This is my story of Parenting Picky Eaters: A Mother’s Journey. We have had quite the experience when it comes to kids and food. This journey is taking a new turn this year.
Because of the amount of what I want to share swirling around in my head, I have decided to break our eating story up into two digestible chunks.
First I’m going to share with you where we have been and what we have tried. My second post will reveal the changes we are making this year with the end vision of having kids who like a variety of healthy foods.
Parenting Picky Eaters: A Mother’s Journey
My name is Jodi Durr, and I’m a mother of picky eaters. There. I confessed it. I’m never shy of confessing things. I’ve told you why I suck at being a mom and how unperfected my perfect life is. Always keeping it real.
The only way we can really feel connected and know that we aren’t alone is to live authentic lives. I want to share with you my parenting stories so that you know that there are other moms that struggle. It’s a balm for our soul.
I haven’t shared with you this part of our story yet. With new goals on the horizon, I wanted to take the opportunity to peek into this mother’s journey.
While I have had a guest writer on my site share 7 quick tips to expand your picky eater’s palate, I have never given such advice because I feel as though I’m failing at it.
This narrative of Parenting Picky Eaters: A Mother’s Journey is best begun with a look into my eaters.
Picky Eater Number 1
It’s not super fair to call my first born a picky eater. She is actually the most willing to try new things and eat more mature flavors. It doesn’t mean we haven’t had our struggles. She is still part of the complicated conundrum of feeding my family.
Breastfeeding was hard. You can read more of that story here.
Fast forward to the beginning eater stage, and you have a pretty pleasant experience. Avocados were a favorite. She’d eat directly from our plates and enjoyed a variety of foods. Asian foods are a favorite.
As any new mom does, you begin to pat yourself on the back and say, “I got this.” Then, you are humbled.
This girl has had her battles. Digestion issues, headaches, and sensory issues plagued her.
We went to doctors and naturopaths and made dietary changes. I thought we had nailed it when we took out dairy. We didn’t quite nail it, but removing dairy did make a difference.
Her story is still in process, but dairy is not a part of her diet, so you can imagine the meals that are eliminated as an option for her.
Picky Eater Number 2
Welcome to my second child. She nursed well.
Next came the beginning eater phase. She would eat some things, but most items were met with pursed lips and a turning of the head.
That was a conundrum for me. You stick the spoon in the pursed lips, and it’s spit out immediately. You can’t force a kid to eat and swallow at that age.
I began to wonder if she was a super smeller because it wasn’t that she would try it and spit it out. She wouldn’t put it on her tongue at all.
This has continued. She still just won’t try things. It’s not that she doesn’t like beef. She has never put it on her tongue.
Initially we tried to battle it. Every meal was a fight.
The two most memorable encounters altered the way we approached meals.
Picky Eater Epic Food Battle 1
Struggle one involved the tiniest baby carrot I could pull out of the bag. She was 3. I let her know that she would not eat anything else until she ate that stupid carrot. She didn’t eat. You can imagine the meltdowns that day.
For 28 hours, she chose no food. As the mom, I felt like I had to win the battle because I had set it.
Did she eat the carrot? Here’s the story:
I took her to MOPS, and dropped her off at childcare. Looking at the woman in childcare, I explained the situation. There was a plea not to give her another snack unless she ate the stupid carrot.
The childcare worker took Fruit Loops, stacked them up on that carrot, and my daughter ate it.
It was a feeble victory, but I counted it. As a mom, I was afraid I was starving my baby…I wasn’t.
Picky Eater Epic Food Battle 2
The next battle was over a chicken nugget. My 5 year old child had never, ever put a piece of meat in her mouth (except for pepperoni on pizza…that one miraculously slipped through).
We eat a meat protein at most meals, but she would not try them.
Even the most beloved “kid food” was out: chicken nuggets, hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken strips. No, thank you.
Tired of this, I decided to try and force it again. I dug in my heals and said, “You will sit in this one location at the table until you take one small bite of chicken nugget.”
She heard me, and she sat there. For three and a half days she sat in the one location. I served her other foods, not wanting her to starve like I was afraid was going to happen when she was 3. However, she didn’t leave the table but to sleep and go potty. There weren’t games or toys to occupy her. She just sat.
Did she eat the chicken nugget? Here’s the story:
It was Fourth of July, and all of her cousins showed up to hang out and play. They heard and saw my dilemma. They took that tiny bite of chicken nugget, wrapped it up in a slice of cheese, and she ate it.
I was exhausted, at my wits end and not sure where to go from there, but I was done with the battles.
What does she eat? Imagine Forrest Gump cheese style: Mac & cheese, grilled cheese, cheese sandwich, tortilla and cheese, Cheez Its…I think you get the picture. She also happily eats fruit, yogurt, and peanut butter. Vegetables and meats are off the table. I try and sneak a lot of nutrients into smoothies.
Picky Eater Number 3
I will spend the least amount of time on picky eater number 3 because he is a fairly agreeable little guy.
He is the kind of kid where “one no thank you bite” actually works.
The results is sometimes dramatic, and I wouldn’t say his pallet has expanded much. However, I don’t have the resistance that I do with number 2. I do not believe his pallet has expanded because of our current method of operation.
One thing to note is that he has digestive issues. We have been to a specialist and have tried the low FODMAP diet, which is pretty extreme and taxing. We were strict with the diet but still haven’t rectified the eating issues.
Picky Eater 1 + Picky Eater 2 + Picky Eater 3
Picky Eater 1 + Picky Eater 2 + Picky Eater 3 = A Hot Mess
You can imagine what it’s like to try to feed one child who can’t do dairy, one who really only wants to do dairy and one with digestive issues. It’s not a party.
I love to cook. Food is a joy. That joy has been robbed in a sense. I don’t look forward to making meals because I know that each meal will come with resistance, down-trodden faces and refusals.
The only meals that satisfies all three are breakfast for dinner (I’m talking the super healthy…note the sarcasm…pancakes or dutch babies) or tacos. The tacos only satisfy because there are choices. Two will only eat the tortilla and cheese. The other prefers to make a taco salad without the cheese.
How We Handle our Picky Eater
After battling and disciplining to no avail, we landed on a method that has been our strategy for years.
A friend recommended this book (Amazon Affiliate): Child of Mine: Eating with Love and Good Sense. I read a number of articles with the same advice and decided to adopt it.
The goal was to eliminate food battles and have peace at the dinner table.
The strategy was to serve everything family style. People could take as much or as little as they wanted, but they had to eat only what was served. This includes dessert if it is offered.
The concept is to not make it a control issue and not further develop issues around the food.
Modeling good eating habits and serving a healthy dinner was part of the plan.
While this has eliminated the battles, it has not expanded my children’s eating habits.
There will be meals where my pickiest eater just won’t eat at all. She knows breakfast or lunch is coming, which provides more options she will eat. She packs her own lunch and chooses her breakfast, so at least she has complete control over those two meals.
Change is Coming
Change is coming. I appreciate the strategies we have been employing, but I’m still weary.
I’m tired of not being able to eat out at a variety of restaurants. Taking the time to plan and serve delicious meals to only be met with pouts and disappoint takes its toll. Being afraid that a child’s diet isn’t healthy enough and might be impacting behavior, lethargy and well-being is a real concern. Taking children to a friend’s house to only have them be difficult to serve is embarrassing.
So what’s the big change? Stay tuned. That post is also coming. To be continued…
Want More on Topics on Picky Eating?
Teaching Risk Taking with Food – Part of my Character Building Series