I’m all done having picky eaters. Things need to change around here. If you read my picky eater story, you know where we have been. Now I want to share where we are going.
As you can tell in the title, I’m determined. Changes are afoot, and I want to share them.
Sharing them makes it real and keeps me accountable. In revealing my story, maybe others will start their own journey to different eating habits for their family. Perhaps others won’t feel alone in their food battles.
I’m All Done Having Picky Eaters
If you haven’t read about my picky eaters, I really encourage you to go back and do so. It’s important to understand the starting point.
If I could do it all differently, I would have started out similar to the life I’m proposing today. I wish we had never exposed our kids to “kid food.” I’m getting ahead of myself though, so let me introduce you to our future.
Books and Films Inspiring Our Move Away from Picky Eating
This desire to move away from picky eating has always been present. I felt like I was doing the right thing when I removed the battle from mealtime. I served what I served, and kids could eat as much or as little as they wanted with no pressure.
While this relieved some of the tension around dinner, it didn’t improve our picky eater situation. If anything, the kids that weren’t the pickiest moved backward in what they were willing to eat.
This last year, my desire to have good eaters grew deeper.
There was a decisive moment when I was listening to the Tilt Parenting Podcast: For Parents Raising Differently Wired Kids. If this title describes you, this podcast is a great resource I’d encourage you to check out.
The day I listened to the podcast with Jennifer Scribner about picky eaters, I decided to make a change in the new year. Jennifer Scribner is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who wrote “From Mac & Cheese to Veggies Please.”
Another book I’m starting is “French Kids Eat Everything.”
As a family, we watched “The Sugar Film” so that our kids could understand the heart behind our choices. I want to watch “Super Size Me” and other such documentaries, so their minds can be inspired toward optimal health.
The Plan to Move Away from Picky Eating
The plan is to back out of picky eating and into healthy eating that provides a variety of nutritious foods, meeting all of the food groups.
In reading “From Mac & Cheese to Veggies Please” I was both inspired and a bit disappointed. I was hoping for a step-by-step process. She didn’t give this. She provided advice on different methods and setbacks you’d find when introducing a new diet.
The author did promote the GAPS diet, and I think her book gave tips and tricks for those specifically choosing that diet. In looking into it, I do believe that diet choice is a bit too extreme for our family.
While she recommended three different methods, she said the most effective choice was to go cold turkey and do an extreme diet like this. In doing this, she has observed, families can move away from picky eating rather quickly.
The two other methods she promotes is to back into healthier habits or to use bribing in trying new foods. I’m choosing to use both of these methods.
There Are No Kid Foods
In the books I suggested, one of the points is that there are no kid foods.
We, as Americans, bought into the marketing. Dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets, Star Wars Mac & Cheese and even simple cheese quesadillas are “kid food”
We can all list the things on the “kids menu” at restaurants. Apparently, kids will only eat chicken fingers, chicken nuggets, Mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese sandwiches or pizza.
In other countries, you just eat what the parents are eating. Period. There’s not a huge marketing scheme like in America to make us believe that kids need their own kinds of food.
We bought into it. I bought into it. While I half heartedly tried to get my kids to eat what we were eating, I also purchased all of the “kids food” to satisfy what they would like. I have fed into the lie that kids need their own separate foods to be satisfied.
The truth is that if I, as the mom, don’t buy the food, they can’t eat it. They will not starve themselves. What we have in the pantry and fridge are what they will end up eating. I just need to stop buy the “kid food,” and it’s no longer an option.
What Diet Changes are We Making for our Family?
In “backing out” of our current eating and “backing into” healthier eating, we are making several changes.
We are backing out of sugar.
According to the American Heart Association, men should not exceed 37.5 grams of added sugar a day. Women shouldn’t eat more than 25 grams. Yes, it’s unfair. Agreed.
That said, did you know my “healthy choice” or providing Chobani Greek yogurt to my kids also provides them with the 16 out of the 25 grams of sugar they should consume for the day?
For breakfast, they would have the flavored Greek yogurt (16 grams of added sugar), All Bran buds for fiber (8 grams of added sugar) and frozen blueberries. Essentially, they’d have their full allowance of sugar for breakfast.
Lunches weren’t any better. They’d take a juice in their lunch. Did you know that an apple juice provided my kids with 32 grams of sugar? While I always buy 100% juice and felt good about that, juice isn’t really the best option.
God gave us the apple, which provides a perfect package. It has the dietary fiber, benefits of the skin and pulp that fill your belly rather than providing just the hit of sugars that make you want more. Read more about that here.
My kids would also take 11 grams of added sugar with their CLIF Zbar. Add that to the other lunch options, and we are already over double the sugar limit intake.
Basically, there is added sugar all over the place. It’s in your yogurt, snack options, fruit cups, juices, breads, cereals and sauces. Sugar is everywhere.
I’m just mentioning the sugars in our “normal food.” Cakes, candies, cookies, donuts, ice cream and other desserts that inundate our kids aren’t even mentioned.
While kids should be eating less than 6 teaspoons a day, this article suggests that they are eating 19 teaspoons. I can easily see that.
My goal is to stop the sugar madness.
We are Backing out of Processed Foods
One could argue that most foods (other than organic fruit, veggies and meats) are processed. This is true, and we are not going extreme.
My goal is to read the label. Can I pronounce the ingredients? Am I familiar with them? Do they seem more minimally processed? Are we choosing whole grain?
We are doing more homemade. I will be making homemade breads, sauces and meals.
The refrigerator and pantry will be packed with fruits and vegetables and leftover homemade meals.
I’m not throwing old food away. We have traces of our old life that need to be eaten up and thus removed from our lives. They will not be replenished.
The Mac & Cheese, Top Ramen, Goldfish, microwave popcorn, Snackables (didn’t buy them anyway), GoGurt (also didn’t buy), instant soups, soda, and white bread are some of the food items that have no place in our house anymore.
Here’s a list of the concerning offenders in processed foods.
The truth is that kids eat processed foods because parents give it to them. I can’t reiterate this enough. If we don’t buy it, they can’t eat it.
We are Backing Into Whole Foods
It never helps to simply talk about what we are avoiding. There needs to be a plan moving forward to celebrate the kinds of foods we will be enjoying.
Whole Foods. I’m excited to share with you in my next post in this series what foods we are now buying. How in the world do pack a lunch or provide snacks or meals that are based off of whole foods?
I’m trying to introduce you to our plan in digestible chunks. To give our whole plan of action deserves its own post.
Let’s just say that eating whole foods means a whole lot of shopping on the edges of the stores rather than all of the aisles in the center.
It will most likely cost more, but the hope is that the money saved by avoiding the doctor in the future is worth it.
Further, there is money saved in not investing in the processed, sugary foods. Sugar provides a hit of energy. Hunger is not subsided for long, making us eat more. By providing our bodies with the right kind of energy, we will eat less.
We are Trying New Foods
We are trying new foods in our family. Phrases like, “This is gross” or “I’m not eating that” are no longer allowed. Liking new things starts in our brains.
One way I’m introducing new foods is to “sneak” them in. Smoothies, sauces, dips and ground meat are vessels where it is easy to give hits of nutrition and exposure.
Smoothies are big for us, and my kids don’t even make me sneak there. I’ll share a smoothie recipe soon, but I’m adding things like bone broth to a smoothie? Really? Yes! It works, and it exposes my kids to savory.
Bone broth has loads of benefits, and it is one way to help our children appreciate savory over sweet. My pickiest won’t try meets. Bone broth is my gateway food. I’m adding it to smoothies, but I’m also putting small droplets on her tongue. She is actually allowing it. The other day she just poured bone broth in water and drank it.
Part of the trick is easing in. When your smoothie goes from all juice, banana and berries to things like carrots, bone broth, cauliflower, chai seeds, avocado and greens, their pallet begins to change. They don’t need things as sweet, and savory starts to taste good to them.
We will also be forcing bites. The science is in. It takes people 8-12 tries to like a new food. Jennifer Scribner, a nutritionist who has worked with the pickest of picky, said that most of the pickiest of eaters (picky adults too) end up disliking up to 5 things when properly exposed to foods.
My sister’s kids will eat anything. They didn’t like mushrooms. What did my sister do? She made mushrooms every day in different ways until they liked them.
My pickiest daughter who has refused to put any new item in her mouth seems to be willing to make the change this year. We are jumping on that and forcing her to try things.
My goal is to take a new food and have my kids try a bite every day for 8-12 days in a row. Let’s test the theory that they’ll begin to like it if they try it. The bites start small and get bigger.
Trying different preparations is also a good idea.
I am absolutely willing to bribe too. Like I said, we have removed sugars from our home. I will have a supply of dark chocolate (healthy choice) to bribe them with.
We are Not Going Extreme
I tend to be a moderate all the way around. While I’m not buying things with excess sugars in our home, there will be times for celebration in our world.
Holidays will expose my kids to sweets. Birthday parties will do the same.
I won’t enforce that my kids are not allowed to eat treats at special events. Our pantry just looks different.
I’m sure we will still order from the kids menu for a bit.
Like I said, we are backing out of certain things and backing into other things. This will be a process, and I’m not going to do it cold turkey. Nor am I going to be able to do this perfectly.
I’m not a nutritionist, so you can always do your own research into what really constitutes “whole food” or “processed.”
The goal here is to get better – not perfect. I want to share our story so that you might be inspired to make better food choices for your family too.
I also want the accountability. Next year I want to check in to be able to celebrate and say, “My kids are no longer picky eaters.”