Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How We Avoided A Picky Eater

We took the kids out to dinner Sunday night.  I was reluctant, didn't want to bother people with our screaming three month old and our wild four year old.  I felt a bit better walking in seeing babies and kids everywhere.  I kept thinking about all of my Facebook friends without kids who are all excited about the possibility of the no kids in restaurants ban.  I decided not to update my status or check in my location and just hope for the best. 

The baby was a little fussy at first, so I changed his diaper while Daddy ate his salad and then Daddy got him to sleep while I ate mine.  I was so relieved when he slept through the entire dinner.  Even if he is sound asleep, Jimmie will wake up when dinner is ready.  He arises like he smells a morning cup of coffee.  Usually, I have to try to balance dinner with breastfeeding.  I have my son on a pillow feeding on my left breast as I sit on the couch with a TV tray trying to get food from the plate to my mouth without leaning forward.  I usually find a stray piece of rice in a baby fat roll when I'm changing his diaper.  Or hours after dinner I find myself brushing salt off of his head and face with my hand.  My husband brings me two paper towels now, one for a napkin and one to lay over the baby to catch what falls off my spoon.  It's like I'm pregnant all over again and can't reach my plate.  Except I have to worry about smooshing, dropping, or unlatching the baby.  So, it was nice to eat a hot meal with my shirt on, using a fork, and actually lean over my plate.

My four year old daughter was remarkably well behaved.  She sat by her Daddy picking salad off his plate and eating buttered bread.  She is usually jumping around, messing with the window blinds or wall, bothering the people behind her, and trying to crawl under the booth from parent to parent.  We realized this was probably because we had a late breakfast, skipped lunch all together, and were eating an early dinner.  I mentioned to my husband that we should starve her more often.

When dinner came, Kaylie decided to pick fish off her dad's plate and ignore her chicken.  That was fine with us since fish is even healthier than chicken!  They brought me two giant clusters of steamed broccoli that looked like they came straight from the produce isle, so I offered her a tree and, to my astonishment, she excitedly accepted.  I cut her off a small tree and she ate the whole thing!  She ate three florets off the stems.  I had always offered her trees and put them on her plate, but eating them was a first!  I was so excited!  My husband encouraged her by telling her she was a giant eating trees.  She pretended to be very big.

Although I'm very proud of her, I'm not trying to brag.  I thought, maybe we are doing something right and maybe I can share how we got to this accomplishment.  See, I grew up watching my picky nephews sit at the table for hours with cold food they refused to eat.  The old you aren't getting up until you eat trick.  They would rather sleep at the table than eat what was on their plates.  My husband also slept at the table when he was a kid. 

We decided we really didn't want to take that approach.  We didn't want to make dinner a battle, so we gave her options.  Ever since she first started eating solids, we have told her that she needs to at least try the food on her plate.  We always told her it was yummy and that she needed to try it because she would probably like it, but (and this was key) we also told her that if she didn't like it, she could spit it out.  We would put a napkin under her chin while she tried a bite and if she didn't like it, she could spit it out and she wouldn't have to eat anymore of it.  We didn't want to make her eat something she didn't like but we also weren't going to let her be picky.  We are the bosses, not her, but it's her dinner and she should like it.
Kaylie loves artichokes

This really worked for her.  She would pretty much try everything and anything with minimal protest.  Sometimes, we would have to coax her and talk her into it and tell her how yummy it was and how it tasted and we definitely had to assure her that she didn't have to eat it if she didn't like it, just spit it out.  This was much easier for us than forcing her to eat her veggies. 

She did go through a phase where she wouldn't eat any veggies at all.  I began to give her V8 Fusion Light, which has 1 serving of fruits and 1 serving of vegetables per serving, and the light version has much less sugar.  Kaylie's pediatrician also recommended Carnation Instant Breakfast, which is full of vitamins.  She always liked milk, but loved the chocolate instant breakfast.  The pediatrician said she would give that to her kids and then not worry about picky eating because they got the vitamins in the instant breakfast.  This too worked wonders.  It took the stress off of us trying to get her to eat healthy.  I still offered her vegetables, and she always loved fruit, but I just didn't worry about it.  We combined this with encouraging her to try new foods that she could spit out, and it worked! 

I'm not trying to promote V8 or Carnation, or to tell you to replace food with vitamins or supplements.  It's better to get your nutrients from food when you can.  Every child is different and every situation is different.  Kaylie was still growing normally for her age, even though she was being picky, so I should say it's probably best that you talk to your pediatrician before you try what worked for us.

Now, Kaylie tries new foods on her own.  She asks to try things that we are eating and always tries what's on her plate.  And she can still spit it out if she doesn't like it.  I hope that her willingness to eat a variety of foods is because of the way we are raising her.  I guess I will find out when my son starts eating solids. 

Kaylie did so good at dinner, she deserved dessert.

Leave me a comment...

How do you overcome dinner battles?
Do you take your kids out to dinner?
Do you think children should be banned from restaurants?

1 comment:

  1. I fortunately never had any eating battles with my (now 16 year old) daughter. She was never picky, but you asked about kids being banned from restaurants and my answer is no way!!!! Any business owner who did this would be an idiot. But.... I cannot stand unruly children at a restaurant; running around, screaming, laying on the floor, disturbing others, etc. The parents need to control their kids & the kids need to sit at the table with the parents the entire time and not be let up to roam the restaurant. Just my opinion