Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Attention: This is lunch. Take it or leave it.

I've written before about my 4-year-old, for whom the term "picky eater" is a major understatement.

Aside from snack foods, the kid will eat only these things:
*vegetarian bacon (or, at a restaurant, real bacon)
*cinnamon toast
*cinnamon bagels
*scrambled eggs

This obviously makes meal planning rather challenging. Breakfast is a cinch, but after that things get difficult. And since he eats no vegetables and hardly any fruits, you can bet he is a multivitamin kid. (We sneak it into his milk.)

Why is he is so resistant, while my daughter is begging to try any new food she sees? Or, for that matter, why is it that my oldest son can't stand to be in the kitchen when I'm stir-frying with teriyaki sauce? Like most issues, this one is complex and--believe it or not--the "experts" have varying opinions on the cause of picky eating and what to do about it.

Do picky eaters grow up to become picky adults? Sometimes, yes. Other times, no. When I was little I was extremely finicky, and my mom accommodated my preferences and would make me a separate meal. Much like my firstborn, I recall being absolutely repulsed by the smell of spaghetti sauce cooking. But as I got older I gradually began eating what everyone else did and learned to love a wide variety of foods, including many types of cuisine that I was never exposed to growing up.

Because of my own history, I wasn't surprised to read in this interesting article that picky eating and sensitivity to trying new foods is genetic.

But that doesn't get us off the hook as parents. We've got to keep offering new foods and encouraging--but not nagging--the kids to try them. And we've got to quit caving and making toast for every meal. My theory is that if he is hungry enough he will be more likely to give the new foods a try.

So, after a hearty breakfast of whole-grain pancakes and scrambled eggs, lunch was peanut butter and jelly on wheat, with raspberries on the side. Take it or leave it, I said. He left it. (Later, his sister came along and polished it off.)

At least I can feel good about doing my part. The chewing and swallowing, that's up to him.


Maureen Dillie said...

Two things you can't force your kids to do- eat and sleep. You can only enforce the "take it or leave it", and the "do not come out of your room".

I'm glad you still offer him stuff, you're so smart!

Firefly mom said...

All three of us are picky eaters (according to my mother, anyway ;) Fortunately, we pretty much dislike the same foods! We do have a rule, though: you have to at least *try* something new (and it has to be a big enough portion to actually taste it. No miniscule slivers of food). And the rule applies to all of us - so even hubby and I have to try a new food, as well. Of course, DS is such eats so much and so often, I don't have to worry too much about him not getting enough ;)

Angela said...

Hey! Funny! I just posted about lunches! See my blog! There are lots of tips in the book i'm offering in my giveaway! :) One is the 2 bite rule. It works for Tony. Nearly every time, after he takes 2 bites, he decides he likes it and ends up eating it all. Funny kid.

I love your take it or leave it rule. We do that, too. I put whatever we are all having before them, and it is their choice to eat, or not to eat...but they don't get to eat again until we all eat again (at snacktime, or mealtime).
Maegan came home from co-op one day and said 'You get what you get and you don't throw a fit.' That was a new one for me. But, I like it. And it works for more than just mealtime! :)

Erin said...

I feel your frustration. My 3yr old could live on granola bars and peanut butter cracker sandwiches.

Nonna Joann said...

Usually an extremely picky eater has other issues, beside the taste of refused foods. The texture of various foods, the smell, etc. You can teach your picky eater to love whole fooods by involving all the senses during meals. When you include multi-sensory learning during mealtimes, the picky eater is quickly transformed to a healthy eater. Check out my blogsite.