Okay, in the previous post I said Cora is the pickiest eater EVER, and I really thought I'd be hard-pressed to find someone out there with a child as picky as mine. But as it turns out, there are plenty of picky kids out there! Not to smile on your misfortune of having a child that won't eat anything, but I'm really glad to know we're not alone when it comes to this issue. Let me share what we do at the dinner table what we used to do and how we've changed in order to inspire our finicky little Cora to try new foods.
Once upon a time, Cora was a happy, albeit unusually high maintenance, child at the dinner table. I fed her all kinds of baby food -- fruits, veggies, grains and eats. She ate almost everything, and I was a proud mama for offering her a variety of healthy foods to choose from. As Cora grew into a young toddler, she began to become more selective when it came to food, but she still ate a decent variety including meats, pasta, fruits and vegetables. Then somewhere around 2-years-old or so, Cora decided she didn't want to eat anything but sandwiches (pb&j), and fruits. And maybe some crackers. And pizza. And chicken nuggets. (Yes, this was WAY WAY before we were gluten-free and even WAY before we ate all-natural whole foods.) Any attempts to feed Cora new foods were met with fits, fights and crying. I distinctly remember my stubborn little one sitting at the kitchen table for 2 hours, refusing to try one tiny piece of ham, and she was only 2 1/2-years-old at the time -- she must have gotten all that stubbornness from her Daddy (wink wink). Like I said in my earlier post, we tried all the tricks of the trade to get her to expand her palette but to no avail.
Unfortunately, I began making two separate meals at dinner time -- one for us and one for Cora. (Adelle was just a baby at the time.) As Adelle grew into a toddler, she ate a wide variety of food, but she also began to follow her sister's lead regarding picky eating. I couldn't make one special meal for Cora and not one for Adelle -- it just didn't seem right or fair. So I made a stand: No More Special Meals. We would do pretty well for a while, then one of the kids would get sick, and I'd make them a sandwich for dinner just to get them to eat. And the process would start all over again.
As we changed to gluten-free, I knew I couldn't make special meals anymore. Not only was I tired of it, but it's hard enough to come up with one gluten-free dinner, let alone two. And I knew my girls would just have to learn to try and even like new foods. Adelle was easy; she eats a lot that we put on her plate depending on the day. Cora... well, that's a different story.
So far this is what has worked for us:
1. We explained our diet changes to her. We also explained that we were not going to make special "kid" dinners for her or Adelle anymore because they need to eat other good foods. We talked about how food is used to keep our bodies healthy and that different foods help our bodies in different ways.
2. Even though I know Cora will not eat the main dish, I always have one item on her plate that she likes. That is usually peas (which she'll eat a lot of) and broccoli (not so much). Sometimes if we're having something totally "out there" according to the kids, I'll put apple slices, applesauce or something like that on their plates. She may not like the chicken and potato, but I know she likes peas, so if Cora is hungry, there's something there for her to eat.
3.If it's a reasonable food for her to try, something that we think is pretty basic to the palette, like a piece of chicken, a bite of pork chop or beef, a piece of sweet potato, etc., we say they must take one bite of the other food on their plate before they can get down. Sometimes this goes fine; sometimes this method causes strife. However, Cora has tried many foods this way, and she's learning to get used to the texture. Even if she tried chicken last week and didn't like it, we make her try it again so she can become accustomed to the texture of chicken in her mouth. When Cora was younger, it was harder to get her to try the food -- she would sit at the table for quite some time refusing to eat. When dinner was over, James and I would get up and clean the kitchen, paying minimal attention to Cora as she whined and moaned in supposed agony. If she did not try the food by the time I was done cleaning up, we'd either leave her in the kitchen by herself (she could get up once she ate a piece), or we'd simply get her cleaned up and put her straight to bed. Both of those consequences are pure torture for Cora, so they were quite motivating.
So what do you do to motivate your picky eater to try new foods?