A former Harbor mom messaged me saying she heard I had a crazy technique for getting my toddlers to eat anything. She was desperate, saying, "I have the pickiest eater. It's the worst. So bad I can't even begin to explain." Below is my response, for what it's worth!
I wish I could come hang out and chat over coffee! I feel so ill-equipped to give mom advice. And I feel even more ill-equipped to give mom advice over the miles! So please, please take any input I have with a grain of salt. Trust your gut and intuition. All moms and babies are different. All families are different. I think there are a lot of debatables when it comes to parenting!
Basically, early on with our kids, we knew we wanted them to be able to eat anything they were given. With our lifestyle overseas, we knew they needed to be ready to eat anything at anyone's house.
But we also didn't want food to be a power struggle area. We felt like the whole "sit there until it's gone" approach just made for late nights and cranky kids and parents. So we said "Ok, that's fine. You don't have to eat it now, but you have to eat it for breakfast." I would cover their dinner in saran wrap and pull it out and heat it the next morning. They ate their dinner for breakfast frequently. And sometimes they still do.
We started this habit young. But I don't think your three-year-old is too old (or young) to give it a try. I think you can be flexible too... Like only serve him small amounts of stuff you know he doesn't like and celebrate each small victory. Or say, "you have to eat three more bites of this before you get that." And some days, the reality is, you just have to throw in the towel because you're both exhausted. Other days, you might feel extra committed and really feel that the kid will eat anything if he gets hungry enough!
I don't know that I'm helping much...but the story is true--we did that. And I think it worked well. The girls are 8, 10, 12, and 18 and they really will eat anything without complaining. The three younger ones still don't like salad or tomatoes, but I make them eat a small serving at every dinner... I try not to make it a big deal...just a small dose and a matter-of-fact attitude...they know what to expect now.
*The mom who messaged me wrote back about a month later. She had great success to report! She said her kiddo struggled at first, but slowly came around and he's now eating what she gives him. Yay!