Friday, October 26, 2007

Dinnertime Drama

My kids are picky eaters. I was a picky eater. I accept their pickiness as my just reward/punishment for my own behavior. My food karma as it were. My mother never said "I hope you have a child just like you." but it happened anyway. Given my own past I know at some point my picky eaters will decide they only like the most expensive things on the menu and will only eat half of it. So I have that to look forward to.

What do you do when your kids refuse all veggies and only accept apples & grapes for fruit? You hide things in the foods they will eat. An all protein diet or an all carb diet, which is what my kids vary between. is not a good thing. I considered buying Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld recently. But in the end, did not. I already own The Sneaky Chef,which is the same premise, and don't use it much, so another book on the theme seemed a waste of money I could otherwise spend on trashy romance novels.

Apparently I (and Mrs Seinfeld) am committing a horrible crime by putting eggplant in my meatloaf in place of breadcrumbs and spinach in the pizza crust and squash in the mac & cheese. At least we are according to a bunch of people on the internet, none of whom have to feed my kids. I've been reading about it & picky eaters in general at Parent Bloggers Network

I'm not sure what our crime is, something willful or negligent probably. "Just serve the kids tasty veggies and they will eat it." "get them involved in the process" "Offer it at least 15 times". Lovely advice, wonderful really. And if generalities were the answer to feeding my kids, then I wouldn't need the advice in the first place.

Serve the kids tasty veggies - what makes a veggie 'tasty'? Isn't that a personal preference? DH thinks broccoli is delicious in a garlic sauce, the smell of it makes me gag.

Get them involved in the process - my oldest son absolutely loves making pumpkin pie. He loves picking out the pumpkin, scooping out the seeds, cutting up the flesh for roasting, running the blender to puree it, mixing all the ingredients. Loves it, looks forward to it eagerly every fall. We just made fresh pumpkin pie Sunday. He took one bite & won't eat any more. he does this every year. wants to make the pie, but not eat it. And this PIE for gods sake! PIE! He does the same thing with eggplant parmigiana and vegetable soup. He loves the process but won't touch the end result.

Offer it 15 times - I have offered carrots, broccoli, parsnips, sweet potatoes, zucchini, asparagus, corn and beets to name a few, to my oldest son nearly every day of his life since he was 6 months old. Allowing for a variety of veggies in a diet that child has been exposed to all those vegetables, in various forms at least 240 times each in his life. He will not touch any of them, except maybe some corn on the cob, but only at a cookout where other children are eating it.

I've tried reward, punishment, encouragment, ignoring it. I've insisted on one bite, 3 bites, no bites, eat your dinner or you go right to bed, no dessert, dessert first, downplaying it, serving the uneaten dinner for breakfast, letting them eat nothing else that night, letting them eat an apple, bagel or yogurt if they refuse dinner, making foods they like, serving them whatever I want to make kid friendly or not, giving up & letting them live on PB&J for 2 days. For the most part they just don't eat 75% of what i make for dinner & are ravenous at breakfast

They are 3 & 5 and finickyness is a part of this stage. I accept that. I continue to offer a variety of fruits and vegetables with meals. I continue to make sure they see me and DH eating a variety of them as well. I make one meal for dinner, no special meals for the kids, though I make kid friendly things for dinner (that DH & I like) several times a week (pizza, meatloaf, spaghetti with pesto) And I hide spinach in the spaghetti sauce and carrots in the pizza toppings.

When I say 'hide', I don't mean I send the kids outside while I hurry up and steam, puree and add broccoli to the lasagna and then laugh to myself for putting one over on them. Most of the time they are in the kitchen while I cook. Very often they are helping me. They run the blender. They pour the puree into the mixing bowl. They *smell* it cooking. From a visual and nasal (Aural?) point, they know full well there is broccoli in that lasagna. I'm not hiding, sneaking or deceiving them actually. I am disguising it. I admit that. But I realize, from my own veggie issues that a great deal of the problem is textural. Crunch can be a problem, or the dreaded 'crisp-tender' so many recipes call for, or mushiness that still needs chewed (which I personally won't eat). Purees though go down fairly easily. I like raw broccoli and pureed broccoli soup, but crisp-tender broccoli has a texture I cannot stand & will only eat under duress (ie someone else made it and my kids are watching me). I serve them veggies in a variety of forms, cooked by a variety of methods, even while putting purees in what they are eating.

And I am not seeing how I am committing a terrible sin by doing this. What is wrong with making the things my kids will eat more nutritious? No one is advocating you just hide the veggies in a brownie and never serve ratatouille again. Just make the most of what you have to work with, continue to offer variety and pray to whatever god you believe in that someday your child will say "this broccoli is delicious Mom."


Jozet said...

Honestly, I think that ratatouille is just the French way of hiding eggplant.

This is a great post.

I keep thinking about this...isn't all seasoning or even cooking of food ameliorating it in some way so that it is palatable? Better tasting? better tasting according to an individuals own individual definition of "good"?

Do my daughter and I see "blue" the same way? Then how can I be certain that I'll ever get her to eat asparagus. Yes, I've badgered in the past, tried the cooking and growing and 15 bites. With some foods, teven that didn't do it. With others, I thikn my daughter developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome with the food - she knows that really she hates it, and that her tastebud hates it, but the punishment of eating it has broken her down.

And some day when she goes away to college, she'll be released from her captor and go crazy with junk food. That is my fear.

In the meantime, I'm okay with a diet of yogurt and noodles and strawberries and rice and whatever. She's not eating "bad" foods...just a short list of good ones. I'm okay with that.

But yes, I did it all right and served a varied menu and no junk and still I have a tight-lipped Tillie.

You're a good parent. I believe you.

Karianna said...

Yup, I'm sick of the advice, too! So frustrating to have stubborn also-parents when you already have stubborn kids!