Picky eaters aren’t picky by choice.

Sure, sometimes kids are simply engaged in a massive control struggle, and they’re going to win by doing whatever it takes. But if you know an adult who is a picky eater, then you know that food aversions are real. Sensory sensitivity is real. It’s helpful to remember this when you’re ready to throw your child out the window for refusing, yet again, something you’ve cooked. But just because picky eating isn’t a choice, it doesn’t mean that picky eating can’t be changed. “I don’t eat green things” doesn’t have to be forever.

Multiple Exposures —as in, It takes multiple exposures for kids to like a new food— is the most misunderstood “truth” in the world.

I’m not saying it doesn’t take multiple exposures. What I’m saying is that most people don’t understand what constitutes an exposure. An exposure is a pea-sized sample. And it has to come with no strings attached.

I recently posted a comment about multiple exposures to a picky eating group on Facebook. A woman had asked how to work with her picky eater. Another group member called me a fraud. She had tried the multiple exposure approach to broccoli and yet she continued to gag. I tried to explain…

You don’t have to eat green things to be exposed to green things multiple times. There are other, better, ways to explore.

Even when exposure to green things involves tasting, it doesn’t involve eating.

Here’s what I mean.

Learn more about The Super Food Explorer Kit.

If you knew that your child wouldn’t like a new food until the 10th time she tried it, then you wouldn’t expect her to eat that food on exposures 1-9.

Rather, knowing that each exposure was a step closer to liking, you would be happy, you might even be ecstatic, if your child “simply” explored the new food during exposures 1-9 by looking, touching, smelling, etc.

“Just taste it and if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it,” doesn’t work because the exposure is contaminated by the idea of eating the food.

I was recently interviewed for the episode I Eat Everything Except… of the Why We Eat What We Eat podcast.

Unfortunately, my contribution ended up on the cutting room floor. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating episode that asks the question, Can picky eaters unlearn their picky eating? The podcaster concludes, yes.

I agree with most of the podcast. However, one woman, Stephanie Lucianovic, the author of Suffering Succotash, a book that chronicles her road to recovery, reports she overcame her picky eating by forcing herself to eat certain foods over and over. Lucianovic’s strategy sounds good, but it won’t work for most people. She was highly motivated to change her eating habits. Although Lucianovic hated green things, she forced herself to eat brussels sprouts, repeatedly. Repeatedly.

I don’t recommend that you try this strategy with your children. Kids aren’t motivated at all. Further, the bigger the aversion, the less likely someone will repeatedly suffer through eating disliked food. I mean, I wouldn’t. Would you?

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~