FEEDING THE FINICKY
My family appreciates a ‘healthy appetite’, to my mother that meant what ever she put on the table was gobbled up. Future son-in-laws were also judged more on what and how much they ate than ….anything else. The real test was stuffed calamari with spaghetti. As we had been eating this dish forever, it didn’t seem weird to us, but my mother knew that most likely the potential new member of the family probably hadn’t seen it before. They might go for the spaghetti but the little stuffed torpedo bodies of the squid were quite exotic and the tendrils were down right sci-fi. The one son-in-law who politely refused was always considered a bit weird and picky to my mom, so years later when my sister and his daughter also pushed food around the plate without actually eating anything it didn’t go unnoticed by my mother who declared in a whisper to me in the kitchen: ”she takes after her father”.
I now have a finicky grandson of my own, he is 5 and all he wants to eat is donuts. One of my sisters also has a picky grandson who is now 9 and he lives on nuggets from a fast food chain. His parents always hit the drive through to pick up his meal on his way to my sister’s house or they used to give him a box of animal crackers when they got to her house so that he could fill up before the meal was served. This child is always sick, anemic, very thin and lethargic. His younger brother has a ‘healthy appetite’ and is very healthy and athletic.
I’m lucky, my 2-year-old granddaughter has a healthy appetite and I have her and Donut all to myself all day Saturdays and they have dinner with me on Tuesday nights without their parents. So this is how I have turned Donut around in three months:
- I introduced them to plates of food for them to assemble themselves that are fun characters. This first step in cooking, handling food, got them used to the texture and the aroma of vegetables. I sometimes put a dip on the table with them and they nibble while they create these fun meals. The soon-to-be-released cookbook: Let’s Play With Food for 2-7 year olds are of the plates of food cartoons, this website is http://www.letsplaywithfood.com click on the ‘contact us’ page to be notified when the cookbook is released.
- We also tell stories that relate to the character we’re eating which takes the focus off of how much they’re eating and encourages communication skills and imagination.
- Engage the child in making the food they’re eating; this allows them to see what it is and solves the mystery.
- Children (especially boys) like tools so I have safe tools for them to assist me with in the kitchen, like a cupped chopping block with a mezza-luna (half moon shaped blade that isn’t sharp enough to cut fingers) to cut herbs. The bonus of them plucking and chopping the herbs is that the aroma stimulates their appetite and I make it a game of remembering which herb is which.
- Include food that they already like with new food for them to taste so that they will eat without having to be pushy. They may need to see and smell a new food a few times before they get used to it enough to like it.
- I take them to the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, the vendors often give them samples and I let them decide what fruit we should get, when they help pick out food they’re more likely to eat it. Make it a lesson in color, texture, and flavor when we’re not sitting at the table and keep mealtime casual in conversation.
- Donut now says ‘no thank you’ instead of ‘yuk, that looks nasty’. Keeping the tone more positive goes a long way with picky eaters. Have them set the table with paper napkins so that they can spit food they don’t like into it; this takes pressure off of trying something they think they might not like.
- Sneak nutritious items into a dish that I know they like, for example vegetables in pasta or rice, tofu in a milkshake.
- Don’t saying: “you’re not going to like that” when trying something that they might not like, there are flavors that they may grown to like and they may surprise you and like it.
- Remember that children have hungry days, not hungry days, days that they like something and days they don’t like the same something they liked yesterday. Don’t take it personal. Remember that your role is the provider and that they have control of what and how much they’re going to eat.
Obviously kids eat what their parents eat, so take a close look at the snack foods that are in the house and what your meals consist of. Are snacks or desserts replacing meals? What’s your pattern with vegetables?
Children’s taste buds are being developed when they start eating solid foods, these preferences establish life long eating habits. Be conscience of what you bring home to be eaten, even treats can be healthy. I have come to define a ‘healthy appetite’ as one that compliments a body’s needs for nutrition.A ‘healthy appetite’ requires an awareness that what you eat makes every single cell in your body behave in it’s natural healthy force or turns those cells into a force against your good health.
One day, when Donut told me that he wanted donuts for lunch (after he told me he wanted donuts for breakfast) I explained to him that my letting him decide what he was going to eat would be like my letting his sister drive a car. He laughed and we made a car out of organic ground Angus beef for lunch, and he loved it and ate the whole thing, bumpers and all.