Bigger Picture Moment: Food Struggles

12 Aug

My Little Chef

I can’t keep up with her. Her changing tastes, opinions, and dislikes. One day, carrot soup is the tastiest thing ever and then next she hardly manages to choke a bite down without gagging. Lunch the previous day had been peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with pickles on the side and today? It was scorned and Ella declared she wanted her belly to grumble because the food was icky.

It’s been a frustrating couple of months, trying to find the balance between not being a short order cook and finding food she would eat. Because the idea that she wouldn’t starve herself is not true. She’s rather go all day without eating (and having behavior issues due to hunger and blood sugar) than eat something she didn’t like. We’ve been able to implement the rule of taking one polite of everything on her plate and then after that, she can have a peanut butter sandwich. Even with this successfully in place, with Aaron modeling it by taking bites of peaches and cucumber without making faces, I felt like I was missing the whole point. Why was she acting this way? Yes, it is age appropriate but how can I help her overcome this? Forcing her to take a single bite of food wasn’t going to change anything in the long run.

Finally, I clued into the idea of having her help prepare the food. She’s almost three and can follow direction well with close supervision. So one night last week, I handed her a butter knife and peach slices for her to chop up. She helped me dip chicken into an egg wash and roll them in bread crumbs. After picking out which bundle of broccoli to cook, she washed it in the sink for me. Her all time favorite part was dumping in butter and seasonings into the mixer while the mashed potatoes were being whipped up.

With a flourish (yes, my not yet three year old flourishes), she presented her full plate of food to Aaron. “See, Daddy? See!” she exclaimed with excitement and nearly knocked her plate over with frantic waving. The pride of accomplishment was clear on her face and while she didn’t eat a lot, it was without a battle and she tasted everything with exclamations of delight.

I don’t have the ability to have her help me with every dinner every night since this revelation, but I do strive to include her in ways that she can help. Putting carrot slices on everyone’s plates, washing produce, and pouring dry rice into a pot are all ways that she’s participated in food preparation.

Finding the bigger picture was vital to this solution and I hope it continues to grow as she grows. Right now, food preparation is helping her expand her taste palette and creating a more peaceful meal time. In the future, I hope this will foster a love of cooking and preparing food. A person has to eat and if you can enjoy preparing the food you eat, it makes food prep so much easier.

Find more stories about finding the bigger picture over at Sarah’s today.

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17 Responses to “Bigger Picture Moment: Food Struggles”

  1. Jade @ Tasting Grace August 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    Oh my goodness this is such an amazing idea! And I’m so glad it seems to be working out. Because what I think you’re tapping into here is not just about getting her to eat. You’re also teaching her to respect the food that is put in front of her and the work that goes into making it, to treat the person making the food with respect and consideration, and also to value being helpful and participating in the kitchen.

    These may seem like small things, but if they go unchecked it can lead to a nightmare. I know a certain almost-teenager who shall remain nameless who is ridiculous when it comes to food. She’ll only eat meat, fish, (some) pasta, and ice cream. No fruits, no vegetables. She’ll be incredibly rude if she doesn’t like what’s in front of her (usually to her own family, but even in front of guests). And she has no sense of value for what happens in the kitchen. Even the small act of politely trying everything is something that will pay off huge dividends (both in terms of being polite and being open-minded) in the long run, I’m sure.

    Thanks for sharing this! I will have to keep it in mind for when I have kids of my own. šŸ™‚

    • Dallas Ann August 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

      Oh goodness! I hope we can avoid all that the parents of the teen is dealing with.

      I don’t expect this to fix everything but it’s been a few days and all is still going well! I hadn’t thought of all the other positive repercussions that you pointed out! Yay!

  2. Sharon Heritch August 12, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    Brilliant, Dallas Ann! What a loving and insightful post. Ella is a lucky little girl.

  3. urban muser August 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    i hope things continue to improve. maybe you have a little chef in the making!

    • Dallas Ann August 14, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

      I hope so too! My dream is to have my kids cook and clean up after one meal a week some day and at least enjoy the cooking part. šŸ™‚

  4. Heather Suursoo August 12, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Beautiful! You are such a good mom.

  5. Young Mom August 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    Such a great idea!

  6. Brooke August 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    I’ve been there with the food struggles,still there most of the time. Glad this is working for you! Hope it keeps the food battles down!

    • Dallas Ann August 14, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

      So far, so good. Still holding my breath, though. Toddlers/preschoolers are so fickle!

  7. michelle August 12, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    i try not to have the food battles…but some just can’t be avoided!
    my son loves to help cook, and is more likely to eat it…if he made it or chose it…but of course it takes twice as long with him “helping”.

    • Dallas Ann August 14, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

      Oh, I know the pain of doubling the time. Add to that my son who still has a “witching hour” and it can really suck some nights. I’ve started prepping dinner in the morning (chopping veggies, frying ground beef, even pre measuring extensive spices) to streamline the process at night.

  8. crnnoel August 12, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    We have huge food issues in our house… my oldest is living off of yogurt and carbs. Oy.
    But for my youngest who goes through waves with pickiness, having her help with food prep is an almost guarantee that she’ll eat it šŸ™‚ Who would have thought? But I guess it makes sense! I’m more apt to eat food that I prepare myself…
    I love reading about how people get their kids to eat šŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing!!

    • Dallas Ann August 14, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

      Ugh. At least there’s yogurt in the mix?

      So happy to share!

  9. Helena August 13, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    I can relate to the food issues. My daughter is not quite two, and one day she’ll love something, the next day it’s “no! no!” and she flings it to the floor. She consistently eats hummus, and will dip a lot of things into it and eat them that way, so that helps. There have been days, though, where I thank God I’m still nursing her because I’m convinced otherwise she’d starve. šŸ™‚

    As she gets older I’d love to have her in the kitchen to help me. Right now, though, we’ve got to work on the “following directions” part first!

    • Dallas Ann August 14, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

      I swear toddlers go through stages where all they live on is love and air. lol

      I *still* love dipping things as an adult, which makes me think that’s why fondue restaurants are still such a hit!

  10. Stacia August 13, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    We have a “thank-you bite” policy in our house, too. And we bribe with dessert, I’m not ashamed to say! My son, though, would rather forgo dessert than choke down broccoli or carrots any day. (Forgo dessert?! If I wasn’t sure he was mine, I might wonder … ) =>

    • Dallas Ann August 14, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

      I would question any person’s sanity who would pass up dessert! Then again, it may serve him well in the long run to not have a sweet tooth.

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