What’s For Dinner, Mom?: How I Learned to Embrace My Picky Eaters

Picky Eaters | Lose The Cape

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A guest post by Louise Muzio.

Ketchup Is Totally The New Kale

My friend’s seven year old daughter eats kale. Just saying.

The only K food that passes my picky kids’ lips is ketchup. They wouldn’t eat kale even if it was unidentifiable as kale because it was so smothered in ketchup.

Feeding kids is one of the biggest challenges and taboos of modern parenthood. What you do or don’t feed your offspring can be tantamount to child abuse in some eyes but for our family eating represents one big chunk of daily slog.

We have tried very hard to accommodate seemingly impossible guidelines of what to feed your children but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that food and kids just aren’t worth the fight. Picky eaters will be picky eaters.

Don’t Tell Anyone But…

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes, we eat cereal for dinner.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love it if my children craved broccoli florets, salmon and quinoa, but they don’t. It would suit me just fine if the whole family could actually eat the same thing instead of tedious hours spent creating two sets of meals every day. Bland, tasteless version for the kids and slightly more flavorsome adult version.

You Name It, I’ve Tried It

I’ve tried everything. Simple homemade meals from basic ingredients, elaborate things with organic ingredients from scratch, prepared store versions of everything. Even restaurant meals from kids menus have been rejected with disgust.

I’ve tried to be creative. Many an hour has been spent cutting cheese into cubes and vegetables into strips so that they can enjoy building with the food as well as eating it. I’ve laboriously crafted faces on plates with different foods and even served up meals to teddy bears in an attempt to inspire a picky child to eat.

Meals have been presented on special plates with separate areas to ensure no cross contamination between colors and flavors. Over recent years I’ve generously contributed to Target’s sales figures with the quantity of ergonomically designed dinnerware and elaborate drinking cups I’ve purchased. While, occasionally some of these approaches have worked, most of the time these efforts were futile.

I’ve noticed that when I go grocery shopping I’m frequently asked by staff if they can help me find something. I think it’s because I often stand transfixed, staring at counter displays, a blank expression on my face as I search for inspiration about what I could possibly make for dinner that stands a chance of being eaten.

I gaze in wonder at all of the flavorsome choices available to me and then snap out of the fantasy and go to the pasta aisle.

I’ve read many times that involving the kids in the shopping and cooking will guarantee that they eat it. Hmmm, have you ever taken yours grocery shopping? I always leave with a mountain of obscure flavored fruit drinks and rainbow-colored cereal. Both of which will either cause a monster sugar rush spoiling any chance of cooking together later or it represents ten bucks worth of wasted money that will sit clogging up storage space before my wasted food guilt trip subsides and I feel ready to dispose of it.

I’ve often thought it might be a good idea when serving dinner to make a brief diversion and hover the prepared meal over the trashcan before serving. It would be far more time efficient to sweep eighty per cent of the offering directly into the garbage before the plate even makes contact with the table.

Embrace It

Now after many tears, fears, and years spent reading countless books, listening to opinions and googling ‘picky eaters’ in the search box, I have admitted defeat. I surrender.

No more devising meals of balanced nutritional value on one plate for me. I had a moment of clarity recently when analyzing the situation and realized that a solution has been staring me in the face for years. That is that the most successful meal of the day is breakfast.

They will always eat cereal with cold milk and the occasional raisin thrown in for color and textural interest. I emphasize the word ‘occasional’ here. I work hard not to fall over when the answer is in the affirmative to the offer of raisins. It doesn’t happen every time.

So, now, we embrace a new dinnertime routine. There are no preparing infinite variations on a theme every mealtime. There is one offering and if that is rejected, then cereal is for dinner. Curiously, when there is no pressure to eat what is served up on the plate it’s interesting to observe what food suddenly becomes,  well… interesting.

My daughter, who was always the least picky one,  has,  to my shock and delight,  eaten salad leaves, olives and tomatoes. My son, whose staple diet revolves around bagels and pickles,  tried sushi the other day. He didn’t like it but, at least he tried it. Believe me, we are making giant leaps in progress when my son actually deems it acceptable for food to touch his lips.

And so we go on. Day by day, meal by meal. I’ve recently introduced my husband’s idea of writing up a dinner plan each week so that they know what’s coming. Very early stages yet so we’ll see if it bears fruit. See? Eating is such a major theme in my life I can’t even write without mentioning some kind of food.

So, the cereal drawer is always full and milk is a commodity that I can easily and regularly acquire. I plan to try out Special K soon… I figure we can add at least one more K to their limited alphabet of foods.

Louise muddles her way through motherhood with the help of coffee, chocolate and yoga. She blogs at www.yogaskinny.com.