year old every night. It didn’t happen overnight. It starts innocently with the best of intentions.

But this is exactly where you’re headed when you introduce your very young child to the idea that they can have something else to eat if they don’t want what you’ve provided.

So, if you’ve got a 6 – 12 month old and you’re finding yourself jumping up to get them something else if they don’t want to eat what you’ve provided: STOP!

Instead, offer foods from 2 – 4 food groups at each solid food feeding. If your child chooses to only eat one food – that’s okay. Choose foods from other food groups at the other solid food feedings that day. If your child doesn’t eat a food today, don’t stop offering it. Repetition is the key for a child learning to like a food.

Child-feeding expert Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky). A speaker, author, and dietitian, Kristen is a picky eater turned food-lover herself. Her passion: enjoy healthy eating (from the very first bite). Since 2008 she has been working with families to provide good nutrition for their kids today…and, instill a LOVE of food that lasts a lifetime. You can find Kristen on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

You May Also Like