I’ve always been a picky eater. My mom likes to tell the story of when I was no more than two years old. She had apparently prepared something I didn’t like for supper because dinner was over, everyone had left the table, and I was still sitting stubbornly in my highchair, meal in front on me on the tray, untouched. I knew I would not receive dessert if I didn’t eat my supper, so as Mom cleaned up, I remained in my chair, struggling with what to do. Finally I made my decision. Thinking no one was watching, I carefully pushed my plate away and muttered, as if to further convince myself, “I don’t like cake and ice cream anyway!”
Many years have passed since that evening and although my tastes have expanded somewhat, I would still say that I’m a bit of a picky eater. I won’t touch seafood, there are many vegetables I turn my nose up at, and I’d rather eat a slice of pizza than a turkey dinner. I’m what is called a grazer and unfortunately, my grazing leans towards the cookies and potato chips side of things more than the carrot sticks and carob chips side.
My poor eating habits have a problem though. Three actually. Their names are Eli, Samuel, and Annelise and, as their mom, I’m supposed to model healthy habits for them to emulate. To compound the problem, I don’t like to cook and have maybe a dozen meals that I rotate through our mealtime repertoire. So I fear that I’m not only drawing them into my snack loving ways, but also dooming them to a life of boring pickyness, leaving them with only a tiny list of acceptable foods on their mental menus.
It’s not all bad, I suppose. They’ll eat carrots and broccoli most of the time (although Eli’s favorite broccoli comes smothered in alfredo sauce). They’ve grown up on venison and moose meat which are both much leaner than beef. They love lots of different fruits, and in the summer you can count on finding Samuel’s mouth and shirt stained red from a raid on our strawberry patch.
But they’re developing their fair share of bad eating habits as well. I think they would eat lunch at Burger King every day if I let them (I don’t), they prefer cookies and crackers to almost any other food group (just like their mom), and dinner time is a perpetual struggle (“Sit down! Eat your food! Don’t spit food on the floor! Mommy and Daddy finished half an hour ago and you still haven’t taken one bite!”).
I have a feeling a lot of this is the age. Eli ate pretty much anything until a year or so ago, and I know some of the struggle is a simple assertion of his will as he becomes his own little person. But at the same time, I would hate to ingrain negative behaviors that stick with them for the rest of their lives.
I know I’m not the only parent who struggles with feeding her kids. I’m not the only one stuck in the lunchtime rut of PB&J. I’m not the only one who wonders what the heck I’m going to put in Eli’s lunchbox next year if he’s in a nut free classroom and a cold grilled cheese sounds less than appealing. I’m not the only one who has let it slide when her kids opted to skip the banana on their breakfast plate in favor of a little extra pancake syrup. I’m not the only one…. am I??
I had good intentions when I started my parenting journey, I really did. And I think I still have good intentions, even if the wear and tear of parenthood has weakened my resolve a bit. But I could use a little help and encouragement. So tell me… What are your struggles? What are your successes? Any tips or tricks to expand your children’s limited tastes? I figure that we’re all in this together and none of us want to contribute to our nation’s growing health crisis, so let’s help each other out and start raising a healthy generation. Just remember though: I have limitations, so please don’t ask me to give up my sweets!