Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tricking, Conniving, and Finegaling

alternately titled: dealing with a picky eater

Lyndon has declared his move to toddler status in more ways than one lately. About a week before his birthday, he started refusing to take one of his naps, and this week he finally got the hang of napping for 3 hours straight, so he's a one-nap-a-day guy, now. He adores his new car seat and his new shoes. He's also, quite abruptly, become a picky eater.

No meat. No vegetables. Very few whole grains and very little cow's milk. Cheese, fruit, starch and eggs are his favorite food groups.

I have long thought that a child should be presented with the same meal the rest of the family is eating (within reason), and if he refuses to eat it, then that's it. No dinner tonight.

And then I had a child who, according to our doc, is "somewhere between the 5th and 10th percentiles for weight and height". He's been dropping steadily from the 50th since his 6-month visit, and our doc wants to check his liver, kidneys and thyroid, "just to make sure". Because of this, I can't, in good conscience, let my child refuse to eat. But I also can't feed him cheese and white bread three times a day.

So I'm getting sneaky.

I've discovered a few tricks for dealing with my picky eater. I'll list them for you, although I'm definitely not an expert, and if you have any other ideas, they would be more than welcome.

1) If mommy (or daddy) is eating it, it must be good.

Lyndon ate his best lunch this week sitting on the kitchen floor with me while I fed him bits of salmon cake from my plate, the same salmon cake he refused to eat for dinner the night before. When he saw me pull that plate out of the microwave and settle down with my fork, all of a sudden that salmon cake was the most desirable food in the world. Because I was eating it... and not telling him he had to eat it. I have now successfully fed him lentil soup, ham and bean soup, chicken pot pie and tuna salad this way.

2) Pair unacceptable foods with acceptable foods.

This is not "hiding" healthy food inside unhealthy food. I'm not a huge fan of that approach, and it doesn't work very often with Lyndon, anyway. He's very good at detecting changes to old favorites, and it doesn't help that deception is written all over my face when I try to trick him like that. So, instead, I've taken to acknowledging that a new food is there but emphasizing the fact that one of his old standbys is also there. For example, I let him have all the Saltine crackers he wants... as long as he dips them into some homemade guacamole. If he's unwilling to do it, sometimes I take the reins and do it for him. He almost always eats the cracker even though it has a dollop of green stuff on the end. Which leads me nicely into my next trick...

3) Serve the same food in a different way.

When he refused cut-up avocado, I mashed it and spread it on a cracker. Instant success! Sometimes, it's as simple as a texture change. I cook his (whole grain) pasta a few minutes longer than ours, and, suddenly, it's delectable. Other times, a change of utensil or even location will do the trick. We've let him eat off our forks, with his own little fork, with his fingers, in his high chair, on the kitchen floor, even standing up (and well supervised) at the coffee table. I'm less flexible with family meals and messy foods; those are almost exclusively eaten at the table in the high chair, but for snacks or meals where it's just the two of us, I'm willing to sit in the living room and feed him (cooked) carrot sticks, or let him feed himself yogurt with a spoon, even though I know he will be covered in it. I do what I have to do to get him to eat what I want him to eat. And it's working!

1 comment:

InDeeds said...

Nice work! I sympathize with the stress of having a slow-growing kid. Phoebe is still riding in the 50%, but really only cause of her 9+lb start; but when I couldn't get her to eat at the beginning it was the most frustrating discouraging thing. I mean, really, what do you do if they flat out refuse to eat?? But anyway, looks like you have found some good solutions - its all about what works for you and Lyndon! He's happy, and hopefully some thyroid tests and stuff will tell you he is also healthy...beyond that, I say, Yay for petite babies!