6 yr old picky eater-- how to handle gently - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 30 Old 09-14-2012, 02:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hey everyone! So first off, this isn't a thread to talk about "hiding" nutrients in smoothies or sauces... trust me, I've tried all the tricks. And have gotten great suggestion throughout the years from MDC! I'm more wondering how other mamas who have btdt have dealt with picky eating as to their own reactions to it.

 

My son is 6 and has been picky since he started eating solids. And I understand him. I was a picky eater, too, but not as extremely picky. I've noticed that throughout the years I've started to make family dinners that suit him, but it's a pretty short list of foods and DH and I would like to branch out a little. We miss eating anything that doesn't involve noodles or rice. I don't believe in forcing him to eat foods he "hates" but at the same time, I want him to eat dinner because if he doesn't, he'll wake up at 5 in the morning starving, wake us up, and that creates a rough morning for all involved. I've tried to gently encourage him to try new foods but he shuts me down. DH, who came from a "clean plate" family is less understanding that I am... and sometimes says things like... "if you don't eat a bite of mashed potatoes you won't get your book tonight". As much as I'm uncomfortable with that approach, sometimes it works, and he ends up liking that formerly disgusting food.  DH and I don't exactly see eye to eye, but he will defer to me. It's just that I'm not sure what approach I'm comfortable with. These are my options, I think:

 

-make whatever everyone else will enjoy for dinner, and if he doesn't eat it, he goes hungry

-same as above, and if he doesn't eat it, he can have a sandwich or something (maybe he'd have to make it himself?)

-continue to make dinners that suit him (again, this is only a noodle or rice dish, with the ingredients separated in some way)

-give him "rewards" or "punishments" for not eating (not cool with this...?) although we had a sticker chart for awhile and if he tried a bite of most things on his plate he'd get a sticker, now he doesn't care about stickers!

 

He eats a decent breakfast and lunch. Granola, whole grain cereal with milk, sprouted bread sandwiches, etc. We're vegetarians and he doesn't have an interest in meat (if he did, I would accomodate that). So I'm worried about his protein intake as he hates beans (used to eat raw tofu but doesn't anymore) so his only source is peanut butter and dairy, which he's getting picky about too. He's growing (always been 99th percentile for height/weight), so I know he's okay, but I worry about his energy level, which has always been sluggish. He doesn't have any food allergies or other health issues.

 

So, how would other mamas handle this gently?


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#2 of 30 Old 09-14-2012, 06:51 PM
 
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Have you seen the blog It's Not About Nutrition? One of her suggestions is to have a single food alternative to the family dinner. In the case of their child it was cottage cheese but it can be anything which fits the criteria. The criteria are that the child has to like it but not love it so it's not always the more attractive option, it has to be something you can always have available and be nutritious enough that you don't mind the child eating it instead of dinner.

So, when your child doesn't want the dinner you've made s/he can have cottage cheese. It means that they don't go hungry but they're also not refusing food in order to get more desirable treat-type foods.

It isn't something I've tried yet but it seems like a good idea to me.

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#3 of 30 Old 09-14-2012, 08:15 PM
 
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I just try to keep foods I know my daughter will like on hand for her to eat if she won't eat dinner.  Ramen with veggies and fruit on the side is always an option, ham and cheese sandwich with baby carrots, or just ham and cheese and applesauce.  It doesn't even have to be a full sandwich.  I also try to make sure it's something she can fix herself, adapting to what's age appropriate.  At ten, my daughter can prepare plenty of simple foods that she is willing to eat.  

 

I think the one taste or one bite idea is just fine.  I don't like the "clean your plate" approach.  

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#4 of 30 Old 09-15-2012, 07:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the suggestions ladies. My son is able to make sandwiches himself so I might just do that as a dinner alternative. He also has access to apples and bananas (the two fruits he likes) so that can be the side.


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#5 of 30 Old 09-16-2012, 11:55 AM
 
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-make whatever everyone else will enjoy for dinner, and if he doesn't eat it, he goes hungry

I would go with this; and also add bread on the table; if he doesn't like anything, he can still have bread and not go hungry.

Offering food that you, the parent, enjoy is important, even if he doesn't eat it yet, because it gives him a chance to expand his food preferences. If you only offer food he likes, you limit his choices.

 

It takes time and patience.

 

Here's my favourite website on nutrition: http://www.ellynsatter.com/the-picky-eater-i-43.html

 

"

Do a good job with feeding. Have regular meals and structured snacks so your child can be hungry but not starved at mealtime. Have family meals, and make those meals a pleasure and a privilege, not a chore. To keep meals positive, don’t pressure her in any way to eat.

  • Teach her to say “no, thank you" rather than "YUK." Have her leave the table if she behaves badly.
  • Be family friendly with meals. Pair unfamiliar with familiar food, not-yet-liked with liked foods. Don't make special food for her.
  • Be sure to put one or two foods on the menu that she ordinarily eats. Bread and milk would work.
  • Let her pick and choose from what you put on the table, even if she eats five slices of bread and nothing else.
  • Teach her to use her napkin to get food back out of her mouth when she discovers she doesn't want to swallow. (Teach yourself this trick, as well. It will make you braver about trying new food!)

Avoid feeding errors.

  • Failing to have structured meals and snacks and/or letting her eat or drink (except for water) whenever she wants to between times.
  • Talking about your child’s food likes and dislikes.
  • Limiting the menu to food your child readily accepts.
  • Putting pressure in any way on her eating.

"


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#6 of 30 Old 09-16-2012, 07:40 PM
 
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I completely understand the idea of not wanting the child to be hungry, but also not making special foods at dinner time dilemma. 

 

We've been using the Satter method, and I think it makes a lot of sense.  One thing that she suggests is to always put something on the table that the child likes and can fill up on if they don't love the rest of the dinner, like bread.  The other idea that has been helping us, is limiting snacks.  The kids can't get their own snacks whenever they want anymore.  I put them out between meals.  That way, I can offer them the things they need in their diet (like protien-rich foods), and they don't fill up on whatever it is that is easy for them to eat (like fruit).

 

We're vegetarians too, and I think that during their early years I was worried about them not getting adequate nutrition (even though I logically know that a vegetarian diet is healthy.)  So I overcompensated and let them eat whatever and whenever they wanted, as long as it was healthy.  That way, I never let them get hungry enough to try new foods.  And now they are picky eaters.  Sigh. 

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#7 of 30 Old 09-17-2012, 10:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The Satter method is intriguing and I will definitely read more about it!

 

We need to cut down on snacks as well. I try to only let them have one snack after school but usually an hour or two later they are clamoring for more food and dinner is still a couple hours wait. We get home from school around 3 and dinner is usually around 7 (when DH gets home) and that's a long time for little stomachs to wait, or at least they think so!


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#8 of 30 Old 09-17-2012, 10:36 AM
 
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The Satter method is intriguing and I will definitely read more about it!

 

We need to cut down on snacks as well. I try to only let them have one snack after school but usually an hour or two later they are clamoring for more food and dinner is still a couple hours wait.

Try to find something filling and let them eat as much as they want. Like crackers with peanut butter or cheese, dry fruit and nuts or seeds, I also offer milk and cookies (don't know if you are comfortable with this option). If they have 3 hours or more until dinner, they WILL get hungry again and they will eat.

 

It's important imo not to limit quantities, provided they have enough time until dinner to get hungry again. And to offer something filling. I usually offer only fruit or yoghurt as an after-school snack, but my ds gets home at 4:30 and we have dinner around 6:30, so we have only 2h in between.


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#9 of 30 Old 09-18-2012, 06:42 AM
 
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My DH and I both came from a "clean plate" family and Ellyn Satter saved our sanity. 


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#10 of 30 Old 09-20-2012, 10:41 AM
 
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Luckily my children aren't terribly picky, though I do have a child with dietary restrictions due to fructose intolerance, so I hear you about missing foods that someone else in the family can't eat.  Because of my own really horrid memories of dinner times as a child, I decided that a pleasant family dinner time was more important than the actual food. But it was also important that I got to enjoy dinner as well and that the kids weren't hungry.  So our approach has been as follows and it has worked really well.  My kids are 9 and 13 and they eat just about anything, family meals are a highlight of our days and they both enjoy preparing food.  I'm willing to call this an area of success for us.  We generally eat breakfast and dinner according to this plan -- lunches are a whole different ball game.

 

*  At the beginning of the week, during menu planning, I ask everyone if they have any requests for meals during the next week.  I try to include everyone's reasonable request (no, crab legs are not a reasonable request -- you can request that on your birthday...)  If there are budget limitations (and there have been for the last couple of years), I try to do a little money management/budget awareness education around grocery trips.  My personal goal is to try one new recipe a week so there is generally something new in the mix.  We are foodies so get about 4 food-oriented magazines a month and try things from them all.

 

*  DH and I trade who is preparing meals based on lots of considerations but generally it's about a 50/50 split.  But regardless of who is preparing the meal, we prepare one family meal for everyone.  The cook never prepares anything for a single person.  Sometimes something like a really spicy sauce might be left to the side for everyone to add their own amount but that's about it.

 

*  If you don't like all or part of the meal, you are free to eat something else but *you* have to fix it.  My kids could make a PB&J sandwich by the time they were 3 (cleaning it up was a different matter...)  General rules are that it has to be nutritious, it has to be the same type of thing you don't like (so protein for protein, fruit or veggie for veggie).

 

*  Everyone has to sit down at the table and say grace.  After that, if you truly aren't hungry you may get up and do whatever.  But when you are hungry you have to prepare your own meal.  If you didn't eat any dinner you need to eat something "real" before dessert.  Dessert is separate from dinner and is a more individual thing.

 

*  You can decide you don't like something based on taste, smell, texture, appearance, whatever.  I won't force even one bite since I know that some smells instantly turn me off and the kids have the same right to react to something other than taste as I do.  But you may not make snide/nasty comments (no "yuck" or "ewww" or "gross").

 

*  New dishes get evaluated at the end of dinner with everyone getting a say in whether it gets repeated.  Generally I only repeat things that at least 3 of 4 of us liked.

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#11 of 30 Old 09-20-2012, 07:29 PM
 
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Have you tried involving him in the food prep/cooking & choosing recipes?  I find that when my kids have been the sous chefs for a meal, or selected the recipe (we get a lot of cookbooks, especially kids cookbooks with photos, from the libray) they are more interested in eating the results.  Both my kids have been peeling, chopping sauteeing, etc. since aorund 4 y.o.

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#12 of 30 Old 09-20-2012, 07:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks ladies!! Some really good recs in here and I appreciate them all.

 

Evan&Anna's_Mom I think I might exactly copy what your family does! We also make the kids sit down with us for a little while to chitchat a little, and then if they're not hungry they can take their plate to the kitchen and be excused.

 

MAMom, my kids are off and on into helping me cook. They really love baking but that might be because they will definitely LOVE the end results! I think I need to be better about trying to involve them in the cooking process. Not only will they be more invested in the end result but I also want to raise boys that turn into men who know their way around the kitchen.


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#13 of 30 Old 09-21-2012, 08:35 AM
 
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As much as I try to accomodate my children's likes and dislikes, I would be pretty upset if all my girls ate for dinner was bread.  I have a child who WOULD fill up on bread and skip her whole dinner every single night.  She wouldn't try new things.  I don't think that offering an alternative like bread is the way to go honestly.  That only compounds the problem.  I do understand trying not to make food a battle or a reward but putting out bread and making it a viable alternative and letting them eat 5 or 6 slices of that seems like just ignoring the issue.

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#14 of 30 Old 09-21-2012, 08:55 AM
 
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As much as I try to accomodate my children's likes and dislikes, I would be pretty upset if all my girls ate for dinner was bread.  I have a child who WOULD fill up on bread and skip her whole dinner every single night.  She wouldn't try new things.  I don't think that offering an alternative like bread is the way to go honestly.  That only compounds the problem.  I do understand trying not to make food a battle or a reward but putting out bread and making it a viable alternative and letting them eat 5 or 6 slices of that seems like just ignoring the issue.


They WILL tire of bread. They WILL try new things. It might take weeks but it will happen. You just need to trust them, not accommodate them.

How do you think human beings have survived until now? I don't remember my grandmother forcing (or begging, or pleading with) me to eat anything, yet I enjoyed her meals tremendously. Kids learn to enjoy food that adults eat, if we provide structure and opportunity.

It not the food that we eat that makes us fat, but the fact that we've lost touch with our inner regulations of hunger and satiety because we've been told what and how much we are supposed to eat since we were little.

 

My little girl loves meat. Two days ago I offered wraps for lunch, buffet style. Of course she had nothing but chicken on hers. But she compensated with fruit for the afternoon snack, vegetable soup for dinner and more fruit the next day. I could have insisted that she put some salad and tomatoes on her wrap, or count the number of bites, etc. but in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn't have made any difference, other than completely turning her off vegetables for the next weeks (or months!). Last week she tried a slice of tomato (I was shocked) but she didn't get any special praise or stickers for it. Food just is. They eat how much and what feels good for their body.

 

A positive attitude towards food is more important for me than any amount or type of food that my kids eat on a given day.


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#15 of 30 Old 09-21-2012, 11:21 AM
 
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A positive attitude towards food is more important for me than any amount or type of food that my kids eat on a given day.

 

This.  And I think the long-term perspective is really key for us to lean back and let the process unfold.  If I watched what my kids did (or didn't eat) at every single eating occasion in isolation, then I would probably drive myself crazy (OK, craziER) worrying about it.  But if I look at at the whole day or, better yet, the whole week then things seem much more balanced.  The truth is that I don't always have a perfectly balanced meal either -- a sandwich and Dt. Coke sitting at my computer working through lunch really isn't all that balanced.  But its what I do often.

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#16 of 30 Old 09-21-2012, 12:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I can understand not wanting to offer bread as a valid dinner but I agree with the PPs. I was a picky eater when I was a kid and there were years that I lived off only noodles with maybe some celery sticks thrown in. I didn't start to *really* expand my palate until high school, and then moreso once I left home and had to cook for myself. I grew just fine (actually am the tallest in my family somehow), had a good amount of energy, and I have a healthy relationship with food as an adult. So I think my parents were right to just let me do my thing, within reason.


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#17 of 30 Old 09-21-2012, 10:10 PM
 
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one of the things to keep in mind too is to realise the importance of taste. 

 

i have seen dd go through this quite often. right now anything bitter is off her plate. no matter how mild the bitter taste. and squash.

 

i really think taste has an impact on kids which we are not aware of. and textures too. things they are unable to explain to us even when they have words. 

 

many cultures have survived on v. little variety. i think some of our kids are like that. 

 

food personalities are so different. 

 

for instance dd survived on bm till she was 2. she was a great eater. ate a lot of variety. but till she was 2 she maybe ate 2 ounces of solid food a day. 

 

and then she started daycare. she would eat things there she would not eat at home. the owner told me she would cook the same beans at home, and her dd would refuse them. 

 

i am not sure if variety of food is the best. 


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#18 of 30 Old 09-22-2012, 06:21 AM
 
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I slightly disagree with PP. In my experience, when I truly backed off from interfering in what and how much the kids ate, they started being more adventurous with food. Both dd and ds tried hot peppers as toddlers (and decided they didn't like it). Ds likes raw onion in salads, which is not something many kids his age like. And I could go on.

 

We assume that when we stop interfering they will be condemned to a lifetime of eating only bread. But in my experience, and from what I've read, the kids push themselves to eat and like what their parents eat as long as we provide them with opportunity and structure. 
 


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#19 of 30 Old 09-29-2012, 07:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So for the past week we've offered bread with peanut butter as a substitute for dinner if dinner is icky to the kids. Although we do encourage them to try what's on their plate first. So far it's worked great. My 6 yr old has surprised me a few times and has tried foods previously considered to be ghastly. We also offer carrots, apples, bananas, basically whatever easy raw veggies/fruit on hand that he likes.


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#20 of 30 Old 09-30-2012, 07:49 AM
 
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Ah, the small victories! My dd tackled another tomato slice this past week and my ds had a bite of liver (!), of their own accord.

 

Glad to read your update.


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#21 of 30 Old 09-30-2012, 07:54 AM
 
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When dd was little she was very wary of new foods.  We did the smell, lick, taste method.  Basically she had to at least smell it.  Then if she agreed it smelled ok she had to touch it to her tongue.  If that was ok, she would take a small taste of the food.  For some reason this worked with her and she's a kid who doesnt' do anything she doesn't want to do.  

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#22 of 30 Old 10-01-2012, 08:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Ooh tomatoes and liver! Movin' on up in the world!


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#23 of 30 Old 10-01-2012, 02:18 PM
 
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OMG -- one of my worse childhood memories ever (and the reason that I handle food the way I do for my kids) revolves around liver.  Just thinking about it still makes me ill to this day.  More power to you if your child will try it!
 

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#24 of 30 Old 10-01-2012, 02:39 PM
 
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LOL, and I haven't even mentioned that he should try it! Both me and dh like liver and we have it about once a month; ds asked for a bite and decided he didn't like it shrug.gif
 


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#25 of 30 Old 10-02-2012, 04:40 PM
 
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There are 7 people in my house, so this is probably easier for me to do, but I make more than one dish if I'm making something I'm not sure about or know full well somebody doesn't really like. And by that I mean that they have tried it, more than once, and consistently do not like that item. I make smaller amounts of a couple different things. It works really well for allowing DH and I more spicy and 'exotic' fare while not forcing the kids to eat it or starve. In our house, with 4 kids, it's difficult to find an alternative that's nobody's "love" and everybody's "like" to do an alternative food. I also put many separate items on the table sometimes. For example there might be a stir fry, a separate bowl of rice, maybe some lo mein type noodles, maybe not, and a salad or some plain cut veggies and dip. That way, a child can take a small bit of the stir fry, put their rice separate with soy sauce if they want to, and find a veggie they like. They may just end up eating vegetables and rice, but it's still OK. I also make easy accomodations like a hot sauce on the side for those who want to spice it up, or a dish of raw onions on the table for those who want to mix it in their portion of the salad. I have only a few requirements. One is that they come to the table and eat if I know they have not recently eaten. (occasionally dinner ends up pretty close to an after-school snack and I will let the kids eat closer to bedtime and enjoy DH's company. ;)) The second requirement is no rude comments. The third is that you eat what you put on your plate before you take seconds on anything. The fourth--if it's a new food, or one I know they're rejecting by look, they're asked to take a small bit and taste it. (this doesn't apply-again-to stuff I know they don't like, such as I know my 5 year old does not eat raw onions, so if they're in the salad, I don't push it. DH sometimes just puts it in.)

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#26 of 30 Old 10-02-2012, 04:53 PM
 
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Very calmly tell him:

 

I serve dinner. Eat what you liek out of it or not. Or go to bed hungry. We are not longer dicussing it.

 

IF you wake up hungry at 5 am, DO NOT WAKE US UP. Go to the kitchen and make yourself a bow of cereal. Or cup of yougurt.

 

My teaching your kid how not to be a picky eater, you will give him a great gift.

 

Along with above, go and shop together for groceries. Then cook together. Kids are more likely to eat what they made.

 

Do not be a short order cook for your child and do not give him an idea that family menu is changed for him.  I see products of that sort of upbrining coming ton dinner at my house ll the time and either staying hungry or demanding "Pasta with butter like my mom makes".

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#27 of 30 Old 10-02-2012, 06:28 PM
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It may help you to know that there is a "picky" gene:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/science-picky-eaters.html

 

Also, I try to treat my children like I would treat myself or dh, when possible.  (Of course, that's not always possible.)

When I don't want to eat something, or when dh doesn't want to eat something, we allow ourselves other choices.  So, I allow my kids other choices, too.  

 

And I've found that having a large garden (and letting the kids help in it) goes a long way toward their willingness to eat fruits/veggies!  Fresh, organic, homegrown produce tastes so much better than anything you could get in a store.  (Farmers' markets are a close second.)

 

Would your son eat eggs?  Hard-boiled eggs are relatively mild and a great source of protein.  Or how about yogurt?  


"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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#28 of 30 Old 10-03-2012, 10:34 AM
 
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Originally Posted by peaceful_mama View Post

For example there might be a stir fry, a separate bowl of rice, maybe some lo mein type noodles, maybe not, and a salad or some plain cut veggies and dip. That way, a child can take a small bit of the stir fry, put their rice separate with soy sauce if they want to, and find a veggie they like. They may just end up eating vegetables and rice, but it's still OK. I also make easy accomodations like a hot sauce on the side for those who want to spice it up, or a dish of raw onions on the table for those who want to mix it in their portion of the salad.

This is what I do. I call it "modular" cooking. It works with our family - one omnivore (me), one (cow) dairy-free DH, one vegetarian/pescatarian DD, and one DD we jokingly call "separatarian" - she will eat a variety of meat, dairy, fruits and mostly uncooked vegetables, but pretty much unsauced/unspiced and separate. No one is allowed to call each other's food gross. Sometimes they can make themselves an alternative if they truly don't want what we're having. And we also have DD2 try a bite of new foods now and then. She has been branching out lately, so I think it's good to continue that.

 

I get what Alenushka is saying, and I think to some extent she's right, but I don't go quite that far. If I'm serving something I know DD2 has eaten before & is fine with - too bad, that's dinner. Same with other kids who come over - I offer pretty common foods, like pasta, and if they don't like it or it isn't just like home? shrug. On the other hand, DD2 is a kid who refused all solids until about 10 mos. old, is very sensitive to smells, and I have seen her physically gag on certain tastes. I have that reaction with one food - caraway - which tastes so strong to me and truly makes me feel like I am going to hurl, although everyone else tells me it's a "mild" flavor. That sort of thing I am willing to accommodate short of making totally separate meals (I would do that for medical conditions, but that isn't the majority of cases).


Mom "D" to DD1 "Z" (14) and DD2 "I" (11) DH "M"

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#29 of 30 Old 10-03-2012, 11:51 AM
 
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I know people have already mentioned Ellyn Satter, but I just wanted to chime in my love of her. I saw her speak once at a WIC conference and she is just as great in person as she is on paper. My favorite of her books is How to Get Your Kid to Eat: But Not Too Much.

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#30 of 30 Old 10-06-2012, 09:32 PM
 
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I am very sceptical about picky genes.. Do you see picky kids in refugee camps? Litte Sibirian villages? etc etc etc. No, of course not.

 

Genes are not everything.

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