Saturday, November 20, 2010

Picky Eating Regime

I've got a little girl who's just learning what it means to eat.  Up until now, the majority of her diet has been liquid, there for the sweet drinking.  Now she's got to face a world of new textures, tastes, smells, skills, and even rules (such as "food goes in mouth, not in hair"). I have found myself already wondering what the balance between discipline and grace should be in this issue.  As another friend put it, what's our goal?  To raise obedient kids?  Thankful kids?  Non-picky eaters? Healthy eaters?  All of the above?  If so, to what extent of each?  This little article is (my first!) a guest post by Heather Mora Wood, a mama of three with much experience on both sides of this subject.  I found her story extremely helpful and reasonable, and thought this voice of experience might help moms in a similarly unfamiliar situation as my own.  Please feel free to add your own thoughts and experiences!

My children, (3,7,11) will eat almost everything and I pretty much don't ever hear the words "I don't like it" from them. The way I raised them was as a baby we started with the most disliked veggies and sweetened it up from there moving into fruits. I've always produced 1 meal for everyone to eat and would give a small amount of the new stuff for them to try. They had to eat everything on their plate, which was portioned out according to the normal amount they ate (to avoid overeating), and if it wasn't eaten then, it would transfer to the next meal. I would mix it with what ever we had at the next meal, with whatever was appropriate, and we'd talk about those starving kids in Africa. It also helped that we had a friend who literally grew up eating out of garbage cans and I could point out how blessed we are. I also exposed them to TONS of styles of food. The way I cook is basically by choosing the ethnicity for the day and make food according to it. And restaurant exposure is the same: tons of variety. From Thai to Mexican, from African to French, from Italian to Greek, they've tried it all and liked it! I've also been kinda strict on sauces. I expect them to try things "naked" before adding sauce, so they can learn the flavor on its own. I also have them help me in the kitchen so they see where food comes from. Most importantly, I didn't let anyone say that they didn't like something around them! I call them gourmet babies.

NOW, the opposite. My little sister came to live with me for a month and wouldn't eat anything except hamburgers, fries, noodles and some fruits plus tomatoes or carrots. She was the ultimate picky! She didn't even like bananas or pbj! She went through the drama about how she wouldn't eat what I prepared and I'd explain that as long as she lived with me she'd be eating what I made every meal. No choice. SO, for a few days she wouldn't eat anything. She drank water. Then she got brave enough to try things. For about a week it was gag this, throw-up that, cry about it all, I want something different. That's when I realized it truly was mental and will against will. I was going to win this battle I decided! My plan: trash can was her new best friend, we turned it into a game, and I put rules into play.

Rule number 1: she had to try everything on her plate at least once. If she threw it up, she'd have to take another bite. It had to be swallowed to count.
Rule number 2: she couldn't get up from the table until she did. I would sit with her while the rest of the family went on with their day (and to make sure she wasn't lying about the bites.) 
Rule number 3: I gave her different ways to try to get the food down and she could use all or some of them as long as they helped her accomplish her goal but NO WHINING (including pinching her nose so the taste wasn't as strong, chasing her bite with a huge glass of water, pretending like it was her favorite food and eating blindly, racing someone at the table to swallow the bite first, etc.) (Whining resulted in discipline.)
Rule number 4: If she could eat everything on her plate (which was baby portioned,) she was given a special dessert that she liked. 

It took about 2 1/2 weeks before she was eating along side us without whining and rarely throwing up! She learned to try everything without preconceived opinions and appreciate each item for what it was. We also started learning more about why to eat the different foods, like the vitamins in them. So she was making better choices also because she knew it was healthier for her body (and she's a sporty girl.) She was gradually allowed to start making educated opinions about certain foods that she seriously had tried but really didn't like, but they were few. She grew to love some foods she had hated, like bananas and pbj! Most importantly, she became more obedient learning through this experience that I had wanted to do what as best for her and better for her. She was grateful to now know what things like turkey, smoothies and cheese tasted like. 

So, to sum it up...yes, it will be hard work to fix but I do believe that most children's issues with certain foods are simply about who holds the power. The texture issue can always be resolved by turning it into a different texture, such as smoothie, cookie, casserole, soup, etc. Be creative and try what you know will work for your child and be prepared for a little vomit! :o)

Heather is passionate about equipping parents to deal with aplastic anemia, which her son Josef has struggled through and from which he is now enjoying remission (praise the Lord!).

1 comment:

Leslie said...

I read a great book early in Jameson's "learning to eat" stage... Child of Mine: Feeding your child with love and good sense... I think Jameson is a great eater too!