Saturday, April 23, 2016

Picky Eater

This girl. 
She is the pickiest toddler I have ever met.

Eating oatmeal - a breakfast favorite.

In her defense, she comes by it honestly from her dad. He rarely eats vegetables, only eats fruits if they're mixed in with smoothies, and only in his adult years has he been more willing to try things that don't seem appetizing at first. His parents and sister have countless stories of finding mini wheats hidden in the sugar jar that he stowed there to "pretend" he ate them. I'm the complete opposite, sure there are things I don't like, but for the most part I'll eat whatever and 99% of the time I will at least try it. I guess I was hoping our kids would take after me. 

I thought I did everything right when introducing solids to her. We fed her vegetables first and she actually preferred them to fruits initially, so I'm not sure where we went wrong but one day she just started refusing to eat things.

This was a really stressful time for Mark and I at first. I felt like I couldn't get her to eat enough nutritious food or even enough calories in general. She's always been on the small side and her pediatrician had asked me at one of her checkups to try and get more calories in her per day. I was taking that task very seriously and because of this every dinner time became a huge struggle. I would make her food and insist she eat it. It was rough and we weren't getting anywhere. 
I started reading different articles and books and one things really stuck with me. I can't remember the exact phrase or where it was from but essentially it said "If you're going to enter into battle with a toddler, make sure it's a hill you're willing to die on."
Did I want every night at dinner time to be a battle? Because once it became a battle, you better believe I was going to be the winner. But was food worth it?
My mom also gave me some good advice. She encouraged me not to make food an issue. I want Reaghan to have a healthy relationship with food, and hopefully end up a little better off than her dad by the time she's an adult. ; ) If she always associates food and eating with struggle then I'm not starting her off on the right foot.

So what did we end up doing?
Well, honestly we're still trying to figure things out, but we took a step back from the "eat all your carrots or you're not getting down" approach (which never worked) and started applying some tips from the articles I read.

1.) Discover some of the things she likes and include at least one of those things at every meal.
2.) Include something new or that she's not a fan of at every meal but just put it on her plate and if she eats it then great, if not, no big deal.
3.) Do any training during lunch time to keep family dinner times a happy time.

I made myself a list of things she did like to eat that were nutritious and new things that I wanted her to try to help me make sure I had these things in the house. This made it less stressful for me when making dinner because I didn't have to stress about her refusing to eat. Basically, I started just making her a plate and setting it on her tray and just let her eat whatever she wanted off of it. I tried to include a grain, protein, fruit and veggie at each meal - it doesn't mean she ate all of it, but it helped me stay focused and not scrambling trying to come up with something for her to eat.
Once we started doing this and just having an overall more relaxed approach to her eating habits, dinner time started being enjoyable again.

I wish this meant she suddenly started eating all of her carrots and broccoli without a fuss. 
Unfortunately, she's still just as picky but this new approach kept us from making food a big issue. 
She became more willing to explore new foods on her plate because we weren't forcing them. She's become more willing to "try" things and we've let her have her own taste. Meaning if she tries it and doesn't like it then we don't push it.

But I'm still a mom and I still stress about her eating foods that will keep her healthy and help her grow. So what do I do?

I still buy her those baby food pouches, but only the ones that have a vegetable in it. She usually eats about one a day, this way I don't stress if she doesn't happen to love whatever vegetable is on her plate for dinner.
I make lots of green smoothies. She loves smoothies and doesn't mind at all if I mix in some spinach or avocado in it. I'll even throw in some chia seeds or granola sometimes to boost the nutrition factor.

This week I tried to make her sweet potato muffins (she loves blueberry muffins and she'll eat sweet potatoes on her own so I thought it was a winning combo) it was a dairy and grain free muffin and she hated it. 

 I also tried to hide finely chopped chicken into a potato waffle (she loves waffles). I thought if it looked like a waffle she would be willing to try it and then actually like the taste and keep eating it. She totally fell for the trick and started eating it because it looked like a waffle - but after the first bite she handed me back her plate and said "no." *hangs head*

It's still a work in progress and some days I feel like she lives on fruit, greek yogurt and crackers. 
But the point of writing this is to remind myself that as long as she's eating, it's going to be okay. She's not starving. She is healthy. She's still petite but at her last check up they said she's following her growth pattern just fine. 

Now that she's 1 1/2 and is way more capable of understanding instruction and consequences than she was at 10 months when this whole picky eater thing reared its ugly head, we do have moments like this morning at breakfast when she didn't want her eggs and she had to have 1 bite before she could get down. It took about 5 minutes for her to understand that I was serious and she took a bite. I know she likes scrambled eggs and she just would've preferred oatmeal instead, so in these instances I tend to require her to eat a bite or two. Again, this was at breakfast, not at dinner time.

I want to be a good mama and make sure she's getting the nutrients she needs, I want to be a good mama and teach her obedience and gratefulness for the food in front of her, but I also want to be a wise and discerning mama. One that knows what hills I'm willing to die on.

I can't say it enough - I'm still figuring things out. I'm thankful for grace when I totally mess things up. I'm thankful for my mama who offers great advice and helps my high strung "first time mommy" tendencies to chill out a bit. And I'm super thankful for my healthy, growing girl who loves her crackers. : )

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