My oldest son has been extremely picky his entire life.
When we started baby food, he would only eat pears and green beans mixed together (yes it was as gross as it sounds). Once we got him on solid food, he survived on chicken tenders, French fries, and fruit. My husband and I tried everything. We played hardball – “THIS is dinner, either you eat or starve!” We bribed – “If you take 3 bites of this, we will give you a treat!” We let it go and gave into making him the same meal for lunch and dinner every day. Then we would start the cycle of hardball and bribery again. There were tears on his part and ours.
We have gotten many judge-y remarks over the years. Thanks people, that is SO HELPFUL (insert eye roll). Grandparents expressed concern over how much nutrition he was actually getting from his limited diet. Luckily he has always been healthy and average on the growth chart. As frustrating as it was to cater to his picky palate, we were sympathetic because my husband and I are picky eaters ourselves. We understand the anxiety that comes with not liking a lot of foods and being grossed out tasting new things.
As we approached his first year at real school, we decided that school lunch would be a good opportunity to help him branch out.
Also, since he didn’t eat lunchbox foods, I didn’t know what I would pack to send a lunch. If his parents, grandparents, and cousins couldn’t persuade him, maybe his teachers and classmates could. His school cafeteria is catered by a third party who boasts that their dishes use fresh ingredients and are homemade. They post monthly menus with a hot option and sandwich option each day. The menu looked both kid-friendly and healthy. We figured if he ate at all, it would be a win. Since he was in PreK, the teachers sent a note home each day with some news from the day, including whether or not he ate his lunch.
To our surprise, he ate the lunch at school from the start.
The daily notes said that he ate some or most of his lunch. I did not get any feedback from his teachers that he was eating too little. He came home every day and told me about what he tried at school that day. We did start serving him some of the dishes at home that he seemed to favor at school. Taco Tuesday turned him into a taco lover. After an entire school year of cafeteria lunches, he has added a total of 4 new dishes to his list of foods he likes. He is still picky, and that is okay. We are proud of our boy for how much he has branched out.