Amelia Freidline, copy editor
Amelia Freidline, copy editor

When I was a kid I hated lettuce. I liked brussels sprouts until I reached the age where you learn you’re “not supposed to like them,” at which point I thought they were disgusting. I wouldn’t eat spinach unless I had first smothered it in French dressing.

Fortunately I liked plenty of other vegetables, so the phrase “eat your veggies” was not often trotted out around the dinner table (except for the rare occasions we had canned peas).

When my mom and I were discussing picky eaters the other day, she speculated that I might still hate lettuce if she had forced me to eat it as a child. Instead, she said, it’s now my main food group.

I don’t know about that.

How to quell picky eating habits is a hot topic, though, whether it’s getting kids to eat their USDA-approved lunches at school or to finish their dinnertime carrots before dessert.

And apparently you can now hire a “coach” to solve this problem on the home front.

The Wall Street Journal’s May 6 article “Frustrated parents turn to picky-eater coaches,” by Bonnie Rochman, says the key is introducing new foods alongside familiar favorites and involving kids in meal preparation to give them a first-hand understanding of what they’re eating and how it’s made.

Great advice — but also common sense, I would have thought. Yet having a consulting “food coach” cure your notoriously picky eater can cost as much as $400, according to the Journal.

“Teaching good eating habits requires persistence; tastes change, even for adults. Keep offering the same healthy foods but try varying the presentation — if steamed asparagus doesn’t prove popular, grill it the next time. Introduce new foods with similar consistencies to already accepted ones,” the article advises.

Although I’m not a parent and don’t have to deal directly with the perils of picky appetites, I’d add a word of my own advice: Don’t act like you expect kids to dislike the fruit or vegetable you want them to try.

I don’t know if pop culture or the lingering memory of poorly-cooked vegetables is to blame, but somewhere along the line kids hear that foods like spinach, brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, etc., are gross — and so, when they see said vegetable looming before them on their plate, they expect to dislike it even before they try it.

I recently had my 3½-year-old nephew and nearly-two niece over for dinner. In deference to the kids we had pizza, but it was “grown-up” pizza with fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese, along with familiar chicken.

I expected at least a question of “Aunt Meli, what is this?” about the spinach and wondered how to explain it in an exciting way, but my nephew happily wolfed his piece down without a comment.

That is, without a comment about the pizza. When I brought their after-dinner fruit over to the table, he looked at the giraffe-splotched peel and said “Yucky banana.”

Ideal banana ripeness is a matter of personal preference that evokes strong feelings in some people. It’s been a topic of intense discussion at Packer HQ on more than one ocassion.

I love bananas, but I prefer not to eat one until the peel has at least a hint of brown freckling. I didn’t know how my nephew liked his bananas, so I hastily came up with an explanation for the browning skin.

“Oh, that just means it’s really tasty,” I said, and started peeling it to show him it was still OK.

Woe is me, there was a brown spot toward the end of his half, and he, being a sharp-eyed child, noticed.

“There’s a spot.”

I have some friends whose mom used to tell them the dark spots in their bananas were brown sugar.

“That spot is extra sweet,” I told him. And he ate every bit of his half.

Dinnertime crisis averted.

True, my niece did pick off every fleck of spinach she saw on her piece of pizza, but she ate the tomatoes, which I thought was good work for a person her age. She ate her banana slices without voicing any disapproval.

Next time they come over for dinner, maybe I’ll get her to try spinach prepared a different way — without first dousing it in French dressing.

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