Monday, January 3, 2011

Food Wars

We have been cursed with a picky eater. It started around when Hunter was two with him refusing to eat foods. Prior to that, he was an amazing eater and would try anything! Slowly the list of foods he ate got smaller and smaller and our frustration level at meal time kept increasing.

When Hunter was two and a half I had a visit from the ladies who make up the travelling Child Development Centre group. They were stopping in because we were having problems with Cavan swallowing and I also asked them for suggestions on dealing with Hunter and his picky eating. Their suggestion was to just keep on putting food out at meal times and letting him pick what he wanted to eat from that. I combined that with a suggestion from a friend to have set snack times and to reduce the amount they eat for snack.

I have always worried about forcing my kids to eat. Growing up we were always forced to clean our plate and there was no real choice in what you had to eat. I developed serious issues with food because of this and diets that were forced on me at a very young age which all led to binge eating, bulemia, poor self-image, low self-confidence and of course obesity. I dread the thought of my kids going through these same problems.

But after a year, the list of foods that Hunter would eat was decreasing even more. It wasn't that these foods were unhealthy, just limited. Matt and I decided that after a year of trying the nice way, we were going the not so nice route. It started one night when Matt wasn't home and I made porridge for supper (Cavan's favorite). Hunter of course refused saying, "I don't like that" when he has never even tried it! So I took the spoon and shoved it in. Literally I held his head, pinched his cheeks and shoved that spoon in. What a fight! But surprisingly, I was able to shove spoonful after spoonful into his screaming gob and he ate the entire bowl.

I talked it up after that, telling him things like:
  • This is the year that Hunter tries new foods!
  • Don't be scared to try new foods Hunter.
  • You need new foods to make you grow big and strong.
Over the next week I continued to force him to try something new each day. Some days were more of a fight that others. And by fight, I mean fight. One parent holding him while the other shoves the food in. The first two bites are the worst. At times he has held a bite in his mouth for an hour. Yep. An hour. But it seems that once we get past those first two bites he is then much less resistant to eating the rest of his food.

So over the last week he has tried:
  • turkey noodle soup
  • turkey curry and rice
  • porridge
  • peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • chicken with rice and tomato sauce
  • fish with rice and tomato sauce
  • cheesy quedadilla (which he loves but I added grated carrots)
  • french toast (which he loves, but added pumpkin puree)
  • hamburger helper with caribou
  • homemade moose sausage with mashed potatoes
This list is unbelievable. New foods everyday!! If you are a parent of a picky eater you will understand where I am coming from.

There was only one food that he truly didn't like and that was the fish night. He got one bite down the hatch in an hour and a half and that was it. So we gave in that night!

Today was the worst day, but it ended on a good note. Hunter seemed to enjoy the peanut butter and jelly sandwich a few days ago, so I made it again. Well after forty five minutes of him fighting with me, he still had the first bite in his mouth. I was tired and frustrated so he went to his room and wasn't allowed out until he finished what was in his mouth. I had to sit on the floor outside his room to keep him in. It took another 45 minutes. We were going to just put him down for a nap, but he cried and cried that he wanted to eat his lunch instead. So back out to the kitchen we went. And surprisingly he ate half of the sandwich. While he was eating, I was sitting next to him eating cucumber slices. He started asking questions about my cucumber- like if it was okay to eat the seeds and if it was supposed to be crunchy. Hunter used to love fresh veggies and dip, but hadn't tried them in close to a year and a half. Then he blew me away and asked for a slice of my cucumber. Then he asked for dip, so I brought out the ranch dressing. Well one slice led to another and another! I got out a yellow pepper hoping he would show interest in that as well- and he did! In the end, Hunter ate about six big slices of cucumber, about 3/4's of a huge yellow pepper, and then a few more slices of an orange pepper. Wow!! And he was excited about it!

I am hoping this pays off. Hunter is trying new foods and actually liking them. Yes, meal time is a bit of a war and it can last upwards of two hours, but I am hoping over the next few weeks or months we see more positive change. I am encouraged by the fact that we took a tough approach to getting the boys to sleep last year and it paid off as they now go to bed so easily every night and nap time. I am still using my friends advice on small and set snack times so he will actually be hungry at meal time.

So keep your fingers crossed and send me extra patience vibes as I keep moving forward with the food wars!


Fawn said...

Way to go on encouraging Hunter to try new foods again, Kara! (Well, perhaps "encouraging" isn't QUITE the right word - LOL!)

As you might imagine, I have a somewhat different perspective on picky eating. I was definitely pretty laid-back when it came to food when Jade was little (and she was a good eater, so no worries there), but once we started her on the keto diet, there was no room for argument. We really struggled with how much to fight with her about finishing her meals (because she has to eat EVERY LAST DROP of food, AND it's supposed to be eaten in 20 minutes). They told us not to make it into a power struggle, but if we simply shrugged and hoped it would go better the next time, I don't think we'd have gotten very far.

Now Jade eats everything up -- she knows she has to and she's used to it and she doesn't even seem to mind anymore. Sometimes tough is the way it has to be. And at least it doesn't seem to have to last forever.

Very excited for you on your cucumber and pepper success!

Morena said...

Sometime you have to force the issue. I've done it before too. Congrats on the progress.

Tina said...

Oh my friend. I could write this post. Colby has been a picky eater since birth..... well you know what, I AM going to blog about it. Check out my blog later. :)

Megan said...

This is great news! You're doing well. We went through the same thing with Michael when he was really little.

Aida said...

kara, you just wrote word for word about my kids. i've now resorted to bribing and it works. also i find sometimes spoon feeding them is wayyy easier than me losing my cool.

Anonymous said...

Go for you Kara!! We have two very picky eaters, and i have basically given up. I make a different meal each day, and if they don't eat it it is up to them...but they'll go hungry. Some days my girls survive on ketchup and the little seeds inside of beans (cause god forbid they actually eat the whole bean!!!). It's been nice not having the stress of trying to get them to eat, but I am definitely jealous of all that you have been able to get Hunter to eat...and really, once he realizes that there are lots of good things out there, I imagine he will become a really good eater. Way to go with sticking it out, even when it gets hard!