Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Dark Secret

I have a dark secret. It's difficult for me to admit.

You see, I have an image of myself as someone who really KNOWS healthy eating. A huge part of my blog and my life is teaching people how to eat a healthy, whole food diet. With my own family, I have tried to teach good eating habits from the start, and have led by example with no signs of artificial ingredients, preservatives, refined sugars or HFCS anywhere near our kitchen.

And yet, in spite of this, I have two terrible eaters. There. I said it.

I'm not sure where I went wrong. I did all the "right" things... I exposed them to a wide variety of flavors, textures and spices from the very beginning. I didn't make food a battle, nor did I use food as a reward. At first, things seemed to be going well. My oldest was a good eater as a baby and toddler. But around age 4, the variety of foods she would eat began to rapidly drop. At the time I thought it was an independence issue, and that it would pass. But it didn't. I can still count on my fingers the number of foods she'll eat, and they all must be plain, not mixed together, and with no sauces, spices, etc. My second child was a trickier case. He had multiple food allergies as a baby, and was always picky, and still is. We joke that he is not a vegetarian, he's a carbotarian.

Thankfully, my youngest, Noodlebug, eats pretty much anything I put in front of him. He loves to try new things, and like his Mama, just really LOVES food... talking about food, reading cookbooks, planning menus... food is as much about pleasure for him as it is about nourishment. I'm proud to say that he makes really good choices when choosing his own meals, always making sure to include some protein and lots of veggies. Even though he's only 9 years old, he's well on his way to a lifetime of healthy eating.

But the other two? OY. I feel like I've completely failed in teaching them how to eat. I always really believed that the way to get picky eaters to eat is to just not make a big deal about it. I offered food, and it was their choice whether or not to eat it. I never forced the issue. Since they are now 12 and nearly 14, and they are STILL extremely picky, I'm thinking this method maybe doesn't always work.

At one point in my desperation to get them to eat better, I read the book French Kids Eat Everything. It's an interesting read about North American food culture vs. European food culture. I've tried to implement some of the suggestions from the book, like making them taste one bite of everything I prepare. This always becomes a huge, unpleasant argument that, frankly, takes all the joy out of dinnertime. I've also taken the attitude of "This is what's for dinner, take it or leave it." And they have actually chosen to walk away without eating anything a few times, which makes me feel like a terrible mother. I KNOW they won't starve. But still. I'm part Italian. It goes against my genetic make-up to let someone go without a meal. The stress of all this often makes me feel like it's not worth the battle, so I end up being REALLY inconsistent about it, which I'm sure does not help matters one bit.

My latest attempt at getting them to expand their dietary repertoire is to have the two picky kids look through my cookbooks and pick out one meal each that they will be willing to try. So far just one of those meals was a "success" for the child who chose it (though the other child hated it) I would do just about anything to find a meal that every single person in the house is willing to eat. At this point, the only meal that fits that bill is Pasta and Salad (and even then, some eat it with sauce, two don't, some will eat tomatoes in the salad, one won't... ) It's pretty exhausting.

I try to console myself with the fact that although the variety of foods they eat is pretty limited, everything they do eat is pretty healthy, since I don't keep any unhealthy food in the house. The Man has also reminded me that when I first met him five years ago he wouldn't touch salad. Now, he eats it all the time, so it's never too late to learn to like new things.

Perhaps there is still hope for these picky eaters of mine.

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