I remember a simpler time when I first introduced solid foods to my baby girl. As many parents do, I used the old “the choo choo’s coming into the station” trick to get her to open wide and taste that yummy gooey goodness that was rice cereal. Aside from the initial look of shock on her face, my girl took to solid foods like a champion.
As she got a little older and I introduced more foods to her, I was pleasantly surprised at her appetite and willingness to at least try new things. It wasn’t long before she was eating mashed potatoes and spaghetti. She ate hummus and garlic bread. She liked spicy foods too-her favorite was Tofu with Thai basil sauce-as long as you didn’t say the word “spicy” within her earshot.
Her go-to food though was always bread and bagels. At the grocery store, she would nosh on whole loaves of Italian bread, eating a tunnel down the middle. When I was pregnant, I didn’t know if I was having a boy or a girl, so I called my baby bump “Toast”. Coincidence? I think not. Later on, I may have enabled that addiction a little bit:
When she was around 3 years old, she stopped liking things that she thought had “seeds” in them, like yogurt with fruit in it. It was the texture of foods that was turning her off. Her favorite mashed potatoes could not have any lumps and even spaghetti sauce had to be chunk-free. And meals with more than two ingredients-and by two I mean macaroni AND cheese-those were out of the question. She was still a good eater, just more…selective.
She’s almost 5 now, and she’s developed her own personality and opinions on everything (understatement of the year). I am finding it harder and harder to find foods she will eat that aren’t just the same old, same old. I’m not really stressed out about it; she’s a healthy, growing kid, albeit a little on the skinny side. I just wonder if I’m going about it the right way and giving her the right choices. I want to make sure I’m setting her up for healthy eating habits later in life. We’re a family of vegetarians and I can probably name 2 vegetables the kid will actually put in her mouth. She lives on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I dread the day she gets bored with them. Then what do I do?
Lately we’ve resorted to more sophisticated tricks to get her to eat what we’re eating for dinner. The other night, my husband raced her through dinner to see who could finish first. Worked like a charm. He is often the dinnertime story-teller, leaving her with a cliff hanger until she takes one more bite (He’s a genius, I tell you!). And did you know that Rapunzel loves broccoli? All the princesses at our house do!
I was at a birthday party this weekend where the topic of picky eaters came up. One mom said that she told her son that the pureed vegetable soup they were having was actually hummus, because he loves hummus. He was a little skeptical, but he ate it! Another mom said that her daughter will only eat the pizza with the cheese on it if someone other than Mom or Dad gives it to her; otherwise she only eats the crust and sauce. It’s like playing Twister with meals. “I’ll put my left foot on the green circle, my right hand on the red circle. Then will you eat your peas?”
The thing I want to avoid the most is becoming the dinnertime short order cook. If I know my girl isn’t going to eat what we’re having, I’ll avoid the conflict and offer her something else. Or something else. Or something else. That’s not including dessert! I realized the other night as I made yet another trip to the kitchen for a more acceptable choice, that this insanity has to stop.
I know I’m not alone in the dinner time madness. What tricks have you used to get your big kid to eat? I’m willing to try anything. For now, I’m going to chew on these immortal words of Weird Al Yankovic:
Don’t want to argue, I don’t want to debate
Don’t want to hear about what kinds of foods you hate
You won’t get no dessert ’til you clean off your plate
So Eat it! Just Eat it!