Getting “Picky” Twins To Eat

My twins are as different as night and day, and this certainly extends to their eating habits. Austen will eat almost anything; Caleb will eat almost nothing! Austen prefers salads, green beans, healthy foods, while Caleb eats anything with the word “chocolate” in it. I can’t complain because Caleb is a lot like me: I’m also not a big greens eater, and I love junk food! I take pleasure in informing my vegetable-loving husband that our twins’ differing preferences PROVE that tastes in food are genetic. After all, both twins are being raised in exactly the same way and offered the same foods, and yet they prefer different things. (Alas, my husband still thinks I’m just stubborn.) So how do you please twins with differing palates, especially if one or both of them are categorized as “picky”? Here are some suggestions:

Sprinkles: They go great on everything! I let my boys put sprinkles on their applesauce, yogurt, pancakes, mac and cheese, veggies . . . whatever they want! Somehow everything looks a little more appealing to them with sprinkles on top.

Dipping sauces: I put little piles of ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce on their plates and pronounce them “dipping sauces”! They have fun dipping their food in the various condiments and are more apt to eat them, as well. Cut up raw vegetables and serve them with a small bowl of ranch dressing for dipping.

Smoothies: Kids love to drink smoothies (call them “milkshakes” if you must), and it’s a great way to get a good serving of fruit. Mix various fruits, like bananas, strawberries and other berries in the blender with some milk and ice, and they’ll drink them up!

Individual portions: For some reason, children like having their own individual servings. Witness the popularity of pudding cups! (Or maybe the chocolate has something to do with that…) So make mini-pizzas out of bagels or bread slices. Serve carrot sticks in cupcake liners. Cook your lasagna in little, serving-sized pans.

Let them help: When they help you make their food, children develop more of an interest in it. I put crackers and squares of cheese and lunch meat on my twins’ plates and let them “build” their own “sandwiches.” Let them sprinkle cheese on their pizza or make faces out of pepperoni.

Be patient: Just because they don’t eat something the first time doesn’t mean they won’t try it on the second or third attempt. Experts say it sometimes takes up to ten attempts before they’ll try a new food! Pick another day to serve them a food they didn’t eat the first time. You might be surprised to find that they just weren’t in a “new food mood” on the first (or second or third!) day.

Call it “cake”: Labeling is very important. When we serve our twins banana bread, we called it “banana cake.” Somehow the thought of “dessert” makes them more eager to try it! Call a hamburger patty a “hamburger cookie.” Call it whatever you need to in order to make it sound appealing!

Don’t force anything: Trying to force your toddler to eat something will only frustrate both of you. He’ll just spit it out or throw it on the floor! Leave it in front of him for a while, and if he still refuses to taste it, take it away. But don’t bring him a cookie because you’re concerned that he’ll starve! You don’t want to teach him that he can have whatever he wants. He’s not going to starve if he misses one meal, and he’ll be that much more hungry at the next one.

Bribery rarely works: We’ve tried the old line, “Just eat two bites, and you can have a cookie!” It never works. It just upsets the toddler even more because he knows there’s a cookie waiting in the wings, and he doesn’t have it!

Be the example: Let your toddlers see you enjoying healthy foods. (This is a tough one for me!) Show them how much you enjoy eating a carrot by saying “yum yum” as you eat it in front of them.

Check with the doctor: If you’re still concerned about your twins’ poor eating habits, consult with their pediatrician. He or she may suggest that you supplement with a multi-vitamin. (Hint: My twins love the gummy bears!) If your children are growing appropriately for their age, don’t be overly concerned if salads aren’t their favorite food.

Copyright ©2007 by Susan M. Heim. Adapted from It’s Twins: Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence (Hampton Roads, February 2007).

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About Susan Heim

Susan M. Heim is an author and editor, specializing in multiples, parenting, women’s and Christian issues. Her books include "Boosting Your Baby's Brain Power"; "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More"; "It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence"; "Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons"; and, "Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year." Upcoming books include "Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family," "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women," and "Moms of Multiples' Devotions to Go." Susan's articles and essays have appeared in many books, magazines and Web sites. She is a member of the National Association of Women Writers and the Southeastern Writers Association, and has a degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University. Susan lives with her husband and four sons (two teenagers and twin grade-schoolers) in Florida.