Mornin’ guys! I have another guest post for you today! Kristin, of No One’s Hamster, is taking over today with a post on her tiny little picky eater, Munch. (Whose nickname makes me giggle.) I have to be honest here and say that I love her brutal honesty about her situation. It’s not easy for a parent to put it all out there like she has here. (Side note: I have read several of her blog posts and I love that her honesty is seen in every single of them.)
When All Your Kid Wants Is Ramen.
That’s an exaggeration, but not by much. I have been blessed with a picky eater. I say “blessed” half sarcastically, half in earnest. Almost-2-year-old Munch’s pickiness causes me anxiety every single day—Why won’t he eat? … He only had three orange slices for dinner … All he’s eaten today is dry cereal.
But at the same time, I’m thankful he doesn’t revere food the way I do. I was overweight at every age, until high school and college when I upgraded to obese (I won’t say “morbidly obese” because I hate that term—but I was very heavy).
I lost 100 pounds in 2001 and kept it off for about 10 years … until I got pregnant, when I gained 57 pounds and am still working to take it off.
My relationship with food has always been—and likely always will be—complicated. I love food, and lots of it. I want my son to enjoy food as well—but as food, not as a constant chance for overindulgence.
Of all the things I feared about Munch and food, pickiness never crossed my mind. I figured eating was an instinct, that he would just … eat. And, with my genes, I thought my biggest challenge would be teaching him to only eat until he was satisfied, instead of until he was “Thanksgiving stuffed.”
Naively, I set out with the highest of expectations for myself, and, really, for him:
- My kid would only eat organic fruits, vegetables, and meats.
- My kid wouldn’t touch processed foods.
- I would only feed him baby food I made at home.
- And so on.
After my childhood filled with bologna sandwiches, Chef Boyardee, Doritos, and bags of M&Ms, I wanted to give my son the healthiest start possible.
When he was about 4 months old, he tried and liked rice cereal and oatmeal. I pureed bananas and apples and pears, which Munch enjoyed, and moved on to vegetables, which is where our problems began. He liked sweet potatoes, but not much else—each day, I ended up covered in peas, carrots, and green beans.
By 9 months, Munch subsisted on breast milk and pureed bananas and apples. He’s small for his age—always has been in about the 25th percentile—but our pediatrician assured us he was perfectly healthy.
I allowed myself to give him store-bought organic mixed veggies and fruit purees so he was getting some variety. I tried the early finger foods—avocado, cut-up banana, cheese. Nope. He wouldn’t pick up so much as a chunk.
At daycare, where schoolmates much younger than he was ate cut-up chicken nuggets, I refused to let them try to feed him the processed foods like ramen noodle—which they called “Chinese noodle soup.” I got on my high horse and made soup at home using homemade chicken stock—only to have my little Munch turn his face away from my every attempt to feed him.
Munch wasn’t interested in even playing with foods. I don’t have pictures of him covered head-to-toe in spaghetti. He’s very deliberate, poking at things with one finger rather than smashing a whole palm on his 1st-birthday cupcake. He didn’t so much as glance at it.
Eventually, he tried and liked puffs. That was a celebratory day in our household. Then, he grabbed hold of a Goldfish cracker and fell in love. At daycare, they asked if he could have Apple Jacks. And I relented and let my kid have the sugary, decidedly non-organic cereal. After months of agonizing over a child who wouldn’t eat much, I was desperate for him to eat something. Anything.And he gobbled up the cereal.
Once Munch moved to the 1s room at daycare, his teacher asked if they could try “school food” with him—ramen, chicken nuggets, fish sticks. And, again, I relented.
And, suddenly, Munch ate. Not at home, mind you—but at school, he ate basically everything they gave him. A particular favorite: Chef Boyardee ravioli. Something straight out of my own childhood. I still shake my head as I buy cans and cans of the stuff, old worries creeping up.
What kind of mother am I that I feed my kid this junk?
Why won’t he eat much for me, but he inhales everything at daycare?
Am I setting him up for a lifetime of food problems?
Munch is going to be 2 in a few weeks, and he’s still a picky eater, especially at home. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy some healthy foods—he loves bananas, mandarin oranges, and yogurt, but he also prefers cheese balls, pretzels, and his favorite beloved ramen noodle. He recently added French fries to the rotation. And doesn’t eat more than a few bites of anything.
He remains in the 25th percentile, but his growth curve is steadily upwards. He is, apparently, meant to be little.
He doesn’t have my food obsession, I don’t believe. He could take dinner or leave it, and he usually leaves it. I’m learning to trust him when it comes to food; after all, maybe I could learn something. He listens to his body’s signals and doesn’t eat if they’re not beeping. He will eat when he’s hungry.
That’s when I should eat too. And, maybe someday, we’ll leave the ramen behind.
See what I mean? Honest. It’s tough opening up about the struggles we have as adults, let alone as parents. I know that I, for one, am always thinking about how I can be a better parent, worrying about what I may be doing wrong, how I can teach my children the right choices, and if others can see that when they see me as a mother. Hannie was picky up until a couple of years ago, and she’ll be 6 in two days. Both of my girls will ask for sugary cereal, and yes, on occasion, they’re allowed to have it. (Oddly, you’d be amazed at how similar “healthy” cereals are to the sugary ones. I about died when I compared a few cereals a couple of weeks back. So be on the lookout for a post on that.) However, they’ve become such wonderful healthy eaters, making great choices on their own now, and I couldn’t be happier – but it took (and still takes) a lot of
work persuasion. Anyways, I wanted to take a moment here, though, to thank Kristin for her honesty, and I wanted to ask you, especially you nutritionists, dieticians, and other parents a few questions:
Parents: Have you had to cope with a picky eater? If so, have you won the battle or are you still fighting it? What is the best advice you’ve received?
Nutritionists/RD’s: What would be your advice to any parent with a picky eater? What are your thoughts in regards to parents and their hopes for a perfect diet for their children? (It’s so much harder than we expect!)
I’d love to see a discussion happen here!