11 January 2007

Random epiphany about finicky kids

Last night I made a salad of romaine lettuce and grapefruit segments for Rael and me to have with our dinner. Thing is, I've never liked grapefruit. Hated it, in fact. Until now. For some reason, while I was grocery shopping earlier in the week, I was compelled to buy a grapefruit...I just had to have it. You might say I craved it. Who knows why?

All I can say is this: as I thoroughly enjoyed the grapefruit with my salad, I remembered my mom eating grapefruit halves for breakfast as part of one of the many diets she tried when I was young. The grapefruit was always her favorite part -- she loved it. She always encouraged me to taste it and tried to sell me on its juicy tartness, but I wasn't buying. I loved to eat just about everything as a kid, but I drew the line at grapefruit and Brussels sprouts. She never pushed me about it. Apparently the fact that I didn't like grapefruit was no big deal in her eyes.

Here I am, over 30 years later, enjoying a new food for the first time. (Same thing happened with Brussels sprouts last year.)

Taking the long view gives me hope for my finicky kids. And makes me see the futility of pushing them to eat foods that are unappetizing to them. Encourage, yes, force, no. Model cooking and enjoying a diversity of foods, yes, chain myself to a weekly parade of pasta and vegie dogs, no.

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Although I've always loved grapefruit, I was an incredibly picky eater as a child. No sauces was a very prominent rule even entering college (can you imagine how limiting that is?)

A college friend, now my husband, loved many types of food, and his enthusiasm sparked my interest and bolstered my confidence. Over time that culinary curiosity has grown to be a hallmark of our family. "Have you tried..?" so often prefaces outings with friends & family. And you know what, we usually love the resulting meals!

It seems like healthy curiosity and a willingness to try new things are the best tools you can give a child. (However I say all this from the trenches of the toddler feeding wars currently levied in my household. It's maddening when I've fixed something to have my kid turn his head away without even tasting it. It's just a phase for him?)

Great story and definitely something to consider. Our son is just starting to be less finicky about food. For the longest time he wouldn't eat solids except for bananas. On a whim Adrienne tried a egg roll that she enticed him with by calling it a "Chinese banana."

I have never been finicky. My parents didn't cook a whole lot and, being in the military, dragged us into restaurants all over the place always encouraging us to try it once and if we didn't like it to try it at least one more time down the road. They loved the different tastes of Korean, Italian, Greek, Chinese, German, Vietnamese (etc etc) so much that it was contagious.

As a kid, I would jump at the chance to try snake, frog legs, and shark before anyone else. My best friends and next door neighbor's mom was Korean and I fell in love with kimchee, Korean hot wings, and Korean pickles.

When I was in college I took the same spirit with me and infected my friends who were all picky eaters. Some of them wouldn't even eat Chinese food. Now we love the times that we get together and ransack one ethnic restaurant after another. My most finicky friend who had such strict food rules that it was almost a UN negotiation before we chose a restaurant is now a "regular" at a Thai restaurant in her home town and they'll cook up stuff not even on the menu for her.

All this to say that having a low/no pressure adventurous attitude towards food will rub off on family and friends no matter what their age.

My 5 yo son was learning about the Japanese culture at a camp last summer and was told that they believe you add seven years to your life by tasting a new food. My son really took it to heart and has tried so many things so he "can live forever". He's still picky, but I'll give him credit for truly trying. I just learned to wash it all down with my milk as a kid. It took me until I married to start exploring foods.

My nearly 3 year old girl will try and eat most everything. She has a very diverse palette, which makes Mom and Dad quite happy. We never play short order cook at mealtime - she eats what I cook, every night. We have always, since she started eating solid foods, tried to share with her our love of trying new things (especially regional or cultural offering while traveling). We never force it, at all, but rather present it is a fun and exciting manner (talk about how it grows, is rasied, where it comes from, etc...)
Hopefully #2 will be as open to food choices.

My nearly 3 year old girl will try and eat most everything. She has a very diverse palette, which makes Mom and Dad quite happy. We never play short order cook at mealtime - she eats what I cook, every night. We have always, since she started eating solid foods, tried to share with her our love of trying new things (especially regional or cultural offering while traveling). We never force it, at all, but rather present food in a fun and exciting manner (talk about how it grows, is rasied, where it comes from, etc...)
Hopefully #2 will be as open to food choices.

I kind of have to laugh at this thread. Or maybe I am just laughing at myself. You see we thought we had it all figured out. We gave my son everything we ate and he eats everything. He's quite possibly the only three year old I know who loves salad. Along came his sister and we did the exact same thing. Baby eats what Mom and Dad eat. Except it didn't work. She is seventeen months old and would live strictly on bananas and clementines, if permitted. So we just keep serving her whatever we are eating and don't make a big deal about it. And occasionally a vegetable makes it into her mouth, but more often I am picking them up off the floor. I guess some picky eaters may just be born that way.

Katie: Yes! Yes! I think you are right on target. At least that jibes with my experience.

Food is a big deal to me - I love the experience of cooking and eating so much I'd be sad if my kids didn't also. Once he was off jarred food, we fed our son what we're having with very rare exceptions. Since his silverware skills are still virtually nil, I haven't figured out how to handle soup, for example (any suggestions, fellow hackers?). Still, it is a mighty struggle to let my toddler just not eat dinner sometimes if he's refusing what's in front of him. We always have fruit around as 'dessert' so I let him skip to that if he wants to. It's just not worth fighting over, especially as I see him refusing foods, etc., as a way to divert attention now that baby #2 is here.

Asha, try adding avocado, too. So good with grapefruit. I can't get enough of that salad combination lately.

As a former picky kid myself I have pointed this out to my husband many, many times (he tends to worry about the kids' food intake more than I do). "Remember hon, I never tried asparagus until you made it for me, and now I love it." : )

I also point out to him that we introduced foods to our 2nd child just as we did for our 1st- and they are very different, although sadly I think the less adventureous one has influenced the more adventurous one to try fewer new things :(

Our second has always LOVED grapefruit- we have a tree in our yard and she's so excited it is grapefruit time again!

Katie-

My son and your daughter could have dinner party. He would only request that cheese be added to menu.

At least it would be easy to cater.

When our son is beginning the routine of no, I finished, no want, get down please.... While Mom is offering something to him,I will all of a sudden in a fairly loud, stern voice say, "no Austin, you cant have {food}! NO, no Its mine, Im going to eat it, NO YOU CANT HAVE IT!" By about that time he is ready to "defy Daddy" and takes the fork from Mommy. Its really funny, cause it works time and again. Not every time but often. The stern voice thing is also done in a playful way so as to be different than a serious situation. We really play it up. The other thing we will do is play tug of war with his napkin going its mine, no its mine and periodically I will say eat that bite of {food} that Mommy is offering and he does. {have to let him win the tug of war sometimes}, the key is keeping it light hearted and playful. When distracted and having fun he eats fine. Austin is 2.5yo for reference.

How strange! I had the exact same grapefruit craving. They just looked so great at the grocery store, and I haven't had them in years. I'd actually forgotten I bought it until I read your post! I'm off to eat my grapefruit...

For Betsy, try the cereal bowls that come with straws or just stick a straw in the soup. We use & love the Sip-A-Bowls from One Step Ahead, for just about everything from cereal to snacks. Great for todds who can sip and use silverware without being discouraged from trying soup. At restaurants, he just uses a straw :)

Whoa. Big mistake. Kids taste buds are not developed yet, so things taste differant to them. They can be trained to eat the food placed before them. Yes, I force my four children to eat what I make for them, if they are hungry. If they choose not to eat, that works too. My home is full of love, BOTH for the kids and the short-order-cook.

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