Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Picky Eaters

(I wrote this “piece” several months ago, for another website. I was about to retype it for my blog, but I figured I’d just “recycle” it. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.) ;o)

OK, before you start throwing things at me, let me give you some background.

I consider my daughter a picky eater. I feel like I can opine about something like this because I deal with it every day.

I also understand that there are reasons for some of our kids' eating "limitations" (i.e., food allergies, texture issues, strong taste issues, vegetarianism, etc).

But let me tell you a story or two...

Several years ago, I went to a friend's house for a barbecue. Everybody was bringing their own meat, but we all brought "sides to share" (like potato salad, macaroni salad, etc). I was in my friend's kitchen, and she was putting french fries in the oven. I asked her what they were for, and she said that her brother didn't eat any of the "regular" sides and that she had to put up french fries for him. The guy was an adult, mind you… When I asked her what made him so "picky" she told me that he was EXTREMELY limited in what he would eat and that it was her mother's fault. He would never try anything new, so she just made him the same stuff over and over again. (I think she said there were about 10 things total that he would eat.) I was pretty amazed.

About 3 years ago, we went to a friend's house for dinner. She was making a lovely meal for all of us...but she was also putting up chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese for her kids. (We're talking an 8 year-old and 11 year-old.) She told me that that's all they would eat, so she made it for them every day, and for any meal that they wanted.

Now, I've run into this myself. Becca will get on a kick of wanting the same thing every day for weeks on end. (Then she won't eat it again for a couple of months.) She's also the kind of kid who WILL NOT TRY SOMETHING because of the way it looks. (I still can't get the kid to eat mayonnaise, mustard, onions, or anything made with them.)

Now, I'm not advocating force-feeding kids (or threatening or bribing, for that matter), nor am I suggesting the "Mommy Dearest" method of, "You'll sit here until you clean everything off your plate and I'm going to serve it to you for every meal until you've eaten it!" Not at all.

But I resent the idea of being what one friend called, a short-order cook. I believe that when you make a family meal, you make what you make and that's what is put out for everyone to eat. (If I made what I like--and can eat--and what Becca likes and what Bob likes... I'd be making three totally separate meals!)

That all being said, Becca has gotten MUCH better as she's gotten older. She tries more things now (even if she doesn't like them in the end). I don't make separate meals, and I can take her anywhere and know that she won't starve to death. I actually did one thing that seems to have helped.

When she was younger and every day was a struggle, I would put a small amount of what I was making on her plate. (For instance... A small piece of pot roast, a plop of mashed potatoes and three green beans.) I'd also put something that I knew she really liked (and would eat) on her plate (like a string cheese stick or a cut up apple). If that's all she ate, then at least she ate something! And you know, as time went on, she DID start trying new things.

Also, they say that having kids participate in the cooking and preparing of foods can help (and that's worked with Becca too)...

Again, we must take into account that some kids have texture (and strong taste) issues. We also know kids who have severe food allergies. Some things just can’t be helped… Nothing is absolute.

A friend also brought to my attention the fact that some food “habits” can be attributed to genetics.

I still believe, though, that some of it is just due to choice. The choice of the child not to eat various different foods, and the choice of the parent(s) to “give in” or cater to the child. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time (and patience) to introduce new foods into a child’s diet.

Heck, isn’t it worth a try?

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