Monday, October 11, 2010

Update to Picky Eater

So last night, after making Dahlia one of the four dinners she'll actually eat (Grilled Cheese and Green Beans), I sat down to have my own dinner of which the main course was chicken (I know, we eat a lot of chicken). Dahlia spots me from across the room, walks over to me and hovers over my plate as she often does on the nights we don't get a chance to eat together as a family. "What's that?", she asks, pointing at my chicken. "It's chicken. Do you want some?", I ask through a chuckle, 100% sure she that, after the chicken battle of the previous week, she would run away screaming.

"Want some. Yessss!", she replied. "Yeah right", I thought, and held up a big chunk of breast meat on a fork. To my astonishment and utter disbelief, she opened her mouth wide, chewed, swallowed and asked for more! I yelled across the room to John to come over and repeated the feat...TWICE!!

I fed her nearly all of it and spent the rest of the night trying to wrap my head around it. Two days before, I could have water boarded her and she wouldn't have touched that chicken! Indeed, she demonstrated that she would rather eat nothing at all than take even a single bite. Yet, there she was, eagerly eating chicken off my plate!

I still can't explain it. Pushing a child to eat a food is supposed to put them off of it... right? I spent at least two hours last week with a plate of chicken in one hand and a tub of ice cream in the other saying "If you eat your chicken, you can have some ice cream" or " Come on, just take one little bite" or "Mmmm... chicken is so yummy". By the end of it, I was sure I had put her off chicken forever. Oh well. I think I will give up on understanding this one and just be happy it is one more food we can all share together.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Picky Eater

My daughter is a picky eater. In fact, I could list the only meals/ foods she will eat all too quickly: PB&J, Pasta w/ red sauce, Pizza, Grilled Cheese, Deli Turkey, ground beef, Green Beans (only if finely pureed), wild rice, Goldfish (of course) and, luckily, most fruits. Reading this back, it really isn't that bad. I've spoken to other moms of toddlers whose kids didn't have half as varied a repertoire.

Still, it is frustrating because she never used to be afraid to try new foods. We used to go out for dim sum on weekends and she would sit quietly in her high chair, eagerly awaiting the next new dish to sample. It wasn't until she was about 17 months old that she suddenly started to turn her lip at old favorites and aggressively reject anything new.

I am sure some of my readers are wondering what the big deal is. Just feed her what she likes, they might say. Well, I do. I can't starve her... or can I? More on this later. So, why do I care? I just want her to get the most out of food. We've been fortunate that the meals she does enjoy contain enough of what she needs nutritionally to keep her healthy. However, for John (my husband) and I, food is not just fuel. We enjoy it. Luckily for me, he enjoys cooking and, if I may say so myself, is damn good at it! Me, I just enjoy eating good food (which makes us very well suited to one another!). This is not to say that we both don't occasionally eat fast food that taste mostly like salt and recycled oil (Gasp! Terrible for you, I know.). But still, we want to expose our children to a variety of cuisines -to teach them about flavor and texture and how to talk about food. To me, learning how to describe what you are tasting in more detail than, "It's good" is just part of being well rounded.

I should admit that it is not only concern for my child's nutrition and for the development of her palate that makes me want to break her of her picky eating. Simply stated, John and I want to have three kids. But this does not mean we want to cook three separate meals three times a day!

As I type, I recognize that I am expecting too much of my toddler. Many two year olds are picky eaters. It is interesting to note that, historically, children across the globe were most often weaned at this age. I have read that picky eating may have evolved as a way to keep kids from accidentally poisoning themselves as they transitioned to a diet of solid foods. This would also explain why kids are more sensitive to bitterness in foods than adults (bitterness is often a sign of toxicity).

So, what do I plan to do with my picky eater? Well, like many concerned parents, I recently asked my pediatrician. She said, " Just don't offer her anything else. Serve her what you'd like her to eat and if she refuses it, take it away and bring it back the next time she asks for food." I should have remembered that this was the same woman who pressured me to use the Ferber method before I felt Dahlia was ready for it but, instead, I decided to give it a shot. For the entire day that followed, John offered her nothing but braised chicken. When I got home from work around 5, poor Dahlia was a wreck. I'd never seen her so miserable, irritable and desperate. It didn't take more than 15 minutes before we ordered a Pizza.

This experience just reinforced what I've always known. If every cell in your body is telling you something you are doing with your child is wrong, then it probably is. Starving her for a day just lowered her blood sugar and probably just made her feel nauseous and fatigued. Maybe in a year or two, she will be ready to play this kind of "hardball". Or, most likely, she will just outgrow this phase and I will have my little adventurous eater back. In any case, if it comes down to starving my child or making grilled cheeses every night for years, grilled cheeses win.