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The Picky Eating Plan

Y’all gave me a lot of food for thought (ha!) when I wrote about Joshua’s picky eating. Your comments, phone calls, texts, and tweets were and are so valuable to me. It’s what I love about this community. My community. I have a lot of guilt over all of this that’s actually independent of the doctor’s appointment and is a hangover from the PPD/A. In fact, this is maybe the biggest remaining struggle from that time in my life. But, wWith help from my Mama Guts and the internet, I have a plan to deal with the problem.

Aside from a phone call from a lady I love–a woman who has raised two beautiful, intelligent, talented children to near-adulthood–one of the most valuable things I think I got was a link on Twitter to an article from the March issue of Parents Magazine: 3 Myths About Picky Eating.

That article sort of helped put some things into perspective for me regarding my feelings about this whole thing.

In short, I’m not worrying about it. Or at least I’m trying not to worry about it. So I have a plan to help me not worry.

The doctor who gave me the judgy looks isn’t his regular doctor. I feel like I should let y’all know that first. When I went into labor with Emma, I had to reschedule Joshua’s appointment, and this was the doctor who was available to do both Emma’s first appointment and Joshua’s three year at the same time. I really love the Nurse Practitioner at his office. She’s seen him since he was two months old and will continue to see him. We request her every time he’s sick and if she’s available she’s who we get. She’s who sees and will continue to see Emma. We love her.

So the first part of my plan is to make an appointment to talk to the NP.

I feel like the responsible thing to do is rule out anything physiological causing him to reject foods, especially because of what I see as anxiety in his reaction to foods, and even to new situations. I know that I have issues with anxiety and new things. If there’s even the remotest chance that this could be anxiety, I want to find ways to help him cope with that before it becomes an issue that potentially cripples him later in life.

If this is reflux or a sensory disorder, I want to know. I don’t want it to be those things, but I want to know IF it’s those things.

But if it’s not those things, I still know that this isn’t just a child manipulating his parents into more treats. (If you want to know what that kind of manipulation looks like, wait until I get to the post about potty training.)

A lot of this is just him and he’s a kid who doesn’t easily accept new things and situations. He’s kind of always been that way. He’s a creature of routine, most definitely. But part of this is a genuine fear that I don’t want to progress to something more profound as he grows up.

This doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to get him to eat new things. It just means that I’m changing the approach in how I deal with this phase of his life.

For starters, we’re not mentioning the new food on his plate. He’s mentioning it plenty. Believe me. He’s screaming and crying about the fact that there’s a bite of chicken finger or hot dog on his plate.

(BTW, I say “we’re” but I really only sent the article to Dan this morning, so Parenting As A Team Fail on my part.)

I’m making a dinner plate for him that contains things I know he’ll eat and things I know he probably won’t eat. And I’m trying to calmly talk him through the fact that those things are on his plate. He doesn’t have to eat them, but he can try them if he wants to. Eventually, my hope is that “new” food on his plate is second nature so that, again, eventually, he’ll want to touch the food, or even taste it.

My goal for right now, however, is just to get to the point where I don’t have to calm him down about the food. I just want him to accept it as part of his new routine. If he asks questions about the food, cool. If he doesn’t, cool. If he touches the food, cool. If he doesn’t touch the food, also cool.

I just want it to be on his plate without a freak out.

When he does ask about it, we’re introducing my friend Alison‘s tip about the “No thank you” bite. If he takes a bite and doesn’t like it, he can say “no thank you” and he doesn’t have to take another bite. So far, he doesn’t understand the concept of “no thank you,” despite being an otherwise well-mannered three year old, and we haven’t actually gotten him to TAKE a bite,  but we’re working on it.

Aside from the “no thank you” bite when he asks about the food first, I’m trying not to bribe or encourage him to try the food by telling him he’ll like it. I want it to be his idea to try it.

Once we have success with this, we can look into food chaining and adding new foods without replacing what he already eats. But for now, the goal is just to eliminate the freak out and make dinner a somewhat enjoyable experience.

Here’s hoping, right?

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Week In Review: 5

Sunday 15th of July 2012

[...] picky eating saga continues, but he did eat part of a taco. You know, the part that’s basically just the shell with [...]


Monday 9th of July 2012

I have a VERY picky eater at my house. My almost-4-year-old won't eat anything! But my doctor assures us that she won't let herself starve. When she's actually hungry, she'll eat. And so we just try not to stress. We offer her food, set a plate in front of her, but we don't make a fight out of every mealtime. And the truth is that she does eat and she will tell me when she's hungry, so I don't worry much about it anymore.


Friday 13th of July 2012

I know he goes through days where he eats EVERYTHING. And then there will be days when he eats almost nothing. I just want to make sure that when he DOES eat, it's healthy stuff.


Monday 9th of July 2012

I missed the first post. But Landon is a VERY picky eater. He always has been. I don't know why this worked for us but we had to come up with something so he would eat. I finally instituted the "five bite rule." He cannot have dessert unless he takes at least five bites of his dinner.

Yeah, isn't that pathetic? It's seriously that bad. My two year old only weighs 4 lbs less than Landon.


Friday 13th of July 2012

I don't think it's pathetic at all! I think parenting is hard and you have to do what you have to do.


Sunday 8th of July 2012

I'm hoping that the "no thank you" bite works for you like it has worked for us. Last night, Katelyn actually asked me, "Can I have a 'no thank you' bite of that?" while pointing to the sweet potato on my plate. It was awesome. I can't remember if you mentioned this, but have you also tried letting him (and even encouraging him) to play with his food? I know that sounds strange, but if it is sensory-related, kids often have to overcome their sensory issues with their hands before their mouths. And another thing I meant to clarify was that I believe some picky eaters are just picky. In other words, they aren't being manipulative. Good luck!!


Friday 13th of July 2012

I'm not entirely positive he's being manipulative. I think there's some bigger reason for why he's a picky eater. A reason like this is just who he is, which is really a big enough reason for me. I think I just don't want him to be scared to try new things, and right now there's a lot of fear when it comes to new foods.

I haven't encouraged him to play with his food, but I haven't discouraged him either. I do know that he's got to be comfortable touching the food before he can be comfortable tasting it though.


Sunday 8th of July 2012

Eddie is by no means a picky eater, but this is the exact thing we have always done. We have those toddler divided plates and we put tiny bits of everything I cook for our meal on it (a bite of chicken, 2 green beans, a few noodles) and then things I know he will eat (a banana, some cheese). We sort of do the "no thank you" bite in that if Eddie wants dessert he has to TRY everything on the plate, but he doesn't have to EAT everything completely on the plate. We are very lucky that he has always been a good eater and is open to trying things. And this week he found out he likes ranch pasta salad with bacon. So WIN!


Friday 13th of July 2012

I keep meaning to buy divided plates. I think I'll go peruse Amazon now that I forgot to cancel my Prime membership before the trial period was over!

Joshua's pretty okay with not getting dessert if it means he doesn't have to try whatever we're asking him to try. It's one of the things that sticks out to me as being somewhat abnormal.

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