What To Do When a Good Eater Becomes a Refuser

By Danielle Viola, RD, CSP

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We’ve all been there. Just when we think we have our children figured out or on a good schedule, they change it up on us! This applies to so many things in our kiddos lives, from sleep to behavior and beyond, but a big area this can impact is eating. Even the best eaters can go astray at times.

As a mom and dietitian, I’ve been fortunate that my first son has been a pretty good eater. Some of that is due to work I’ve put in with him, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that he was open to trying lots of new foods before he hit about 18 months. As long as he was accepting, we kept throwing new flavors and textures his way. For his second birthday he requested Salmon with a Puttanesca sauce (olives, capers and tomatoes for those who are unfamiliar), spinach and roasted potatoes.

You can imagine my dismay when my child who previously ate all things decided that he wanted more control over what he ate and all but gave up on trying new foods and even started to shun some foods that he had previously enjoyed, like sweet potatoes.

For anyone out there struggling with this or even just dealing with a child who is less willing to try new things, the good news is that this is normal and the solution is relatively simple. It just may take some time to actually work. It’s frustrating in the short term when all you want is for your child to be eating well-rounded meals, but it’s more important to look at the big picture and help your child to maintain a healthy relationship with food.

 

Here are my top 5 tips for dealing with a good eater gone astray:

  1. Model good eating behavior. If they see you eating it, it will just be normal. You can’t expect your child to eat peas if you won’t touch them, how fair is that? I find that the older my son gets, the more likely he is to try foods from my plate when the pressure is off and he is the one doing the asking. He wouldn’t get that opportunity if I weren’t striving to eat a variety of foods.
  2. Eat dinner as a family. Eating together is a key way to model eating behaviors and to talk about food. Family dinners end up becoming so much more than just a time to eat and with everyone eating together, some of the pressure is removed from a child who would otherwise be eating under the watchful eye of his or her parents. The more you chat together at the table, the more relaxed the atmosphere is. That inviting atmosphere helps kids to feel more comfortable to experiment with their eating. Plus, who wants to eat alone?
  3. Talk about food in a positive way. Studies show that children are more likely to try and eat new foods when caregivers talk about the benefits of foods instead of the negative consequences of “bad” foods. Think talking up the benefits of broccoli over the harm in eating cookies all day. Choose something that motivates your child. Our oldest was desperate to ride a roller coaster at a local amusement park. We talked about the types of foods that would help him to grow big and tall in order to do that and guess what he started asking for more of? It totally works!
  4. The food choices that children make will only be as good as the foods that are offered to them. Enough said.
  5. Don’t force your child to eat. Kids will eat when they are hungry. As a parent, it is your job to provide a variety of foods to your child. Your child should be deciding which of those foods he or she will eat and how much. Battles over finishing food at the table only result in frustration on both ends and can ultimately disrupt your child’s ability to sense when he or she is full. Trust that ultimately, your child’s body knows what it needs and in turn, your child will become more adventurous as he or she begins to trust that you won’t be forcing food at mealtimes.

 

Disclaimer: These suggestions are for children who are otherwise growing and developing at a rate deemed appropriate by your child’s physician. If you are struggling with eating habits in a child who is having growth failure, it is important to seek out individualized advice from a professional, such as pediatric dietitian.

 

How to Grow a Healthy Eater, Naturally

By Dina Cohen, MS, RDN, CEDRD

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When my friend Esther told me that her kids prefer broccoli to pizza, I knew we had to talk

some more. Esther is a mom to three children under the age of five, and she is also one of the

most relaxed, serene individuals I know. I’ve chosen her as one of my “role model moms” (I

collect them) and the way she feeds her children is just one of the many things I admire about

her. I’ve asked Esther to share her techniques for raising healthy eaters. Here are her tips!

1.    Expose kids to a wide variety of foods. Kids each have their own preferences, so by

exposing them to many different foods, you enable them to find their healthy favorites. Esther

doesn’t get stuck in a rut of serving only things she knows they’ll eat. In her house, “Kids taste

everything. After that, they can have an opinion. If they don’t like something, it’s not a big a

deal. They’ll meet their needs at another meal.” Esther finds that involving kids in meal prep is a

great way to motivate them to try new foods. She suggests saying something along the lines of

“Libby helped make the salad today. Doesn’t it look delicious? Thank you, Libby!”

2.    Know that whatever Mommy eats is exciting. There is nothing more powerful than role

modeling. “Kids pick up on your vibes,” Esther says. “Let them see you eating and enjoying

healthy foods. I love fruits and vegetables. I really think they taste good, and so do my kids. I

stocked up on of fruits and veggies at the beginning of the week and cut them up into snack

bags for my kids to take to day camp. They were ecstatic. My four-year-old ran over to me with

her veggie bag and said, ‘Mommy, smell it! Smell it! It’s so yummy!’ ” Esther shares how she

recently bought fresh cherries and her daughter was so excited she tried to climb up to the top

shelf of the fridge to get them. Her younger son loves imitating his big sister as well as his mom,

and he eats plenty of fruits and veggies too. Cherry tomatoes are a family favorite. “They enjoy

putting one in each side of their cheeks and looking weird.” Mealtime is a wonderful time for

role modeling healthy behaviors. Esther makes a point of sticking around during mealtime. “Sit

at the table with them and they will have an easier time eating. The more people at the table,

the better. I’ve noticed that whenever we have guests, they’ll do better at meals. It’s always

best if you can eat with them. You can beg them to eat a bowl of cereal and they’ll refuse, but

sit down and have one yourself and they’ll come crowding around.”

3.    Help kids build healthy habits early on. Because her daughter refused water at a young

age, Esther began giving her juice, but she always dilutes the juice with water. “I dilute it so

much, it’s like flavored water. The other day I’d diluted the juice while it was still in the

container, and when I poured some for my daughter, she said, ‘Hey, you didn’t put in water!” I

try to give my kids whole grain products and while it doesn’t always go over successfully, it

often does. They aren’t fans of whole wheat bread, but they really like brown rice.  “Get away

with it when you can.”

4.    Provide all foods. Esther sets the stage for healthy choices but she knows when to step

back. “I do let go because I don’t want my kid to be the one eating candy under the table.”

Recently, her four-year-old has been asking for a freeze pop upon coming home from day camp

because she sees the neighborhood kids having them, and Esther has no problem allowing her

to have too. She’s ok with it because her daughter enjoys many healthy foods as well and she

does not want her to feel deprived. She knows her daughter is used to a healthy routine and

understands that all foods can be part of a balanced lifestyle.

5.    Understand that it will be challenging. Things don’t always go smoothly at Esther’s table.

“It’s hard when you put in a lot of work to prepare a meal you think they’ll really like but then

they don’t eat it.” However, Esther believes that this is because “Children are challenging! It’s

not food-specific. They don’t always do what you want, and you’ll have to readjust your

expectations. Don’t drop the whole thing, but know that you might have to rework the

scenario.”

6.    Don’t have an agenda. Esther feels it’s important not to get too worked up about your

children’s eating. “When they feel you are anxious for them to eat something, they won’t want

it. It’s like when you’re anxious for them to go to sleep on time because you have a babysitter

coming; they’ll sense it and won’t go to sleep.” She believes it’s best not to be overly invested in

the outcome, or at least to “pretend you don’t care!” When I asked Esther to share some

rewarding moments, she replied, “I don’t view it that way because I don’t put in intense effort. I

don’t have an agenda. We keep trying things, and when something doesn’t work, it doesn’t

work. And something that didn’t work at first might work later on. So rather than individual

rewarding moments, I get slow, gradual gratification. I’m seeing that the seeds I’ve planted

have successfully grown.”

Help! My Child is a Picky Eater!

Dr. Heather Maguire is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and the author of the parent training manual, Get Ready… Get Set… Go! It’s Time to Create Behavior Change! As the mother of two young children, she applies her knowledge of behavioral science to everyday parenting. Visit her website www.drheathermaguire.com for more information.

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Help! My Child is a Picky Eater!
By Dr. Heather Maguire

Kids, food, and behavior… Where should I even start? A story from my own childhood comes to mind. When I was a toddler, I decided that the only food I wanted to eat was saltine crackers. Being a stubborn individual even at such a young age, I gave my mother a run for her money. She offered me peanut butter and jelly, but I said, “No!” She put cereal in front of me, but I refused to touch it. At dinnertime I refused to even look at the spaghetti she had made. In situations like this, what’s a parent to do?! Now that I’m a mother myself, I have come to realize that food can be one of the most challenging parts of parenting. As parents, we are charged with caring for the health and wellbeing of our kids, but it is not possible to force children to eat what they do not want to eat. No parent wants his or her children to “starve,” so we are tempted to cave in to our their requests. Recently I overheard a mother explain that her pediatrician recommended letting her toddler snack on whatever he wanted during the day, as long as she supplemented his nutrition with a popular meal replacement beverage. I’m not saying there aren’t cases where extreme measures are warranted, but to me this sounded like a horrible long-term solution to picky eating! Looking through the lens of applied behavior analysis, here are six strategies that have helped me tame the beast of the picky eater in my own home. I hope they will help you, too!

  1. Say goodbye to packaged snacks

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “If they’re hungry, they’ll eat.” This is very simple, but very true! One way to encourage children to eat is to make sure they’re actually hungry when mealtime comes around. This may mean eating less during the periods in between meals. Now I am not suggesting that you cut out snacking all together, but you can control what snacks you offer your children. Personally, I have made the decision to only offer fruits and veggies as snack options in between meals. As opposed to snacks like chips, cookies, and crackers, fresh produce is less likely to curb one’s appetite for more than a short while. I am not saying you have to cut out packaged foods completely, but it may be better to serve these items right after meals or just occasionally as a special treat rather than as snacks.

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  1. Timing is everything

As parents, we often have to be strategic in interactions with our children. If Sofia is feeling under the weather, didn’t sleep well the night before, and had a rough day at school, it is probably not be the right day to offer her a new food or try to get her to eat a food she has previously rejected. Sounds obvious, right? Well, let me share where parents often go wrong. Rather than using this strategy proactively, they use it reactively. Once they place food in front of Sofia and she refuses to try it, then they give her a preferred food. Unfortunately this often results in a pattern of food refusal that can hang around long after the bad day has been forgotten. Therefore, try to prevent food refusal by offering preferred foods on the hard days, but do your best not to cave in once undesired behavior has been displayed.

  1. Dangle the carrot

This is a simple, yet scientifically verified truth that can be applied to several areas of life. In food terms it equates to, “After you eat your vegetables, then you can have dessert.” Now, this does not mean that you need to offer dessert or other junk food to your children on a daily basis. Rather, choose foods that you feel comfortable offering to your child on a consistent basis (e.g., juice, crackers, popcorn, etc.). In order for this to work, there are two key things to keep in mind. First, the food has to be something your child really likes. Second, this strategy will work best if you keep your “carrot” valuable by not offering it to your child in other circumstances.

  1. Sometimes easier is better

This strategy is specifically geared towards younger toddlers who are still developing fine motor skills. As a human species, we are more likely to do things when they are easier, and it takes more motivation to do things that are difficult. Therefore, even if your son or daughter can independently eat, you may want to help them… at least with their first few bites. You may find that after the first few bites your child eats independently. Why is that so, you ask? Without getting too technical, food is naturally rewarding when we are hungry and so our bodies encourage us to keep eating until we are full.

 

To be redirected to the full article, please click here.

Helping Your Kids Create a Healthy Relationship with Food

*This post was originally published on the Bitsy’s Brainfood Blog. To see the original please click here.

Nutrition Comes in All Forms AND the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Agrees!
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

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Sugar has definitely received a bad rap this past year. Its poor reputation is very similar to the negative press that fat received in years past. Research is constant and correlations are often made—while causation is rarely determined. As mothers and fathers, how does this affect they way you feed your child? Do you go with the latest diet trend? Do you impose your food beliefs on your children? If so, how are you talking with your children about these beliefs? Remember, when all is said and done, these are just beliefs—not necessarily black and white facts.

With this is mind, remember all food provides nutrition—even Skittles and saturated fats (i.e. coconut oil). However, I am not implying you should feed your kids a diet of sugar and saturated fats. Rather, I am suggesting that as parents, we must watch our wording and behaviors associated with various foods. Our children are smart and pick up on our food issues. Yet most children—like many adults—are not (yet) capable of separating food and feelings or such strong statements into rational thoughts.

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Many RDs and parents want to scream, “Corn syrup is bad!” but telling your child this may be more harmful than helpful. I am trying to write this as delicately as possible, but think about it: Does a pack of candy or a bread made with corn syrup versus rice syrup really matter? No. Yet many moms label these as “bad.” As a mother of two boys, I do not completely negate these foods and constantly prefer that my boys eat more wholesome foods. As parents we must walk a very fine line in how we convey healthy habits to children. We may use different educational tools to discuss nutrient density, food processing, and overall diet quality, but it is also our job to prevent children from fearing their food, fearing weight gain, and fearing feeding themselves.

Instilling fear of food and feeding in a child can even be one of the contributors to the feeding disorder known as “Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder” (ARFID,) especially if a child is already prone to anxiety or is a picky eater.

You can be the mom that hands your children M&M’s some of the time. Know that sugar candy is converted to exactly that, sugar in the body. The brain only uses sugar; our muscles store sugar for easy access during long bouts of exercise (playing a long soccer game, playing outside all day long, or swimming in the pool for many hours as kids are wont to do).  While not an ideal food for growth, sugar still provides energy. Take into consideration that when we don’t make a big deal about these sugary foods, kids will be less likely to ask for them in the first place.

– See more at the Bitsy’s Brainfood Blog

 

References:

Stein, K. Severely restricted diets in the absence of medical necessity: the unintended consequences. J Am Diet Assoc. 2014;114(7):986-994.

 

Likable Lunches: Citibabes' Style

Need nutritious ideas for likable lunches? Here are some flavor favorites you can add to your child’s springtime lunch box: remember exposure to new flavors and textures are key to increasing your child’s nutritional repertoire.

If you have a picky eater, introduce one new flavor with other favorite lunch foods.

* Whole-wheat wrap with thinly sliced fresh roast beef with thin layer of olive tapenade and an apple.

* Sushi bowl: Rice in a bowl with edamame, baked terrakyi tofu cubes, fresh corn and side of pickled ginger or cucumber slices.

* Whole grain sandwich with Cheddar, hummus, grilled red peppers, spring lettuce on whole grain bread with side of mini heirloom tomatoes.

 

To read more on likable lunches head over to Citibabes to read the rest of Laura’s article by clicking here.

Healthy Habits is coming to a school near you!

Healthy Habits is coming to a school near you!
By Lauren Cohen and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Starting in early March, members of the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team have been heading out to share our nutrition education program, Healthy Habits, with New York City students.  It has already proved to be an incredibly rewarding experience for both the students and teachers.

 

Over the past few weeks, we have been heading out to Schools and Day Cares around NYC and it’s boroughs to spend some time with students. With ages ranging from 5-9, we really have our hands full! It was thrilling to see the amount of nutrition knowledge students in this age range already had. The younger students were full of great information and even better questions while the older students were explaining the benefits of protein and exercise and asking questions about metabolism!

 

Here are some of the highlights:

1.  Meeting the students and finding out what they know.

The students at our first two locations have a nutrition program already and we quickly learned that all their hard work paid off. The students were able to name all of the food groups from MyPlate and were even able to categorize their lunch foods. They told us all about the lunch they had that day—there was something from every food group! They were eager to display their knowledge and learn more. Needless to say, we were very impressed!

 

2.  Learning about Sometimes and Everyday foods.

After we learned what the students had that day, we asked them what they liked to eat. They named a ton of healthy foods but also a lot of snacks and treats. Sometimes and Everyday foods are a big and exciting philosophy that Healthy Habits teaches. The students seemed happy to learn that chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes fit in the sometimes category. This is an important part of Healthy Habits’ lesson plan and the students were very taken to this concept.

 

3.  Learning about the Hunger and Fullness scale.

How hungry are you now? How hungry are you after you eat? Before you eat? Sometimes these questions are hard to answer. It’s a precious skill to be able to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness needs. We asked the students how to identify what hunger and fullness felt like and if that was how they felt now. It can be a big challenge to tune into your body that way and it was exciting to see the students pick up on this quickly. Some of them were hungry and some of them were not but their ability to gage their hunger/ fullness needs worked out well for the next part of our lesson!

 

4.  Learning how to eat mindfully.

Have you ever thought about your senses while you eat? What does your food look like, sound like, and feel like? How does it smell? How about the taste? Have you ever thought about the food you’re eating while you’re eating it, or taken three slow breathes to enjoy your meal before chowing down? All of these factors have a huge impact on how we feel about our food and eating. It’s a valuable skill to incorporate into your daily habits. This was the student’s favorite part! Maybe it was the snacks or perhaps because we were playing with food—either way, it was a blast!

 

We wanted to say a very big thank you to the students and faculty at the various locations we have been working with for welcoming us into your school and allowing us to have such a wonderfully positive experience learning with you.

 

If you are interested in having members of the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team come teach Healthy Habits at your school, please contact us at newyork@lauracipullollc.com.

 

For more information on the Healthy Habits curriculum or to purchase it, please visit http://momdishesitout.wpengine.com/resources/healthy-habits-for-children/.

 For a FREE download of one of our Healthy Habits worksheets click the photo below!

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Kids’ Nutrition on the Go…for planes, trains and automobiles

Kids’ Nutrition on the Go…for planes, trains and automobiles
By Laura Cipullo, RD CDE CEDRD CDN

 

My family and I are about to set off for Peru. I’m very excited to take this trip and quite eager to learn as much as possible about the Inca culture. However, I’m also ready and “armed” with “nutrition on the go” items for my two boys…especially my younger son Billy. With the help of their star charts, they’ve been trying many new foods lately…even fruits and veggies.  Though they’ve been successful at home in their own environments, the Peruvian cuisine and culture may present a sense of uncertainty…setting the food consumption situation up for possible disaster. So I’ve stocked up and packed our bags with kids’ nutrition essentials to get us through our ten days aboard planes, trains and automobiles as we travel to the “Lost City of the Incas.”

 

A Sneak Peak into Luggage Packing—Kids’ Nutrition on the Go

Pack a few items in your carry on for the plane ride and then safely store the rest in plastic storage bags within your to-be-checked luggage. This helps to ensure that all the food is not confiscated at the security gate! Here’s what I’ve packed:

Milk Boxes: One percent milk in aseptic boxes.

Peanut Butter Packets: Justin’s individual peanut butter packets and some hazelnuts packages. Billy can have a peanut pack and a cereal bar as breakfast. Of course, he can have milk too. Individual packs can ensure food safety and are less likely to be confiscated at security. Plus, you can carry a few with you at all times.

Cereal Bars: Inexpensive Whole Food Bars that Billy loves and can eat as part of his breakfast.

Chia and/or Veggies Squeezers: When traveling to foreign countries, eating raw fruits and veggies may be limited due to the possibility of getting typhoid fever or traveler’s diarrhea. For my kids, I most definitely err on the side of caution and give them squeezers to get their “5-a-days” rather than risk their getting sick.

Clif  Z Ropes: Fruit is the first ingredient listed in this easy snack. They’re individually wrapped and easy to eat in the packaging…particularly for dirty hands that have touched railings and plane seats.

Annie’s Fruit Snacks: A favorite real fruit snack option that both my boys absolutely love.

Clif Bars: This is a great bar as it typically doesn’t melt or “smush.” This bar, a yogurt, and a fruit squeezer can serve as an easy, nutritious lunch on the go.

Spelt pretzels (an entire bag): I’m assuming I can buy hummus in Lima. Let’s hope this is true as these Spelt pretzels and hummus can be part of Billy’s dinner although I’m expecting that restaurants in Lima and our hotels in the Andes really will provide a few options the kids may enjoy.

Gummy Vitamins: These will ensure their micronutrient needs are being met on the road. I’ve packed enough vitamins for each child each day of our trip.

Mom and Dad’s Bars: Nutrition bars for the parents can serve as snack options or possibly parts of meals if you’re traveling without actual meal opportunities.

Wipes: Quite obviously, wipes are not edible but they are a must when traveling.  Surfaces and little hands have to be cleaned before as well as after eating.

 

Please wish us luck! I will report back about the food situation when we return from our adventure to South America’s Machu Picchu.

 

Keeping it Real: Dishing on My Boys’ Pickiness and Progress

Keeping things real is what Mom Dishes It Out is all about – and that includes the setbacks too. I’m the first to admit it; for every two steps forward that my kids make, they also eventually take at least one step back. In these instances, it’s most important to remember that the evidence continues to build supporting food exposure, rather than force feeding, works when given ample time and patience.

At the end of the day, my children are the real deal, and they give me plenty of experiences to share with you, my readers. Here’s what’s happening on the pickiness home front in my kitchen.

Hot and cold. I am not talking food temperature. Hot and cold has to do with Billy’s fickle nature when it comes to the most natural form of dried mango. One day he gobbles it down, and the next day Billy tells me he doesn’t like this type of mango anymore. So I give him sweetened dried mango. After eating this for about a week, I reintroduce the unsweetened dried mango and he happily eats it. This cycle is the never-ending.

Foods get breaks too. Raisins are another food in my household that the boys tend to love one month and despise the next. I used to always give the boys a box of unsweetened raisins as a snack or side with their lunch. Eventually, I noticed it coming back in Bobby’s lunch box. When I asked him about the raisins, he said he didn’t want them anymore (I believe he actually said he didn’t like them). After six blissful years of raising Bobby, I know that this means I am tired of this food.

About 6 months after this incidence, I’ve now reintroduced raisins—in addition to apple slices and string cheese—to Bobby’s lunch meal. And guess what: His lunch box is coming home empty! It’s not just raisins, apples or string cheese; this has happened with many foods. Moms and Dads, we need to remember children may express interest in old and new foods alike, so keep reintroducing and introducing foods.

Sneaking it in or dressing it up. Just the other day, I told Billy he eats pasta, and he was okay with this statement. Oddly enough, Billy does not like pasta, well with one exception. The trick is if I add his pasta to yogurt with wheat germ, he happily eats it and amazingly doesn’t say boo. In fact, this bizarre combination has become an everyday food for him.

I know that Billy is picky. I’m the first to admit that even registered dietitians can’t promise to raise perfect eaters. Using my professional and personal experience though, I also know that sneaking certain ingredients into foods I know he likes, for instance disguising pasta in yogurt or carrots in carrot cake, is acceptable while working along the continuum of exposure and variety. At the end of the day, if it gets Mr. Picky Palate to eat them, he is healthier and I am happier. While this may not be my first line of action, allowing Billy the opportunity to explore tastes and textures in an unintimidating way allows for progress.

How This Mom Does It: Guest Blog Post By Suzanne Quint

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This week guest blogger Suzanne Quint discusses parenting books, and incorporating your culture into teaching children healthy eating habits.

I am a mom of 5 year old twins whom I am proud to count as good (but of course not always great) eaters. Being of Greek descent (read: food is everything), it was really important to me that my kids be good eaters.  I couldn’t imagine going through life with them with a rotation of chicken fingers and hot dogs.  So, upon the recommendation of my friend Kate, I followed Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine book pretty religiously.  It was in fact, the only child development book, on any subject, I read.  I cannot recommend this book enough as a foundation and constant reinforcer for those formative early years.  Satter’s premise, in a nutshell, is that as parents we are in charge of what the kids eat and when – and that the kids are in charge of how much they eat.  She also incorporates the idea of having (some!) choice for your kids – so broccoli and cauliflower at the table, for example, and empower them to pick which they want.   As with most things in parenting, the key was consistency and perseverance, which at times was doubly hard with twins.   I’ll say that while we thought early on that my son was a picky eater and my daughter had the Greek-eating gene, he has really turned it around.  In hindsight, he was more stubborn (and still likes to make a big fuss here and there) but our perseverance on always presenting him with real food choices has paid off.  They don’t like everything but we don’t cater to them at mealtime either.  Some things they enjoy– spanakopita (or “spinach triangles” as we call them)– Trader Joe’s sells delicious and affordable one’s and FreshDirect has them too.  And if we order pizza, I balance this meal with telling them it has to have broccoli or spinach on it (their choice).

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

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President’s Weekend marked a milestone in my home. Typically, my youngest, Billy, only eats bananas from fruit vendors on the streets of NYC, but on Saturday he surprised me by eating one while sitting at the dining room table. The produce trend continued when the boys watched me peel butternut squash as I prepared dinner. Bobby recalled peeling carrots and cucumbers with me when he “was little” and also told Billy he needed to eat some form of protein with his pretzels. My husband and I just looked at each other and smiled.

I was eager to see how the boys would react to a little taste test I prepared for them that evening. Billy will only eat pasta in yogurt (it sounds disgusting but is actually quite tasty), so I thought it would be fun to let the boys try different kinds of pasta sauces.: pesto, yogurt and natural tomato sauce. Test One: Billy spit the pesto and pasta right out; Bobby did the same. Test Two: Bobby went on to try the pasta with red sauce. He described it as awful, yet ate it anyway, and when I offered more he took another bite. We even performed a Bonus Test–sprinkling Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta– and amazingly, Bobby liked it better without it.

I was heartened by the boys’ willingness to try the little samples I had prepared. The changes were small, but as any mom knows, any sort of openness to new foods is a step in the right direction. It gave me hope.

In an attempt to continue this adventurous streak, on Monday night I prepared a meatloaf made by the butcher at Whole Foods. If you remember, Bobby loved Whole Foods’ turkey meatloaf but the store rarely has it and when I tried to make him a homemade version he refused to eat it. (My husband and friends loved the homemade meatloaf, by the way.) Bobby asked where this meatloaf came from, and  I told him it was from Whole Foods. I hesitantly handed him a plate of meatloaf served with whole-wheat pasta and apple slices, worried that he’d know it was beef and not turkey. Astonishingly,  Bobby never inquired. His only request was that I cut the hard edges off, which I obliged. “I love turkey meatloaf!” he proudly declared, as he proceeded to finish his portion. I didn’t want to ruin the moment by correcting him, so I just let it be and happily watched my son enjoy a new food. This was the first time Bobby ate beef since he was 12 months old.

I’m happy to share that the apple slices were a huge success too. While the boys played chess on the iPad with their dad, I had sliced an organic apple using an apple corer and set them on a nice plate. I left the plate near the boys on the table without saying anything. Suddenly, Bobby declared loudly, “I love apple slices!” and proceeded to gobble them up while Billy licked one slice. He even asked for more, which prompted me to cut up extra and serve it with his meatloaf dinner.  I don’t think I did anything particularly remarkable that afternoon when my boys were suddenly excited to eat fruit—it wasn’t magic. Rather, I think that the boys were under the influence of their cousins, Lily and Sophia, whom they saw eating apple and orange slices the day before. The girls ate the fruits with such zest that they made it look appealing to the boys, and they’ve been eating apples ever since.

Just this morning the boys tried blueberries again. Bobby ate buckwheat pancakes. And although Billy didn’t actually add anything to his small ingredient repertoire, the weekend was still a success simply because he was willing to try new foods. Bobby’s apprehension about trying new foods has definitely been decreasing as he matures— these President’s Weekend taste tests are evidence of that. All of the small changes this weekend lead me to conclude something pretty big: There is a light at the end of the picky-eating tunnel. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made so far and I’ll continue to encourage my boys to have fun and try new foods during the meals and snacks to come. My boys may become adventurous eaters and share a love of yummy food like their parents after all!