Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vegging Out (or not)

Two things to know about me:
  1. Picky eating is a pet peeve of mine.
  2. I've been pleasantly surprised at how "chill" of a parent I've been.
Those two factors intersect to put me between a rock and a hard place. Or, perhaps--between mashed potatoes and green beans.

I honestly can't remember if I referred to Kate as a "good eater" in her first few months of solids a year ago. I don't recall any major issues. (A quick look in the blog archive indicates that at Thanksgiving, she ate all table food, including turkey, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes, and a roll.) Somewhere beyond that point, though, her dietary repertoire narrowed considerably. Now, she literally won't touch a vegetable, and rarely eats meat or other proteins. It's pretty much all fruit, dairy, and carbs. So that's the pickiness that concerns me some.

Regarding the "chill" factor, I certainly don't mean that I'm trying to be a "cool" parent who doesn't lay down the law. I just mean that as a Type-A who, in most areas of life, gets bent out of shape when something doesn't go as planned, I expected to be more high-strung as a parent. I've been pleasantly surprised that I can keep my cool when Kate is upset, not caving to tantrums and not turning general toddler obstinence into a power struggle. I guess my definition of "chill" would simply be a happy medium between being a pushover and freaking out about every little thing. Sometimes, that line is harder to walk than others.

I am really trying not to get worked up over this pickiness. She's growing fine, and from some cursory research, I think the fruits she eats provide most of the same nutrients as vegetables. It doesn't seem to be a health concern, so I'm trying to roll with it and assume it will pass. But what if it doesn't? I really don't want her to get into this habit of picky eating.

I've read that it can take many exposures to a food before a kid will try something, so I always give her some of whatever we're eating, in addition to one or two things that I know she'll eat. But, she just eats the berries or cheese and leaves the meat, rice, peas, etc. I've tried going back to baby-food veggies, with the thought that since she likes yogurt, maybe she'd go for that. Alas, no. (But I did stir half a container of Gerber mixed veggies into our mashed potatoes the other night, and that was a success!)

I guess the experts would say to simply not give her anything that's not on the menu and eventually she'll get hungry enough and eat. She never seems to care that much about eating, though, so I think it would be quite a while before she got "hungry enough" to actually sit and eat dinner.

Actually, she's been reluctant to sit in her eat-seat at all lately, and if she's going to eat at all, wants to sit on my lap while doing it. I've been torn over how strict to get with that too, because I'd rather her sit on my lap and eat something than spend dinnertime Houdini-ing herself out of her seat and refusing to eat. For a while, she was in the habit of standing in her seat to eat breakfast, and I finally decided to lay down the law (after wiping dripped yogurt off her shoe several times in one sitting). So now she's usually sitting down for breakfast, but for dinner, she'll stand in her seat until I'm done dishing things up for Matt and I, then she'll push her plate over to my place and climb into my chair. I don't really fight it because I'm picking my battles and focusing on the food for now.

Do you think she'll get over it on her own? Or should I starve her into submission? (I'm exaggerating there, clearly.)
What would you suggest?


Kristen P said...

I have conflicting opinions on this. I also hate picky eaters. I mean, there are a few things I won't eat (e.g. olives, beets). But for the most part, I'll give anything a try and will usually eat what is provided for me (though at this point I do most of my own providing).
Because I was more of an adventurous eater, my parents weren't super strict about making me eat this or that, but they did instill the "clean your plate" mentality in me, which has proven to be a hard thing to break in adulthood, especially with ever-expanding portion sizes.
I think sneaking the veggies into her potatoes for now is a good idea, though I would slowly move up to putting non-pureed veggies in there as well. I mean, who doesn't love whole peas in/on mashed potatoes? She will learn to love that combo!
And I do agree if a kid is hungry enough, they will eat what they are given. My brother was stubborn enough to beat my parents at the "you'll sit there until you finish" game, but most will not. I would always enforce the "no dessert unless you eat your veggies" rule. For snacks, she might enjoy dipping carrot sticks in some greek-yogurt type dip. And when she's older, the old standard peanut butter on celery (or other veg) will probably work.
Good luck!

Lisa H. said...

I was going to comment on the high-strung aspect of your post. I have felt inspired by your blogging because I don't want to be a high strung parent and am very Type-A this gives me hope. I tell Jim all the time that I want to be a relaxed parent...or "chill" as you say. I figure, say it enough and when it comes time to be a parent, it will be ingrained in my head.

I agree re: picky eaters...but on a funny note, Jim was so freakin' stubborn that he would hold his breath until he PASSED OUT if he got upset at his parents. Apparently, one time his grandmother was getting worried and his mom replied, "Don't worry, he'll pass out and start breathing again." I have no doubt that between the two of us, we are going to have the world's most stubborn kid.

Katie Bug said...

I think the odds of Kate outgrowing her pickiness are greatly in your (and her) favor.
In case it makes you feel a teeny bit better, Bug has been getting increasingly picky, too. The girl would be more than happy to live on applesauce alone!

SpeasHill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SpeasHill said...

Oh, I should probably wait until I have some sleep in me to respond to this much to say....a year of feeding therapy has taught me a thing or two...

1. Kate's eating sounds completely normal to me. Normal because almost without exception all kids at this age are extremely picky eaters. John's mom swears that he survived on ONLY hot dogs for about a year.

2. If I've learned anything these 2 years, it's that you c.a.n.'.t. make a kid eat. You just can't. Especially not a kid who cannot reason logically. Can't be done.

3. Statistically, the more frequently a food is offered, the more likely a kid is to eat it. So keep up the offering what you have.

4. It may be worth trying veggies in different forms - like sweet potato fries, veggie chips, freeze-dried veggies ( or at Whole Foods). The veggies in the mashed potatoes are great. Keep thinking of ways to "chain" things that she does like to things you'd like her to eat. How things look can be a really big deal at this age.

5. I think I know Kate well enough to know that if you push food, she will push back. You ain't gonna win. And you don't want to make food a battleground. You can't make her eat. But I wouldn't stress about it - there's lots of time for her palate to expand later.

6. The kids will eat if they get hungry enough theory? Bunk. (Okay, I'm sure it's true about some kids.) But there are enough things that Kate like that she won't waste away. I think we've talked about this, but when evaluating her diet, look at what she eats over the course of several days or even a week. Most kids tend to balance out over a week, even if they have days that they won't eat anything but pimentos. She may not eat veggies, but over the course of the week, she'll get what she needs.

7. Toddlers don't like veggies...but most toddlers grow up to be adults who eat veggies. Of course, I'm one of the super-weird adults who doesn't really eat veggies, but my parents also made me sit at the table until I "ate" all my veggies (or hid them or fed them to the dog), and if I didn't eat them before bedtime, I had to have them for breakfast in the morning. Ew. Soooo....maybe that's not a good strategy. ;)

Good luck!


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