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One of the biggest topics of conversation amongst moms over time has been eating. What do you feed your baby? When did you introduce solids? How often are you feeding? What is their favorite food? The list could be miles and miles long! Oftentimes, it is the first conversation you have with their pediatrician when they are hours old. It continues through the school age years and is oftentimes the first question asked when a health topic arises. What we eat can be linked to so many different things, and as parents, it is in our nature to want the best of the best for our kiddos, and it all starts with food!
I am blessed as a mom of 3 to have 66.6% of my children be “good” eaters. One has been a good eater since he was first introduced to solid foods. He literally will try anything, and I feel blessed every day that I don’t have to worry about how much he eats or what he is eating. Last week, he downed a whole package of seaweed with 10 ounces of almond milk and a pint of blackberries. He turned 2 less than a month ago. My daughter has always eaten a variety of foods but a bit more reluctantly and requires a bit of coaxing. That said, she still tries it and eats a wide variety of healthy foods.
Then there is my picky guy. When I say picky, I mean P.I.C.K.Y. I joke (it's actually relatively true though…) that he only eats brown, tan and orange foods. He is stubborn and absolutely NOT food driven. Even as a baby, when I had to be away from him for an extended period of time, he would just not eat and wait for me to get home to nurse him. I remember coming to get him from my mom’s house after a long 8 hour day of closing on our new house and moving, and he hadn’t had a single bottle. He flat out refused! Rewards barely work with him either- eat this, and you can have this. He’s like “yea-no thanks”.
If he had it his way, he would survive on ritz crackers, mac and cheese and an occasional granola bar. I’m not even kidding. He even gags sometimes when I put vegetables on his plate. He asks me to take them off his plate before he even sits down. Some nights it's more painful than others depending on how much he has eaten during the day.
So here’s what I have found can work with him. It's not 100% fail proof, but chances are, one of these strategies will get something from the non brown/orange category.
- Use a plate that makes them excited to eat. We use the Innobaby Din Din Smart Stainless Bus platter and also the Innobaby Silicone Chicken Plate. Not only are they both fun designs, but they both separate each food which is key in my picky eater’s world.
- Introduce “new” foods alongside familiars. Example: My son will eat ANYTHING that is a form of cheese. So, next to his cheese section, I will put something that can go with cheese, like cauliflower crackers or carrots. No joke, even though they are orange, he refused carrots until a few weeks ago. Finally, after MONTHS of putting carrots next to his cheese, he accepted them into his familiar foods group and now, he eats them every time!
- Celebrate victories, no matter how small. When my guy took a bite of a carrot a couple of weeks ago, I messaged his teacher (#crazymom) and told her just so that he knew that people were proud of his adventurousness. We also got a special FaceTime with Nana and Papa.
- Let your kiddo help make the menu. We usually give each of our three kiddos one day per week to choose what we are having for a meal. I give them 2-3 options and they get to pick. With my picky guy, I let him choose each part of dinner once per week. Example from this week: Turkey Burgers or Tacos, broccoli or carrots, rice or quinoa. He put together tacos, carrots, and rice. He even tried a taco (I almost choked on mine as I watched him dig into the homemade taco shells I made from a recipe by @alifefromscratch on Instagram.
- Happy Meal Night. Not what you think! Once per week, I home make a happy meal for the kids. I use our bus plates for this one. I cut up and peel apple slices, use my Cosori Air Fryer (if you don’t have one, get one- we use ours daily to cook, bake, toast, you name it!) to make Purdue Chicken Plus (has 1/4 cups of vegetables plus fiber in each serving- BONUS: you can cut them to look like dinosaur tails- my kid ask me which tail is which each time, so make sure you are a quick dino thinker). I also throw some cut russet potatoes in there as their “fries”. Each kiddo gets a mug of Almond Milk (we have a milk allergy to add to the feeding frenzy!) in our Innobaby Stainless Cups (they LOVE drinking out of these!) and I usually add some carrots for the middle guy. I throw either an old forgotten-about small toy or a sheet of stickers on top and pop it into their Aquaheat Lunch Bags (another must have for both kids and adults!) and hand them out. This has not gotten old, and they love it every time!
We are a work in progress. Someday, my kiddos will all likely eat us out of house and home, but for now, it’s a struggle, and for those of you with a kiddo like my middle guy, you know how hard mealtimes can be. I count my blessings daily that I have some good eaters and I take each picky eater victory as a win for the whole team.
So, solidarity, parents of picky eaters and good eaters alike. It's one of those parts of parenthood that no one warns you about, but that time will eventually fade and new challenges will arise. Until that time, I have learned to embrace the learning moments and to keep the consistency in such an inconsistent world!