Eeesh. Kids can be SO picky! I do personally enjoy the overwhelming task of getting my kids to eat *fairly* healthy, but they do make sure it is work!
My oldest daughter ate like a starving puppy when we began feeding her solids. It was hilarious to watch her eat as fast as possible and possibly even scream if I wasn’t fast enough.
My son on the other hand…..He had serious texture issues and a rather gross gag reflex. Even now at almost two, he likes to gag on things like yogurt, jello, eggs….anything with odd texture.
My kids have also gone though periods where they decided their favorite food was no longer edible, as well as many other foods that are added and subtracted to the ‘eat’ and ‘will not eat’ list.
My daughter is rarely a problem eater, but my son is a very slow eater and desires to be picky with his food. I have learned a few tricks to get him to eat, and I’d love to hear what crazy things you have done for the nutritional benefit of your kids!
1. I only offer one food at a time, based on an imaginary point system. Jj gets the most nutritious food first so I know he’s hungry enough for it.
2. I learned he likes less amiable foods cut small, but fun foods to be larger. I would hand him a whole apple, or cut waffles into dipping sized sticks to make eating them more fun, and less enjoyable foods are less daunting when small.
3. I shower the desired amount of praise. I had to learn not to overwhelm my daughter. Every child has different stress triggers and my oldest daughter does not handle over praising well. This may be typical for an oldest child, but can be true of any child. For her I just nonchalantly acknowledge her success for the less attention she gets, the easier she can ‘breathe’ (she is very independent and terribly afraid of falling short). My son, he doesn’t only want me to smile at his every bite, lately he’s even been wanting me to spoon feed him! Maybe that’s a boy thing? He’s always been such a lazy nurser/eater, lol.
4. I monitor drink and snack intake. Lots of parents would shoot me down over this and that’s okay. I prefer the traditional and sanity saving method of three meals and one snack a day. A child who drinks too many calories will not be hungry enough to eat, and a child who doesn’t drink enough may feel hungry when he is actually thirsty. Every child’s metabolism is different. Both my children require a substantial amount of food (which is why I’m so careful that it is mostly fruits and veggies).
5. I learned that waiting longer between meals is counterproductive.There have been some times in each of my children’s life when their appetite was smaller than others. If we wait too long to have lunch or dinner, or too long after they are hungry to eat, they eat very little. I have speculations as to why, but will keep my unscientific guesses to myself :)
6. I have had to let him decide not to eat. I am not talking about an infant, but toddler aged child. My son has twice decided he was NOT going to a bite of what I served him. He was asking for desert both times and I could have guessed he was hungry, but…what can a Mommy (at a church potluck…) do but decide if the child is not hungry, then the child is not hungry. No desserts for the un-hungry child though, I can assure you.
We have been eating a lot of homemade oatmeal for breakfast as it is healthy, and cost efficient. My dear Jj decided that he wasn’t hungry enough to eat oatmeal for breakfast. Because I was not sure how hungry he was versus how much he ate, I said okay, and when it was lunch time, he was welcome to eat….oatmeal. After he ate the oatmeal he was welcome to eat as much of the lunch menu as he desired, but I needed to make sure he was not just being a picky eater. No harsh tones, no correction, no stress, not even any conversation. I just put the food in front of him at lunch and kept on my merry way. When he questioned what was going on all I had to say was, “Oatmeal first, then….” and my child either learned that being picky was a useless endeavor, or that we don’t waste food. Win-win ;)
7. I steal his food! You hear about modeling good eating, and that is great, but I sometimes pass his food off as so tasty that I just HAVE to have a bite of that broccoli off his plate while serving him. We also trade bites, feed each other, I can tease him a bit, whatever makes for *manageable* excitement at the table.
8. Food is fun! We talk about it, the texture, the color, compare it to other shapes, talk about how it grows or what animals enjoy eating it. Knowledge is power, kids LOVE knowing silly facts (and acting like monkeys…).
9. I enlist help! Washing greens is a blast! Cracking eggs is exhilarating, and sprinkling pepper, cheese, or cinnamon is appealing. Make your child proud of his food and he will have a sense of pride while eating it. This is how I FINALLY got my son to eat eggs! I have used his help with lots of dishes, but that was by far the most successful endeavor.
10. Embrace the sauce; ditch the sauce. This is another case by case basis. My son prefers his Chick fil A grilled nuggets with ranch, and he eats them with no problem. Sauce while eating raw veggies though is very distracting. I wash the raw veggies and they are damp when he eats them, but I don’t offer sauce (and don’t use any myself) because the love of sauce so far outweighs the love of raw veggies that he just licks the sauce off (and I don’t think that’s healthy). Since I tossed the sauce raw veggies are less of a hassle at lunch time.
I could potentially be over-thinking my children’s food consumption. I don’t care how much they eat, but rather the ratio of good-bad that they eat. How much they eat is up to them, but they will eat veggies first (and somehow always have room for that fruit ;).
We are only moderately healthy eaters, they eat pretzels, animal crackers, goldfish, and have candy several times a week. And ice cream. Gracious, we love our ice cream :) But I have this philosophy that if my children eat healthy, they have a better chance of being healthy; and if they learn to appreciate different foods, they are also more likely to appreciate different cultures. Food is also very important to what we do. We travel and visit with strangers all the time, and eating what is served is respectful. Even on the mission field, food is not something we have the luxury of being picky about. I can only assume (and hope!) that if my children learn to obey and eat now, they will have an easier time with it as they get older.
Your turn! I’m still a new mommy and welcome any insight when it comes to children and eating. I have had an easy eater, and a child who needed quite a bit of training, what were your children like, and what helped?