Thursday, February 4, 2010

Training Picky Eaters

I have a picky kid... as far as food goes, anyway.

We've talked about nutrition. Oh, have we talked about it! We've made a chart to keep up with what he eats on a normal day. We've argued and fussed. We've given in at times and then other times we've forced him to eat. He's gone without food, by his choice, more times than I can count.

What's a mom to do?

Let me give you the low down on his preferences.

  • No condiments whatsoever. No ketchup, mustard, mayo, ranch dressing... nothing.
  • No milk in his dry cereal. (Which is fine now that we don't do much dry cereal anymore.)
  • No sauces except on spaghetti.
  • The only cheese he'll eat is on pizza. No mac-n-cheese for this kid: plain elbows only.
  • He won't touch smoothies. (Good place to hid leafy greens)
  • Don't even think about recommending a salad.
  • No seeds or nuts.
  • No eggs.
  • No yogurt.
  • He LOVES Black Eyed Peas with a passion, but they must be Bush's from a can. ("Mom, did you make these at home or are they from a can?")
  • No milk unless it's been made into chocolate milk.

On the good side, some of his pickiness has been good for him - he's not filled with HFCS from (our previous choices in) ketchup and the like. Gotta count your blessings, right?

And truthfully, a lot of his pickiness is our fault because he was raised on a processed foods diet and likes his food to be "the same" every time. Same texture, same taste, same shape... you get the picture. As our first child (and only one for a few years), he was able to voice his opinion about what we ate. Admittedly so, I catered to him.

Live. Learn. Move on and change.

I can't and won't cater to each child individually. Although they all like/dislike different things, we've come to a place where I cook and they eat or well, they don't... their choice. Witt is starting to show the same tendencies as Will did in regards to realizing he has an opinion and won't eat something just because he doesn't want to. Stubborn little booger(s). {grin}

Jeff came up with a great plan that really seems to work when we actually use it. We place small amounts of each food that has been prepared for the meal on their plates. This is the amount of food they are expected to eat until they can get more of their favorites. This really reduces food waste, too. There is no more bargaining or threatening. The "rules" are plain and simple.

It's always hard to know which direction to go with food "training".

On the one hand, I was taught to eat everything on my plate. If I took it, I was to eat it. That's still a battle for me even when I'm stuffed and shouldn't eat any more. I'm not saying that's a wrong standpoint to take; I just think that maybe the training needs to be modified to taking less and then to go back for a little more if you're still hungry.

Jeff (and his mother, too) always and I mean always leave at least a bite or two left on their plate. Drives me nuts! LOL! (see above paragraph) I don't think this was something she trained him to do, I think he just picked up the practice by watching her. If I were to implement that practice, I'd probably drop a few pounds... (food for thought!).

Then there is the idea of eating only when hungry. What if they aren't hungry at lunch time? Do I just wait until they are hungry to feed them? That's seems a little haphazard and plain crazy to me as the one who does the cooking, but it would definitely teach them to eat when hungry and not "just because".

I'm sure there are more theories on training kids to eat properly, but they all probably have their ups and downs with no clear cut solution. So...

What are the eating habits at your house? Any picky eaters? Please tell me I'm not the only one that struggles with this! :)

post signature


Melissa said...

not so picky here...but, we have always put a small spoonful (one bite, really) of "questionable" food on the plate and required that it be eaten. often they will either love what they thought they wouldn't and want more or eventually they will grow into certain tastes and textures, but it has to be gently encouraged along the way.

i agree that the "eat everything on your plate" rule is really just training for bad eating habits in the future.

another mealtime rule we have started is that you can have seconds after about 10-15 minutes - it is really hard for them to tell if their stomach feels full immediately after chewing the last bite. this also reduces waste as generally they will want to fill up the plate with a second serving and then begin to feel full after about two bites...grrr!

Janelle said...

Definitely one picky eater here, and others...depending on what we're eating :)

My theory has been repitition. The more they eat it, the more they will get used to it. Although, let's face it...we all have foods we dislike. I don't make lima beans for my family because I can't STAND them! I ate them as a kid (because I had to), and all that repitition did NOT make me like them. However, I did get used to other foods that way.

Like Melissa, we also start out with small portions. Once they eat all that, they can have more of whatever else they want. We dole out small 2nds, so they are for sure to eat that, and not suddenly decide that they are full.

I don't like the idea of cleaning your plate, either. I agree that it creates bad eating habits.

Scottish Twins said...

I love your small amounts on the plate idea. I may have to steal it :)

We do two large meals per day - breakfast and dinner. He is usually ravenous and licks his plate clean for breakfast. I found that when we gave him a huge lunch, he wouldn't eat dinner. So, we cut out lunch and now he does much better in the evenings.

During the day it's kind of a free for all. When he is hungry, he lets me know and I give him some snacks. He sort of grazes throughout the day - an apple here, some carrots there, half a sandwich, etc. But it seems to work well for him.

Gabe has always been a pretty good eater, but it seems like a switch flipped when he turned 2 and all of a sudden he won't touch anything green anymore. I have to hide it in ground beef in order to get him to eat it.

Shereen said...

Our rule is that our daughter has to eat 1 tbsp of everything we are having, and then if she is still hungry, she can have something else. We have tried hard to raise her to listen to her body, and not eat if she's not hungry. As a result, I have seen her put down desserts/cupcakes/etc. when they're only half done, because she's full. ;)

Anonymous said...

Becky Im sorry but I have to chime in on this one, being a picky eater myself. Actually Im ALOT like Will. No condiments of any kind, no sauces except spaghetti and pizza. I like only afew vegetables (more now than when I was a kid). But the point I wanted to make was that I noticed as I grew older I tried more things that I was not forced to try when I was a kid. Like onions I would never have tried onions when I was older but love them now. But I have a strong objection to any peas or beans because they were practically shoved down my throat when I was a kid. I believe that a persons taste for food develops as they grow older. So once a child has tried a food one time and doesnt like it they should not be made to eat it again. Like in Wills case I believe he is old enough and smart enough to know if he likes a food or not (after trying it once of course). Like I said I have been a picky eater all my life and I get a clean bill of health at each check up. Meal times should be something he looks forward to (spending time with family) not something that he hates and dreads.


Nadie said...

Hi, I came across your blog while looking up food allergies, and it interested me so much I started reading all the posts! When I reached this post I felt I have to say something - Will sounds a LOT like me during a certain stage as a child :p No condiments, no sauces, no 'toppings' (eg. maple syrup on pancakes etc), no seeds/nuts, no dishes that looked too 'syrupy'/too much gravy.. you get the idea. Anyway, my point is that I wasn't being a picky eater. Well, picky in a sense, but not how you'd think. The truth is, a lot of these foods simply had too strong a flavour for my palate. Children have way more sensitive taste buds than adults, and I totally agree with what Randi said about how taste for foods develop as a person grows older. As a child, I often opted for plain bread at restaurants over the pastas/whatever else the rest of my family was having..and while that may not have been most nutritious, I slowly grew to accomodate more and more foods as I got older, and I'm probably no worse for it today. Anyway, bottomline is, don't get too preoccupied over Will's current fussiness. My guess is that it's in part 'asserting his independence', but likely also because a lot of these foods are 'too much' for his palate right now. I'm sure your little man will grow up to be fine, and learn to eat new foods along the way (:

Also - completely disagree with the having to clear your plate rule as well. Bad eating habits!!