Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Picky, Picky, Picky

I used to brag about Brynna's eating habits. I mean it. She was fed practically nothing but Mexican from the time she was old enough to eat what we were eating (my favorite restaurant or my favorite recipe, whichever). She would eat just about any vegetable, absolutely any fruit and if she didn't like something, you could throw some cheese on it and she would wolf it down.

Now... Not so much. Which just goes to show, you should never brag too loudly about your kids, they will shoot you down in a blaze of engine oil and severed wings.

She's not really what you would call a bad eater. She's not one of those kids who will only eat mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. But she has some pretty firm limits. Her favorite foods, other than mac and cheese (from a box - she will not eat homemade mac and cheese) and chicken nuggets are green beans, scrambled eggs, string cheese, and jambalaya. Yep, I'm not making that last one up. Jambalaya - with sour cream on top. (Okay, I know that's not exactly traditional, but she thinks it's too hot without it and kinda, I agree, and she will eat a whole freaking bowl with just a little dab of sour creamy goodness, so I'm not saying no.)

She hates french fries. And caramel dip. And cheese. I don't get the cheese thing. She like cheese on her tacos, she likes string cheese or cheese cubes, but don't even THINK about putting cheese on a sandwich or, I don't know, a cheeseburger, because she will totally melt down.

She hates new things. I made gazpacho (because I am a glutton for punishment) and she ate the world's littlest bite and declared she would be having peanut butter and jelly.* The thing is, if I had called it cold tomato soup, she might have eaten it. If I make up a name that makes it sound more familiar, she's usually okay. She won't eat Mexican casserole, but she could live off of Mexican lasagna and they're the same damn thing.

Nine times out of ten, she eats what we eat, but when I've got something I know she'll love (not like gazpacho - that was just stupid) and she won't even try it, it's frustrating.

I know that kids are just like this. I know that kids go through these stages. I also know that I had a roommate in college who would not eat any vegetables period, except corn and potatoes. Can you even count potatoes? I imagine she's still like that.

The thing is, I don't care if she has strong tastes and doesn't eat what she doesn't like. I get that. I don't like red meat and I don't care what you put on top of it, I'm not eating a steak. But I want her to be an adventurous eater. I want her to try new things and enjoy food. I don't like brussel sprouts, but I will gladly try a new preparation, because I might like it better than the last. I want her to be able to make healthy choices, or you know, just choices.

* The rule is that if you take a bite of everything and don't like any of it, then you can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after everyone else has eaten.


Suze said...

You wouldn't believe the stuff we've been through with food. (Short of allergies, that is. I have a friend whose whole family is off gluten, and her younger daughter can't have dairy, either. Sheesh.) Anyway, my kids are pretty picky in really strange ways, and while it's improving, it's still difficult to feed them. I'm not even trying for a balanced diet until they're a little older, as awful as that sounds.

I like your PBJ rule, though. We'll have to try that out.

Jessi said...

It works for us. You know, it's such a fine line. I feel like I'd be doing her a disservice teaching her to eat even when she doesn't want to, but you can't give them what they want all the time or they'll never learn to eat anything else.

We have a saying, "Sometimes you're going for good nutrition and sometimes a full belly is enough."

Mrs. Allroro said...

I like your pbj rule, too. I hear another good rule is serve it 12 times, and if they still don't like it, you can stop serving it to them. My friend has a daughter who has tried tomatoes 12 times and still doesn't like them, so she doesn't make her try them anymore. (I hope she is able to try them when she's a little older.)

Anyway, Dr. Oz (the Oprah doctor) said it makes evolutionary sense(spell check didn't catch it, so I guess it's a word) that little kids prefer bland foods because they are safe (no poisonous berries, you know), and that they should start eating better as they get older. I know I was in college before I became an adventurous eater, and that's because I felt convicted by God to eat more than white rice and mac and cheese. I think it's partly because I wasn't exposed to a lot of foods growing up and didn't know what I liked (didn't eat out much, etc).

I think as long as you are asking her to try things every time, she will learn to like new things.

Be careful about allergies--my sister's mother in law wouldn't eat rice as a child because it "burned", turned out she was allergic, and spinach does the same to my mom (burns in her mouth). So listen for things like that.

I don't remember reading what Brynna's school does about lunch, but when I taught at a preschool that brought in lunch every day (kids didn't have to bring lunch from home), some parents said that their kids became much better eaters through that, probably partly through watching other kids eat what they were afraid to try. The kids who continued to bring their lunch every day didn't benefit at all from that. One boy still ate nothing but 'Nilla wafers and peanut butter every day. (His parents said they were choosing their battles.)

And from what I hear, there's nothing wrong with giving different names to food. I had a student who brought carrots and called them "sweet sticks". I guess her mom thought "as long as she's eating carrots..."

That was a big comment. Once again, I should say, I'm not a mom.

Jessi said...

Sweet sticks, I like that. We have halloween fries, which are baked sweet potato fries.

I hadn't thought about the evolutionary sense of choosing bland foods.

In her Montessori, the kids bring their own lunch every day, but it has to meet a series of requirements (all four food groups, no dessert, no white starches, etc.), so that really hasn't helped me that much, except that now she prefers wheat bread. But, they do have "tastings" of food according to units and that has opened up her palate a little, especially about weird fruits that I probably never had until college.

Suze said...

One of the exasperating things about Daniel is that he often won't try anything new unless he sees another kid eat it, like his best friend (who eats every vegetable known to man, even kholrabi) and his 2yo cousin Charlie. But then if I serve said vegetable the very next day, prepared just how he liked it the first time, he refuses to try it. We have to work really hard to convince him. It's hard because I don't want to make it a huge issue (like Ann said, choose your battles) but about half the time if he takes one bite, he'll take more. It's that first bite that's the biggest hurdle for him.

Jessi said...

Wow! Even I won't eat kholrabi. You know, I am forever grateful to your mom for getting me outside my food box. She made me try so many new things - to this day, it's the only place I've ever had just plain sliced avocado, which is how I like it best. But the two things I had at your house that I won't be having again are Swiss Chard and Kohlrabi.

Sleepless In KL said...

have you tried cutting up food in small pieces and serving them with toothpicks? this works for my kids sometimes.