The Picky Eater vs. Mean Mommy

September 8, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

When Liam was a baby, he would eat just about anything. I delightfully mashed up homemade baby food myself. I researched recipes for healthy finger foods. My kid wasn’t going to eat processed food, no way! Sure, I also gave him some goldfish crackers and Spaghettios on occasion, but for the most part, my kid was a healthy eater. Until he turned two. Suddenly, and very emphatically, he wanted nothing to do with peas, sweet potatoes, baked chicken, or blueberries. No more fresh fruit or veggies at all, in fact. I tried dipping fresh strawberries in powdered sugar…he just sucked on them and spit them out. I tried baking broccoli and cheese together in little finger food bites. He tried one and refused the rest. I snuck carrots into baked muffins, but upon seeing some orange bits inside the muffins, he wouldn’t touch them. I had to resort to food coloring on the next batch…but even then he only ate them for about a week. The only vegetable he’d deign to eat were those freeze-dried peas and corn from Whole Foods. He started eliminating even more tried-and-true menu items: eggs, mashed potatoes, even ketchup! Slowly, but surely, he beat the healthy-eating willpower out of me.

Fast forward almost three years, and if anything, Liam’s picky eating has gotten worse. We’re on a steady dinner and lunch rotation of chicken fingers with dried peas and dried bananas, hot dogs with veggie sticks and dried corn and fruit snacks, Spaghettios with meatballs and Texas toast, or Swedish meatballs with dried peas and dried peaches. The only sandwich he’ll eat is honey. No peanut butter. No lunch meat. No cheese. For breakfast he always wants an Eggo waffle or french toast sticks, Cheerios, or very occasionally, oatmeal. I have to cart his food with me wherever we go, because in all likelihood they won’t have the “right” chicken fingers (Tyson Anytizer Chicken Fries, to be specific) or the “right” Spaghettios (shapes with mini-meatballs).

I’ve heard and read everywhere that kids this age should be eating what the adults are eating. But here’s my problem: I’m cooking for both a picky adult AND a picky child. It’s taken me years to lock down menu options that James actually enjoys eating, but many of our favorite dishes are spicy ethnic fare that Liam won’t touch with a ten foot pole. To be fair, most kids couldn’t handle this kind of heat. Conversely, James would probably love eating chicken fingers and french fries and the like for dinner every night, but since that’s all Liam will eat when we go to a restaurant, I’m loathe to make it at home, too. In fact, I think I’ve very wisely banned french fries from our home menu.

I’ve tried putting my foot down. I’ve prepared a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast for Liam when we have breakfast for dinner. All he eats is the toast. I prepared chicken in crescent rolls (minus the cheese, how he likes it), and after throwing a 20-minute fit, he finally came back and ate it. But only after I promised him ice cream. Same goes for grilled pork chops. For two nights in a row Liam refused his dinner entirely, and he didn’t eat until breakfast the next day.

So this week, while James is out of town on business, I’ve decided to try a little experiment. It’s not going to be perfect – we’re headed to KC tomorrow and staying for a lunch at Okie Joe’s on Tuesday – but for the rest of the week I’m going to cook meals that are both adult and kid-friendly, and Liam is going to eat them or go to bed hungry. I’m ready to be mean mommy. Especially after our fruitless grocery store outing this morning, in which I actually had to put food back and leave the store because he was screaming at the top of his lungs and hitting and kicking me uncontrollably. Like a two-year-old. Seriously.

So, assuming I can make it back out to the store this afternoon, I’ll be offering these relatively-healthy kid-friendly meals this week: Spaghetti and homemade meatballs with Texas Toast; Beef Stroganoff with egg noodles and canned green beans; baked chicken fingers with canned beets; and caramelized pork chops with carrots and pasta. And who knows? Maybe he’ll surprise me. But I’m not holding my breath.


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  1. We have a picky eater here too! Our house rule is that she has to eat as many bites as her years of age before her “special treat” (either a pudding cup size of chips, a small scoop of ice cream, or a popsicle). So she eats 4 bites of each thing on her plate since she 4 years old. If she doesn’t like what is being served at dinner, she is allowed the option to eat cereal with milk (I don’t have to cook). However, she does not get a treat that night. Some nights, she’s fine with doing without and other nights, it will prompt her to finish her meal. You win some and lose some, but ultimately, it’s her decision. Her brother, on the other hand, would gladly finish his meal AND hers, no problem. Good luck with Liam!

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