Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Picking what you eat

Did you miss me?  I missed you!  Yes, it's been a while.  It doesn't mean that posts haven't been happening....Just mostly in my head.  Time to get the fingers moving on the keyboard and put it out there.

Life is still busy.  It's actually the busiest time of year for us.  Regardless of how busy we are, we still need to eat.  3 meals a day.  Every day....  

With four kids' individual personalities, their food preferences follow suit.  One point is that their preferences are a moving target.  It has been said that you need to put a food in front of a kid hundreds of times before you can expect them to eat it.  What about the opposite.  What happens when you have a child who eats a food and then stops?  How much does peer pressure have to do with "likes" and "dislikes"?  How does one meal plan around all of these factors.

Child #1, with parents who knew nothing, was a pretty agreeable eater as a small child.  He had his quirks, but ate fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, etc.  No issues.  Until he gave up all fruits and vegetables.  ALL.  Well, not quite all.  Apples and bananas were it.  Around 1st grade he added lettuce to his repertoire of things he'd eat, thanks to the school garden and a gallon of ranch dressing.  Then came the tips of broccoli and avocado with ketchup.  I don't think enough nutrients from the vegetables entered his system, but it was better than nothing.

Apples and bananas began to wane and then his sisters started to LOVE fruit.  The smell, sight or mention of the fruit would send him into a tizzy.  My patience began to wane along with all fruits and vegetables.  His extreme persistence in not eating these foods was so annoying.  I cooked with home made broths and we ate a lot of salad.  I lectured and yelled.  Speaking negatively about food they were served was a punishable offense.  The main issue that was arising was that his littlest sister, #4, was starting to mimic him.

 #4 was the slowest, pickiest eater in the world.  She would fall asleep eating, it would take her so long.  Her tastes were different.  Due to low weight, she had extra supplements of cod liver oil and homemade formula.  As she got older, she would eat anything mixed with the oil, but imitate her brother's refusal for most other things.  If she ate after 3PM, she would not eat dinner.  I was told that 2 good meals were good enough.  Boy did she try my patience.

#2 eats EVERYTHING.  I'm not joking.  She tells me when there is something she doesn't like, but says that she doesn't want to hurt my feelings and eats it anyway.  As much as she was trying to emulate her brother in most other areas of her life, thank goodness eating wasn't one of them.

#3 eats almost everything.  She eats all fruits and vegetables along with most meals.  She also likes to help cook.  Shelling an extra large bag of peas is exciting.  Payment is being able to eat them along the way.

That was then, this is now.....

Just because some of my kids didn't like fruits or vegetables didn't mean I didn't serve them.  We converted, as a family, to eating family meals together every night.  This meant I was eating what the kids did.  The kids were served more diverse foods and things they hadn't seen or liked before.  Tantrums ensued, but I pursued.  First #1 accepted onions in his food.  Then #1 and #2 started favoring spicy foods.  Seasoning became fun.  They fought over the pepper grinder.  #1 became open to eating bell peppers.  In his mind it was because they had the word pepper in them, so they were related to pepper.  This is where I knew it was a mental thing.  Really, as you and I know, bell peppers have nothing to do with pepper!  I mean, come on!  A small victory happened here.

Fast forward a year of refused meals, picking vegetables out of mixed meals, and so on.  #1 had dinner at a friend's house.  His next request floored me.  Could I please make broccolini and make sure it was well done.   Um, yah, of course I could.  In the same week I made a meal that had butternut squash and chard in it.  I figured squash tasted similar to the sweet potatoes he ate during Thanksgiving.  I must confess that I was playing on the fact he was colorblind.  I figured the chard would look brown and blend in with other parts.  I didn't count on him reading the recipe as I cooked.  He ate it anyway.  A few days later I made a yummy dish that included mushrooms.  He started to eat around them.  I asked him to think about trying them since he'd really been liking what I'd been making that week.  He ate them and said "mmmm, not bad".  #4 was watching him. 

Within a week or two, my picky-never touched/looked at-eater had quadrupled his vegetable repertoire.  I felt so accomplished.  Who am I kidding though?  It had taken over 6 years of struggles and trials.  I had never been in the position of working so long without a plan, trying to do the best I could.  Lucky for all of us that I am more stubborn than my children.  I know they get it from me, but for now, I hold the title.

What came next.....

Kale!  It wasn't far off from chard or broccolini.  I overcooked it, like the boy enjoyed.  We ALL enjoyed it.  Now, we have salad, maybe once a week and the kids fight over the rest of the kale chips.  Last night he even ate tomatoes on his sandwich.  I hope it doesn't take 6 years to get #4 on board. 

How much of our success was maturity?  Probably lots.  Both mine and the kids.  We are enjoying finding new favorite meals together.  I am so thankful we did not give up.  I am a believer.  Keep serving it, but not forcing it.  We have switched to family style.  Take what you will eat and you can always have more.  Say nothing if you don't like it.  We ask the kids to try each item but don't battle.  If they don't care for dinner, they don't get a second cup of milk.  The only thing we allow to be eaten other than dinner is bananas.  We are also thankful that our friends eat similarly to us.  We cannot control what our kids eat or are offered when not at home.  The kids trade and share lunches and snacks at school.  They learn to articulate their likes and dislikes when friend's parents offer foods.  They are exposed to things we may not eat.  Once again, it takes a village.

Now, I'm hungry, what's for dinner?!

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