The other night, I was whipping up some fettucine alfredo for my twins, a pre-approved selection. Noodles, heavy cream, parmesan, garlic…what’s not to like?
Caroline and Will sat at the table and messed around for a good 30 minutes, picking at their food. I had to warm up their food – twice. I felt like I was hounding them to take another bite, take a bigger bite, stop talking and EAT. The piece de resistance of the meal was at the end when my son vomited into his bowl. He sorrowfully approached me and said, “Sorry Mommy. I thought I had to burp but I ‘frew up.”
I never considered myself to be talented in the kitchen, not by a mile. But to have my child literally barf up my cooking at the dinner table proved that my culinary aptitude is nothing short of abysmal.
(I imagine my mother is chortling evilly at the moment reading this. I was a notoriously picky eater and still am. Karma is a b**ch.)
So what is a mother to do? Can children actually survive on Oikos Cafe Latte Greek yogurt and Kraft mac and cheese alone?
(Quick side note: a childhood friend of mine took her very young son on a trip to Asia and swore he ate nothing for that entire 2 week period but Goldfish crackers. Not sure how happy his digestive system was with him, but he lived.)
It is not unusual for experts on this subject matter to recommend introducing a food upwards of 20 times before a kid will cave and try it. But according to Julie Revelant, a health journalist, parents misunderstand this technique. In the article below, Ms. Revelant explains:
“You might think you have to serve the same meal over and over again until your child will eat it but when these studies are conducted, kids are actually exposed to just a pea-sized sample of a food.”
Ahhhhh. Now this makes sense.
Let’s say you are anxious around unfamiliar people and are suddenly thrown into a party of strangers. Would this not be far worse than being introduced to just one new person?
While you may view your dinner plate full of colorful new food as an exciting mastication party, your picky eaters may feel anxious, overwhelmed and overstimulated by what could be perceived as a large quantity of “strange” food on their plates. I can imagine how cutting the quantity down to tiny portions could go a long way toward reducing what could be considered as the culinary equivalent of “stranger anxiety.”
What else did I glean from this article? That everything I have attempted to nudge my children towards new food has been a big fat no-no. Good job, Mama.
For instance, I now must eliminate this message:
“Just try it. If you don’t like it, you can spit it out.” Ms. Revelant’s point is to not set this attempt up for failure when you are simply asking for your tyke to consider sampling the item.
I’m digging this so far. Let’s see. What else have I royally botched….
Oh yes, the bribery thing. I will regularly decree, “If you try (fill-in-the-blank-yucky-healthy-food-item), you may have (fill-in-the-blank-sugary-goodness-item).”
I’ve been unknowingly classifying foods into either a GOOD or BAD category.
How did I not think of this?
Ok, moving on through….hmmmm…..is there anything that I have done right? Nope. Here are some other parental blunders:
Not talking about the “healthy” aspect of food.
Right before my twins went down for their naps today, I was telling them that eating the oatmeal sitting in front of them (getting congealed and colder by the second) would be “like giving your tummy a great big hug.” Because it’s so healthy.
DANG. I blew that one.
Surely, that’s it? Unfortunately not. There’s the not being a short-order cook rule. Instead, we should integrate an acceptable food item onto the plate with the likely-to-be-rejected new food item.
Ms. Revelant goes on to break it to me that if we currently are in the habit of preparing a separate meal each time our kids resist the initial meal offering, that “it can be hard to break the cycle.”
ARRRGGGHHH! I have warped my children! Is there ANY good news for me?
Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel. An oasis in the desert. A…. well, you get the idea.
“Offer dessert for breakfast.”
Hallelujah! My kids are gonna LOVE this!
So now, I will trudge through the Food Aversion Swamp with a glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe, we can move from barfing at the dinner table to enthusiastically devouring a colorful assortment of wholesome sustenance.
Maybe I can keep my children alive after all. Dare to dream….
Mamas and Daddies, have you been successful at helping your picky eaters branch out? Tell me all about it, please!!!