Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pick a little, talk a little...

Around the time that I wrote this post, I received some follow up questions from some mommy friends of mine.  Their questions were quite valid, especially since I know both of them have kiddos around The Incredible Hulk's age, but quite honestly - it was really hard to answer.

Basically, the questions were about picky eaters and what to do if your child was refusing food.


Despite my best efforts at home, TIH does not have the best repertoire of food.  We serve him everything that we eat and I have a pretty strict rule about not making more than one dinner to appease my kid.  But, he still refuses a lot of the food in front of him most nights.

We continue to demand "No thank you bites" and encourage him to not call any sort of food "gross" or "yucky."  But, he still leaves much of his plate untouched at dinner.

TIH on a night where he decided he hated pasta, chicken, and tomatoes.  Great.
The advice that our pediatrician gave us from the beginning when we started feeding TIH real food instead of baby food/breastmilk was, "Feed him what you eat.  If he refuses, don't provide an alternative and especially don't provide him junk food as an alternative."  I try very very very very hard to do that.  But, I'm a mom.  I have a genetic makeup that tells me that ABOVE ALL THINGS, I must feed the tiny human living in my house.  So, I'll admit.  Sometimes if he doesn't eat a great dinner, I find myself making him a snack at the end of the night (usually something healthy, but still with a large sense of a defeat).

I think the other thing that is baffling to me is that he actually likes a wide array of food - green beans are his favorite vegetable and he eats them first if they are on his plate - but that he will sometimes refuse things that most kids love (like, chicken - unless it is in nugget form.) I also will get daily sheets home from preschool saying that he ate every bite of his gyro or asked for seconds on his stir fry or munched away on cucumbers at snack time.  It's times like this I get the distinct impression that TIH refuses food at home just because he can.

Two and three year olds are (often frustratingly) independent and this might just be another way to express that independence.  It's maddening at times and makes me positive that he'll starve to death - but I'm pretty sure it's normal.  Here's our method to this madness.  It's by no means the best way to do it (obviously, dinnertime can be a battle zone sometimes, and I only have ONE kid to deal with), but it tends to ameliorate some of the typical food refusal issues.

1.  I meal plan.  Yes, yes, I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record on this.  But, I often can't remember what I ate three hours ago, much less last week.  By making a monthly meal plan, I know I am providing my family with a variety of food throughout the month.  I'm exposing TIH to lots of different foods and making sure he's getting a good balance of it all.  Plus, I can spread out meals that I know from experience that he will refuse - so I'm also limiting the number of nights where I'm not even going to try to feed him our dinner, and will instead feed him something from one of his favorite food groups (i.e., hot dogs, chicken nuggets, frozen waffles, Chef Boyardee)

2.  I start feeding him small portions.  I feel as though if I put a huge pile of something TIH might not like in front of him, that he is way more likely to throw a fit of epic proportions to refuse it.  But, if I give him a little bit at a time, not only is he more likely to try it, he might even finish it and ask for more (okay, the latter part might be in my dreams.)

3.  We always put something that he likes on his plate.  So, if we're having a meal with a protein, a starch, and a vegetable (a common combo in our house), I'll stick some grapes or Goldfish crackers  on his plate alongside it.  Even if he eats all of that part and only one bite of the other stuff, I consider it a victory.  (And honestly, that's a worst case scenario.  He almost always eats multiple bites of it all.)

4.  When he is starting to refuse food or when he sits down at his plate and immediately says, "I DON'T WANT CHICKEN" we usually reduce the demand.  We'll say, "You just have to eat three bites."  Or, "Eat everything on this side of the plate" and break the food up into sections.  We've actually often found that he'll eat more than what we say at that point, or has even started sectioning off his food himself and saying "I'll only eat this pile." (And then eats all of the piles.)

5.  We keep it real.  If one night out of the week he ends up having some microwaved hot dogs or a box of macaroni and cheese, it really isn't the end of the world. We're careful about when we do it, but sometimes it is more important to just sit down as a family without tears, yelling, and throwing food (and for TIH to be happy too.) :)

6.  When in doubt - offer ketchup.  (We always use a natural ketchup brand that we found and like so at least it's a little better, but honestly, if TIH has something to dip his food in, the popularity of that food goes up 400%.)

7.  We give him a multivitamin.  At least we know we're rounding out the nutrients he might be missing in food.  It's actually become a fun little routine for all of us after TIH's bath.  Mama likes her gummy vitamins too.  It's all good.

It isn't perfect.  There are some books that have been recommended to me and they continue to be on my ever growing to-do list.  But so far, our method isn't based on anything any expert would probably prescribe.

However - it works.

Our child continues to grow.  He continues to eat a range of foods better than I would expect from most three year olds and he is learning lessons that are equally as important in the process - table manners, eating a balanced diet, trying new things, the importance of eating together at a family, and a multitude of other things we're probably not even aware of.  I'll call that a win any day of the week.


If anyone has any further questions about picky eaters, please feel free to email me or post a question to Facebook and I'll try my best to point you in the right direction.  I'll take any questions not related to picky eating too!  Have at it! AFONM is always ready for you!

1 comment:

  1. We encounter the same with our toddler. We do a lot of what you do. Actually, most of what you do. I don't make it a battle. Usually, removing some of the meat and suggesting he only eat what little is left is enough to get some protein in him. He's a big veggie eater, and he eats a big breakfast and lunch so I don't worry so much when he doesn't want to eat a lot at night. Considering that his stomach is the size of his little fist, I guess it makes sense that they are pretty full by evening.


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