02 May 2013

Mama Memoirs: My picky toddler & choosing not to fight it.

When Bennett was a baby, he ate anything we gave him. I think a lot of babies do, because they don't realize that they can say no. That all changed when he turned about 18 months. He started having opinions, and he quickly learned that he didn't HAVE to eat what I gave him. This is about the time he refused what I was giving him, and basically didn't want to eat anything healthy.

He's 3 y/o now and not much has changed. He will eat an apple or banana on a rare occasion, but that's the extent of his "healthy eating". He has turned into a typical toddler, eating only chicken nuggets, macaroni & cheese, french fries, PB&J's (sometimes). I have tried every trick in the book to get him to eat healthier, and nothing works. I have tried from hiding things in his food. I've tried only offering one thing, and if he doesn't want it, too bad, no dinner for him. I spent the better part of a year trying to get this kid to just eat what's given to him. Even even stooped to bribery. No such luck.

I think as Mom's, one of our goals to try and make sure our kids are "eating healthy". I know that I always figured I'd be the kind of Mom that was always putting a well-rounded meal in front of my child. And in my dreams, they would actually eat it. 

Is it just me, or do other people feel like a failure as a parent when your child won't eat veggies, and fruits, and tofu... or whatever? I keep asking myself "What the heck? Where did I go wrong?"

But I am done beating myself up over it... here is something I have accepted:

So what if my kid is picky! Heck, I'm picky, that's probably where he get's it from ;)

It's not the end of the world. We've all heard the saying "Choose your battles". Well, this is a battle that for me personally, I am not going to fight anymore. We eat 3-5 meals a day in this house, and I can't be fighting with him ALL day long to get him to eat the lunch I put in front of him. And I'm not going to withhold food until he eats what I made, trying to get him to eat some peas or grapes just isn't worth it.

I know that a lot of people won't agree with me, and will fight to the death until their toddler eats better, and that's totally fine. It just isn't working for us anymore. Bennett is a happy little boy, whose thriving and growing just fine. At this point, we have so many other, bigger things to worry about, than what he will and won't eat. Give the kid a multi-vitiman and call it a day.

But just for the record,  of course I will always offer healthier options, and I will continue to introduce new foods. But I've been so much happier and less stressed now that I've just chosen not to fight that battle anymore. My hope is that at some point, he'll start to broaden his food horizons, so to speak.

But until then, he can continue to eat his mac & cheese, waffles and chicken nuggets.


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26 comments:

Jordan said...

My mom always felt the exact same way. She says there are a TON of things to fight about and that wasn't going to be one of them. My sister is still really picky (she's getting better though) but I will try anything. Hopefully he'll get better at trying things as he gets older.

krayzid0rk said...

For us the boys eat everything! except Emery has hit the stage where he won't eat at all. He would live off oranges and fruit snacks. He demands all these foods and then after a bite he's done. it is incredibly frustrating. hopefully someday these boys will figure it out. we eventually did right? :)

MGHanna said...

oh, the hopes and dreams we had about mothering... until we became one! haha, i totally agree with the "choose your battles" logic. good luck, mama! i'm sure he'll expand his horizons as he grows.

Kate Rogers said...

Their tastes will change, just like ours do. My stepdaughter is 8 is just now starting to eat more than mac and cheese and chicken nuggests. I say, always offer it to them but dont force them. Eventually, they will like something else and eat it too. As my son got older he got a bit pickier and I always make him try something and if he truly doesn't like it, I don't force it. =)

Jodi said...

I think the way you are handling it is good! Who wants to fight w/ their kids all day about eating. Kids go through phases and before you know it he'll be asking for fruit! As long as he doesn't eat cookies all day what is the problem w/ mac and cheese all the time. I'd eat it everyday if it didn't cause me to gain like 100 pounds! Haha!

Erin said...

Yes! Jackson just turned two and has officially stopped eating anything except chicken nuggets, fries, Mac and cheese. Sounds like our boys would make good lunch buddies. And as I watched Jackson completely ignore every vegetable on his plate last night and ONLY eat French fries I raised the same white flag you have. This is not a battle I'm ready to fight. He's on average weight and growth charts, so yep, headed to get some multivitamins and pray he'll wake up one day and think fruits and veggies are the new French fry :)

MommaBird said...

Me too! For the most part he's a good eater, and heck I even IG his plate some nights but what you don't see (on the nights I don't post the IG pic) is that the food is pretty much the same, and almost always consists of a pasta dish. He rarely eats meat (I'd be happy if he'd gobble down chicken nuggets) unless I sneak it into his mac & cheese. But thankfully he hasn't flat out refused anything I give him, though he is only 2, so I've got time for that.

Amy said...

The only thing that makes me feel better about Eli's fussy eating is remembering how picky I was as a child (I was actually way worse than him) and I made it through alive and healthy! He definitely has his favourite foods, and most frustrating of all is how he LOVES something one day and won't even look at it the next. I'm able to sneak veggies into either applesauce or greek yogurt at this point but I know he's going to wise up to my tricks soon.

Skye said...

Oh there are so many things I could write about this - so many similarities to an extent - and I totally get it! At some point you just decide that your child is healthy & happy so they must be ok with what they are eating... and accept it. He won't be eating chicken nuggets when he's 18 (lets hope LOL).
My alost 3 yr old daughter thank god loves fruit - so to me that is a tradeoff for her refusing milk, veggies and many other things. She won't eat any red meat, most chicken unless it looks like a nugget, forget anything creamy or white like mac & cheese or grilled cheese or any white sauces. WTH? She does however love eggs for breakfast... turkey on a sandwich - and cheese that is not melted so I let her eat grated cheese with her dinner - to get the calcium LOL. Why not?! You have to embrace the stuff they like and run with it I guess. I have stopped stressing about her not drinking milk - she drinks a ton of water and no fruit juice - so theres my happy trade off I guess.
I am due with #2 in 2 weeks -so it will be interesting to see how the new one does with food when he is a toddler! Bet he will be the opposite!

Alexandra said...

Don't feel bad, I've been in that same wagon. He will only eat what he pleases and only once in a while dose he feel adventures enough to try what Mommy and Daddy are eating. :)

Ruthy Taylor said...

I'm thinking of just feeding Parker big hunks of bacon...whaddya think? ;)

Mandey Ejiasi said...

Yup. I think pickiness is just a toddler trait, those kids that eat veggies probably hate other things. My boys love fruit, (bananas, grapes, strawberries, melon) but raspberries? no. They like carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes (that I make in the form of fries and tots) and sometimes pickles. They don't eat pb&j, grilled cheese, sandwiches in general. Sometimes they'll eat noodles, but mostly not. Their diet is mostly milk, crackers, nuggets, greek yogurt, cheese sticks and fruit of all kinds.

I just add stuff in when I can, smoothies, etc. other than that they're healthy and growing so you're right-who cares. There are other kids who probably hate some of this stuff but will down a grilled cheese like you wouldn't believe. It's all relative.

beckyj @ A Lazy Crazy Life said...

I always worry (maybe irrationally) that making mealtimes a battle to eat this or that will cause an unhealthy relationship with food.

I vividly remember my parents making eat peas for breakfast since I refused to eat them for dinner. This was when I was older than Bennett, and thankfully it didn't cause any kind of long term issues, but there were definitely food battles. I was a picky eater as a child which wasn't ok with my parents.

I don't want to do the same thing to my kids, so I kind of take the same approach as you. I don't make every mealtime a battle, but I do make accommodations to fix what (and how much) I know they will eat. I'm SO glad we're mostly out of that SUPER picky phase because it's tough (I resorted to mincing broccoli and adding it to pasta sauce for extra fortification).

My thought is to keep offering and requesting he try foods he's previously refused, and find new ways to fix them (admittedly this is tough if it ends up in wasted food :( ). Don't give up completely because you never know when he'll magically grow out of the phase. But I TOTALLY agree with you that it's not worth the battle. :)

Ariel @ Dreams To Do said...

Girl we are so on the same page. My Leila sounds just like Bennett. We've tried all the tricks but nothing works. I'm over beating myself up about it. Some kids are just picky and maybe there is a reason for it ya know? I was picky and now I'll eat pretty much anything. So I'm sure all these picky eaters will turn out just fine.

Joni said...

I have given up on this fight as well. elijah has definitely been my pickiest food eater since introducing him to food and it only seems to get worse as he gets older. It's just not a battle I am willing to fight. We go as far as preparing completely different meals for him, something i always swore i would never do. BUT, hey, i do it now and i just don't even care what other people think. Wasted food irritates me more. just because we prepare completely different meals for him, does not mean they aren't healthy and i think a lot of people have a misconception of that... that because my kid doesn't eat chicken means i am going to go over here and make him a sugar filled jelly sandwich every time. i have been known to sneak less appealing foods into stuff like smoothies, but I think some kids just need to be introduced to new foods differently than just shoving it in front of their face every time. As he gets older we will ask him to take a "no thank you" bite like we request from our other children. this is just a great way to get our children to taste the things they think they don't like. if they don't enjoy it, they simply have to say "no thank you". we started doing this to deter our kids from rudely announcing "i hate this!" or "this is disgusting". works great for us.

Ashlea with an a said...

There is hope! My oldest was the same way, and on some days simply would eat! She's not almost 4 and over night she eats almost anything, one day she woke up wanting to try all new kinds of food (I mean even strawberrys, I thought every kid loved fruit?) and she surprised herself as well as us with her new found love for food! Hang in there!

Devon said...

I am lucky thus far (knock on wood) because Callie eats anything and everything. I think since she was small at birth she always feels like she's trying to catch up on her height and weight. However, her pediatrician specifically said "don't stress about what she eats, how much, how little, her vitamins, her milk consumption and what not. She's not going to starve herself and now days, she'll get what she needs from various sources and as long as you do the best you can to provide a balanced meal then that's all you can do." I always try to provide a balanced meal but sometimes my baby girl just wants to stuff her face with pizza, and I'm ok with that. ;-)

Sarah [NurseLovesFarmer.com] said...

Braden isn't a picky eater...but he definitely fights us on it sometimes. He loves fruits and veggies so he eats a balanced diet...but I definitely "give in" and often give lazy food of hot dogs and Kraft Dinner probably more than I should, but...whatever!

Kassi Mortensen said...

Oh yeah, I definitely get that. I have a niece and nephew that will eat whatever I make them because it's a novelty to eat over at my house... But if their mom makes the exact same thing they 'don't like' it. My bet is he'll grow out of it and start choosing to like some healthier things.

Lindsay Okruch said...

I quit fighting a looong time ago. It drove me CRAZY to go through so much work to make her a well-balanced meal and to have her totally ignore it. Or worse, throw it all over the floor.

Since I stopped fighting she ASKS to eat carrots, she'll eat a whole fruit leather, the other night she even devoured like five green beans. (Nasty canned green beans no less!)

Does she do this every day? Nope. But I think there's freedom in reconciling what's important to you. <3

Michelle Thomas said...

my kids were VERY picky when they were little..and FINALLY my 7 year old is starting to grow out of it, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel!!! :)

Nicolette said...

I think you have to pick your battles in order to keep your sanity. The only thing that matters is that he is healthy. I didn't consider my oldest a picky eater until recently when a few people (family and her school) have pointed out that she will only eat a select few foods. I was upset at first but than realized she only four, she will out grow it. I'm not going to fight her every meal. Its' just not worth disrupting the whole family.

GoodsonFL@aol.com said...

I have three extremely picky eaters. I've completely given up on trying to force them to eat. I make what I want and if they don't want it they can have a PB&J. I've already announced lemon pasta for tomorrow night and two want frozen pizza, one the PB&J. He is even too picky for pizza. Whatcha gonna do?

{Katie} said...

Oh my goodness, this is the story of my life! We have tried everything from not giving Jackson anything except what was for dinner to bribery. Brett even offered to buy him an iPad if he would just taste dinner. Uggh. Glad to know I'm not the only one dealing with this because I see so many kids eat anything and everything. The one victory I have is that he will drink smoothies, so I pack them full of fruits, spinach, carrots, etc., but they have to still be sweet enough or he'll turn up his nose.

Adina said...

I subscribe to the Division of Responsibility when it comes to feeding: http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/cms-assets/documents/105500-525938.dor2013.pdf

So basically, I set meal and snack times (more or less) and they can decide how much to eat (if anything) from the food I set out. Our meals are mostly family meals and I plan with us adults in mind, BUT try to be considerate of my 3 and 1 year old's eating competence so far. So if I have a really exciting (read: probably won't be eaten by the kids) dish planned I make sure to also serve bread and/or fruit so they can get full on something they are comfortable with. I don't cook different entrees for them. I cook what I cook with sides, fruit, bread, whatever...and then don't sweat it. Having a 'safe' but not-competing-with-the-entree food on the table makes meal time pleasant and something they can look forward to because they know that there is ALWAYS SOMETHING they feel safe eating.

From about age 2-5 kids are pickiest. Even little toddlers that once ate anything tend to get pickier during this stage. It's normal. The best thing is neither to "cater" nor to force. Catering is equivalent cooking something special for the 'picky' one or letting them anything anytime just to FINALLY SEE THEM EAT. If you have consistent, reliable meal and snack times, it's really OK if they skip a whole meal or snack because another one is coming.

So really don't worry. Serve good appealing foods you and your husband enjoy, toss in some buttered bread or fruit on the side and let him pick and choose from what is on the table and he'll grow to like the foods your family eats =)


Adina said...

And NOT to mention pressure tends to backfire. Try to get a kid to eat more, he pushes back to eat less. Try to get a kid to eat less, he'll often feel a desire to eat more.