When a parent is the picky eater

My husband and I are expecting our first in March, so it is not the child's eating habits that are the problem--it is my husband's. He was one of those children who refused to eat vegetables (along with a lot of other normal foods like spaghetti), and his mother decided not to force him. He is now 26 and still refuses to eat these foods. We rarely can fix the same thing for dinner, and it is very frustrating for me because I love a lot of different foods.

What really concerns me, however far in the future, is setting a good example for our children. How can we teach them to eat veggies and other delicious foods if my husband refuses them?

I feel like I am the only person with this problem. I would appreciate some advice for the future.

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

What an interesting question. You pose an important concern/problem.

First I want to react to your interpretation of why your husband doesn't eat vegetables, because it implies that by forcing, he would accept them. I hope you don't maintain this philosophy with your child. Forcing a child to eat something will only backfire. A person needs to come to their own terms with food. It may be your husband learned to dislike vegetables because they were always served to him overcooked and tasteless, or perhaps he didn't see his parents eating an enjoying vegetables.

All that is beside the point. The issue here, is how to get your kids to come to love vegetables.

First of all, I suggest you continue to cook a wide variety of foods and have your kid(s) exposed to them. The wider variety of foods they enjoy, the easier they will meet their nutritional requirements. I would not let your husbands dislikes and narrow eating range interfere with developing good eating habits in your kids. They will at least have one good role model to follow. As far as turning your husband around....I'm at a loss to know what might work. I would not cook a second meal just for him, but of course you cannot stop him from cooking one for himself.

Find out what vegetables and fruits he does like and play off of them. Some people do dislike a number of foods, so you have to accentuate the positive. Also, it may just take time for him to change his eating habits. You can be sure that childhood eating habits are deeply ingrained in folks. I know from experience...my husband grew up eating powdered sugar donuts with maple syrup poured over them for breakfast!!! Over the years he as come to understand the need to eat better, and makes great efforts to do so. He now prefers the way I cook over the way his mom cooks, but it was not an overnight transformation. Having a baby is a great inspiration for change. Many people give up smoking when a baby enters the house. I think it will be an intellectual/emotional/behavioral change your husband has to make.

You will need to be supportive but firm. You can't make him eat his vegetables any more than you can make your child(ren), but you can certainly help to encourage it. Cook in creative ways, taking into accounts likes and dislikes. Learn how to employ nutritious cooking techniques. Eat and enjoy vegetables yourself. Plant a vegetable garden. This is one of the best ways to get kids and adults to eat vegetables. There is the pleasure of growing the food yourself, the satisfaction of the harvest, and the unsurpassed taste of truly fresh vegetables. Of course this can't happen until next summer, but make it a yearly event. I always did, and my kids have always loved to help in it. My young son, who would never touch a cooked pea on his plate loves walking amongst the pea vines, pulling off the pods, shelling the peas and eating them on the spot. A fresh carrot washed under the outdoor faucet and eaten right then and there is like dipping into butter..they are so rich and flavorful.

I seem to have no black and white answer for you. I am sure you will need to discuss your plans with your husband and get his input and support. Good luck.

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