As much as we stress, fret, and fight it, picky eaters are here to stay. Why? Because picky eating is a normal behavior, says author Elizabeth Pantley of the best-selling No-Cry Solution series. I wish I'd known that when Jake was first entering this phase. As a nutritionist, I successfully convince clients to try fruits, vegetables, and other healthful foods they normally wouldn't go near, so why not my own son? It's been humbling. But I've eased up on his eating, especially after realizing that he has consistently grown almost 3 inches each year and is at an ideal height and weight for his age. He has tons of energy and easily fights off colds that travel through his classmates. This reassurance is echoed throughout Pantley's book.
First, I do want to acknowledge that Ms. Pantley very kindly sent me a copy of The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution to consider writing a review when it debuted in 2011. I happily agreed after thumbing through and finding it to be an excellent resource, but I never did...until now. The truth is that book reviews intimidate me because I'm a very slow reader, and when scanning Pantley's chapters I was so impressed with all the useful information on every page that I felt overwhelmed with how I could summarize it all into a concise book review. Anyway, I'm motivated now because the topic is such an ongoing problem for many parents, and it's one of the top reasons I counsel kids under the age of 10.
Before writing the book, Pantley enlisted the help of 172 people, or test parents, and their children (294 to be exact!) from all over the world to study picky eating behavior and what advice worked and didn't work.
Chapter 1 provides checklists of what is normal picky eating behavior versus an immediate health concern. For example, though your child may eat only a small selection of the same foods every day, does she/he have a lot of energy, sleep well, and fall into a normal height and weight range at doctor visits? The chapter also reviews why kids are picky, with reasons ranging from genetics (the number of sweet and sour taste buds you are born with) to protective instincts (avoiding sour or bitter flavors as found in poisonous plants and spoiled foods) to anatomy (about one-quarter of young children are "supertasters" with an unusually high number of taste buds) to control (no need to explain this one!). Pantley discusses several food facts, of which I found the nutrition information to be completely sound, on why it is important to focus on produce and whole grains while limiting sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
Chapter 2 is my favorite section discussing four key points: attitude, environment, amounts, and rules. These cover the importance of parents' attitudes toward food and mealtimes, the types of foods available in the family kitchen, proper portion sizes and amounts from each food group for different ages (their actual needs are probably less than you think), and which food "rules" are ok to bend and which are not.
Chapter 3 is full of practical food tips, such as how to improve the favorite boxed macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and how to sneak mashed vegetables, ground flax, whole grains, tofu and other ingredients into common recipes. There is also an extensive Q&A section and an abundance of ideas and creative tactics to try.
Chapter 4 is a compilation of favorite nutritious recipes by authors of children's cookbooks.
This book is a must-have for any new parent. Whether you're tearing your hair out after mealtimes or just trying to get your child to eat one new vegetable a month, this is a highly informative read about childhood eating behaviors and how to foster at an early age a healthy attitude towards food that will stick with them for life.
Want even more guidance? Check out a free workshop this Tuesday at Bright Horizons in Wellesley Get Smart on Raising Healthy Eaters.