If you made a beautiful stir fry for dinner last night and your child ate half a piece of carrot and three bites of rice, this post is for you.
If you scour Pinterest after the kids go to bed frantically searching for new and creative ways to “hide” nutrients in your child’s meals, this post is for you.
If you’re so tired of reading about parents whose kids eat things like Bok Choy or Raddicchio and your kid doesn’t even really like sweet potato fries, this post is for you.
If your child thinks that cheese crackers and Cheerios are food groups, this post is for you.
Our almost 2 year old daughter Ellie used to be a pretty adventurous eater. Back in the days where she existed on purees and pouches, I could get her to eat just about any combination of goodness. Pear mixed with kiwi and peas? Done. Mango with oatmeal and butternut squash? She couldn’t get enough. She ate things I can’t even pronounce like acai berry and amaranth. I remember smugly thinking, This is so great. She’ll be one of those kids who never has to eat off of the kids menu and with whom we won’t have to bargain “three more bites of carrot and you can have a cookie” style.
Boy, was I wrong. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but our adventurous little eater became the kid who would exist solely on yogurt and peanut butter if we let her. The independence of “I can sit in a big girl chair and feed myself” seemed to coincide with a realization that she could now choose to eat all of her cheese, but feed all of her strawberries to the dog. The battle to find ways to get nutrients into her became a daily struggle.
Those of you who are also blessed with a picky toddler know the struggle. I’ve tried going back to purees and making my own pouches so she can still feel independent. I’ve tried feeding her in shifts so she has to eat all of the green beans before “earning” the granola bar. Last week, I tried “hiding” spinach in her mac and cheese. I literally watched her pull strings of spinach from her cheese soaked mouth and throw them on the floor. How did she even know it was in there?
When your toddler is a picky eater, you also know the guilt and shame and constant self-questioning. “Did I not introduce her to enough flavors when she ate purees?” “I wonder if it’s all the popcorn I ate when I was pregnant with her.” “What’s more important; getting her to eat kale or getting calories into her?” The struggle is present as you watch with hope as your toddler takes a bite, just to spit it all back out in all its disgusting glory. You learn to stop ordering food for them off the kids menu at a restaurant, and instead pack a lunchbox filled with proven winners so as not to make a scene in public. You read all the message boards with mamas whose kids eat green smoothies and Indian food and you wonder what they’re doing differently. You put peanut butter and raisins on celery and find a book about ants to read during snack time to make it fun and engaging. And in the end, you give in and let them eat chicken nuggets and graham crackers for dinner because at least they ate something.
The truth is this. Some toddlers are adventurous eaters. Some are not. We’re all doing the best we can whether the healthiest thing our kids ate this week was a cheese stick or brussels sprouts. And so to all of you mamas also blessed with a picky eater, know that there’s another mama out there whose toddler is sitting on the couch right now rounding out her third package of fruit snacks.