Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Picky Eaters Be Gone

My toddler ate a falafel last week.

Contrary to how it may sound, I am not bragging.  I typed that sentence to give you hope.  Because several months ago I began to despair that my son would ever in his life eat something other than plain pasta.  I can't tell you how many nights I cried at the dinner table when the healthy and delicious meal that I cooked was either outright refused or, worse, thrown at my face.

The Hubster and I have discussed ad nauseum how to get the Muffin Man to eat.  Overall, the kid has a relatively healthy diet - we eat very little sugar, he likes vegetables and fruits - but figuring out ways to get him to eat protein was driving me to drink.  Literally.  I probably wouldn't care so much about his meat intake if it weren't for two things: one, he's a lean mean fighting machine who barely registers on the growth charts, and two, I have this paralyzing fear that my kid is going to grow up to be one of those adults who only eats grilled skinless boneless chicken breast with no seasoning.  Trust me, those people aren't just an urban legend: I dated one of them.  I still have nightmares about dining out with him. *shudder*

But I digress.

I was so stressed out about Noah not eating that I began to obsess about it all of the time.  I asked every single Mom I know what her kids did and did not eat.  I started writing down everything Noah ate so that I could add up all the calories to make sure he was getting enough.  I even contacted a feeding specialist to see about setting up a consultation.  In the depths of my despair, after yet another dinner when Noah ate nothing and I ended up sobbing into my rosé, I decided it was time to do something other than drink myself to death.  

I ordered The Picky Eating Solution and I actually read it.  You know that I'm really desperate if I'm reading a parenting book by choice.  At the end of a long day the last thing I want to do is read anything that requires brain power or whose subject matter is children.  But desperate times call for desperate measures, so I poured myself a nice big glass of Mommy Juice, curled up on one of my soft couches, and I started reading.

Here's what I learned: I've been going about this whole feeding thing entirely wrong.

No snacks.  I was letting my kids eat snacks whenever they wanted.  Pretzels before dinner?  Sure!  Why not?  If it kept my kids from whining or throwing a tantrum I was willing to do almost anything to get my kids to shut the f up. 

No short order cooking.  Everyone gets served the same meal.  There is always at least one thing that my kids will like and eat, but my kitchen is not a diner, and my name is not Alice. 

No questions.  I was letting my toddler decide what to eat for dinner and asking him if he wanted whatever was being cooked.  Unless you're offering a cookie, there's a 110% chance your kid is going to say he doesn't want it.  The adult decides what's for dinner, puts a reasonable amount of it on the toddlers plate, and places it in front of the little bugger.

No begging, no bargaining.  We stopped begging Noah to take "one bite" of something, and we don't offer rewards for eating.  Dinner time is much more relaxing now that I'm not pestering my kid to eat something; I can drink my wine in peace!

No snacks after dinner.  If Noah didn't eat dinner, then I was letting him have a snack before bed, which, of course, was something he wanted.  He caught on pretty quickly that if he didn't like what was served for dinner and he didn't eat it, then he would still be able to satisfy his hunger by asking for a snack before bed.  Nowadays if he says he's still hungry before bed, and he didn't eat his dinner, I warm up his plate and offer it to him.  If your kid is hungry for snacks, then he's definitely got room for dinner.  Plus, an amazing thing happens if you let your kid get hungry enough: he eats.  It's truly revolutionary.  

There are good days and there are bad days, and my kid still doesn't love to eat meat, but we're doing a lot better: I'm drinking a lot less wine, and Noah is willingly eating a lot more falafels.   

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