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Friday, February 4, 2011

Picky Eating 101

I used to be the pickiest eater I knew. I have a long list of things I don't eat - some that even make me gag. And don't get near me with a cooked egg because even the smell makes me want to run away.
I no longer claim that title in my house - my 4 year old does, with his sister not far behind. They aren't the pickiest kids I know (that would be my nephews who I have only seen eat strawberries, chips, bread and dessert) and they weren't always this picky. In fact, before they each hit 18 months I used to think they were good eaters. But now we find ourselves being THOSE parents. The ones that only order corn dogs (Ty eats the "corn" but not the dog) and fries for the kids at restaurants and still spend most of the meal saying "3 more bites" or "Tyler, keep eating" over and over again. The ones that have to make 2 or even 3 meals for dinner because the kids won't eat what we eat. The ones that read every picky eating article they can find in the hope to get some new tips we haven't tried yet. The ones that let their kids eat like this:

Yup. He's eating peanut butter directly from the spoon! :) That counts as protein right?!

Bet you're wondering what prompted this train of thought. The theme for Show Us Your Life over at Kelly's Corner this week is What do you feed your kids? Perfect timing, because Sam and I have been on a mission lately to figure out a better system. We don't have a full plan yet, but I thought I would take stock of where we are right now and some of the things that are working.

When it comes down to it, the kids don't eat too much "junk." I can generally get them to go for things like yogurt and fruit instead of chips and cupcakes. Carbs are probably over-used and meats and veggies need serious work, but I think that's typical for almost anyone. The problem is that overall they eat foods but not as meals or full recipes. Their definition of a taco is a shell with only refried beans (we've lately started trying to hide some cheese and spices in the beans in the hopes their palates will adjust and start liking more flavor in things). They eat ramen noodles and chili (and even that is only one specific brand) but won't try more complicated types of soup. The other sticky point is that if something doesn't look exactly like a type of food they know they like, they won't try it. I already mentioned the chili. It's the same even with typical kid food like Mac n Cheese (Kraft type is fine, home made or anything different in a restaurant and it won't be touched) and chicken nuggets (versus chicken strips).

The high points:
-we've switched to whole grain pastas a year ago and they didn't notice the difference. And they have recently "discovered" that all shapes of pasta taste the same as spaghetti so it's ok if the noodles look different than they are used to. So I am hoping we can use the pasta as a vehicle for starting to get them to step out of their box a bit by adding different sauces or mixing in vegetables.
-Kaitlyn's absolute favorite meal is pot stickers and yakisoba noodle stir fry and Tyler will usually gobble up the stir fry too. Sadly, we can't find the yakisoba noodles at any of the grocery stores here in NC but I'm hoping we'll eventually find a good substitute. I do however take is as a good sign that the kids will eat something that is typically more a grown up taste.
-they will eat almost any kind of bread-type breakfast food - muffins, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, etc. I have started using these as a vehicle to hide more nutritious things in, like pumpkin or zucchini. And while we usually stick to this kind of thing as a fun breakfast on the weekends, I think I might start adding in a "breakfast for dinner" once in a while.
-fruit and yogurt smoothies! Or as the kids call them, "fruit shakes." You can pretty much dump any combination of yogurt, fruit, juice, and ice in a blender and the kids slurp it up in no time. I've even tried adding spinach and got the same result. So while I've been using these as a once in a while treat, I'm thinking it would be a better idea to make them on a more regular basis and start tossing in not only the spinach but flax seed or some other nutrient-dense additives.

Quick tips for every Mom to keep up her sleeve:
-remember that any kid will eat better if it's fun. Use toothpicks or chopsticks instead of forks. Fun plates or glasses. Use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into different shapes. That kind of thing.
-dip! no matter what the food, kids usually will like it even better if they can dip it in ketchup, ranch, BBQ sauce, etc.
-the hungrier kids are, the more willing they are to try new things or eat things they don't like as well. So keep track of how close to dinner you let them have snacks (I sabotage myself with this all the time without realizing it). And if there is one food you want them to eat for sure at meal time (like veggies), give it to them first and add the rest of the meal to their plates after they've had a chance to take a few bites.

Look I was able to find some good things about my kids eating habits. Who knew?! And hopefully in a few weeks I will have more progress to report. Fingers crossed!


Nikki said...

Visiting from Kelly's Corner. I think your tips are helpful...and it's always good to hear about other picky eaters. We eat a lot of zucchini bread and carrot muffins in our house too! Good luck!

Committed Recycler said...

We go through this kind of thing/have done it in our house as well. It's frustrating, but working on it helps, I switched to whole grain pasta and only my husband noticed. White bread vs. wheat bread is harder, because they can see the difference and taste it more apparently. I also discovered smoothies when I was a teenager who could not stomach fast food breakfasts, but needed on the go morning food. While the youngest ones loved them, it took the oldest a long time to even TRY them. It's refreshing to hear parents cop to all the things we struggle with, and also a relief to know I am not the only mom begging her children to eat "just one more bite", while holding dessert hostage.

Kristina--Therapy Tree said...

Love this post! where in NC? We recently moved from Asheville, NC to SC and i miss the mountains terribly! I just wanted to share my feeding blog, i saw your site on Kelly's Korner and loved the post and all of the comments! I always suggest starting with a list of what your toddler already eats and start expanding on it--subtle changes. Here is an example on one of last years posts

I've shared that link with a few other moms and I'm trying to get a facebook page started so all of these families can share ideas in one 'support place' So many good ideas to go around from others experiences!

Cheri said...

I've heard of people cooking and pureeing veggies like carrots and adding them to spaghetti sauce.

Aunt Suzi Quilts said...

I am so loving your blog. I'm going to follow you!