My Biggest Feeding Failure

May 6, 2014 in Foodland Chronicles, General, Nutrition, Psychology of Food by Joyce Bunderson

Mother’s Day brings an immense array of memories and thoughts. My children are so kind about my loving and mothering; but let’s face it; I made mistakes when raising and feeding my children (I’m sure they remember also, but are just too kind to remind me). So when I learn that I did something right it makes my heart sing “I got a couple things right too.”

In the Fall 2013/Winter 2014 Wellness Advisor Marie Spano shares four tips for parents of picky eaters. It sounds pretty easy, only four main suggestions. I agree with the four,, and used them all, but want you to know that I still made mistakes. So if you want to improve the chances that your children can get through the picky phase, then read her article. But having said that, there are still possibilities for error and to err is human; it gives your children something to point to and to contrast with when you got it right. I choose to take life with a bit of humor; it makes it more enjoyable that way. I’m grateful that I got feeding and nourishing mostly right, but after sharing Marie Spano’s four suggestions with you, I will shamefacedly share with you, near the end, my own very human error.

Here’s what Marie Spano suggests:

  • She says to take the kids shopping; that way they can choose a new fruit to pack in the school lunch. Also, they can learn about different forms of foods they already accept. I’d also add that letting them choose seeds to plant in a garden, help with planting, caring and harvesting are other ways. The growing experience can even involve only a pot or planter on a deck.
  • Spano says teaching basic nutrition in a fun way is another way to help picky eaters. Maybe help them understand that food is what helps their bodies to be able to dance, run, play and even to think. Even little ones can quickly learn that in nature different colored foods provide different nutrients for our bodies and minds. Note: Let’s not include food coloring here. Froot Loops do not qualify for color. Dying tan puffed up corn, wheat and oat flours to different colors is not health food. Aside from artificial colors, noticing natural food colors can turn into a fun game for little children. As the children grow older, they can even learn the nutrients in some of the colors and what they do. Games designed with this concept lend themselves well to the idea of variety and the importance of it. You could even make a little chart or a list and let the children help with menu planning.  The goal is not to end up with an all white/tan/brown meal. Ready, set, go away from meat and potatoes only meals; or only mac and cheese, and so on.
  • Number three on Spano’s list is to let them play with their food. This is the item that really spawned my attention, as I was pretty good at this. In 2010, I wrote a lengthy article with lots of ideas for parents to help children have a positive eating experience with a little nutrition learning along the way. Several of the ideas involved the children in different phases of meal preparation, then with serving and the actual eating phase. My long time favorite was when I provided small bowls of ingredients like: grated carrots, peach halves, cherries, olives, lettuce leaves, cucumber pieces, raisins. They created Raggedy Ann and Andy individual salads. But the salads could depict any popular character. The point is that they make the decision of how to design their salad. Also landscapes or any other picture could be created and eaten. That particular article is loaded with creative ideas. You could even make it a reoccurring event; like POP – picture-on-plate each Saturday at lunchtime.
  • The fourth idea that Spano shared was to be a role model. This is an area where I had one of my a happiest successes. My children’s father did not like vegetables. I believed that if they saw him rejecting vegetables, they would too. So I prepared them peanut butter sandwiches for lunch when he was not at home. And then a big plate of steamed veggies for myself. I was eating my lightly salted and buttered veggies and they came over to me and asked what I was eating. I said it was mommy’s lunch. They asked for a bite and that was the beginning of three healthy vegetable eaters. Of course, the years go by and then there are grandchildren. Some of them have difficulties with vegetables. I always reassure them to not worry; I try to convince them that their taste buds will continue to grow and grow and will eventually love vegetable ‘X’ “when they have grownup taste buds.”

If you want more than just one page of ideas for picky eaters (Spano’s article or my articles), then you may want to turn to Eat Your Vegetables and Other Mistakes Parents Make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters by Natalie Digate Muth M.D., M.P.H., R.D. This moderately priced book ($14.83 new) is by far my favorite for helping parents raise healthy eaters. One of the really wonderful things about this resource is that it helps with not only avoiding feeding problems; but also fixing problems that have already started. I wrote a short review of the book on September 25, 2012, called Fixing and Avoiding Feeding Bloopers. The following are included in the comprehensive list of subjects covered. It also contains many resources designed for the various ages.

  • What is a healthy eating plan for children?
  • Tips for how to get kids to want to eat healthy
  • Why the clean plate club is not a good choice; and how it contributes to obesity.
  • How to learn about marketing tactics that sabotage healthy eating

My biggest feeding failure:

My youngest daughter seemed from an early age to be a born picky eater. It was a bit of a challenge for me, because the two older children ate what was served. I never heard from the older two “I don’t like that” or “Eweh” (sound made with scrunchy face). Well, when my darling little daughter was about eight years and was not eating her dinner, I was frustrated. One time I had made chili con carne with beans. OK, I know now that many children would not enjoy that. But at the time, it was a normal meal for our family. It wasn’t very spicy, but what was so very objectionable to this little girl was that it contained beans. I guess I had the grand idea that she WAS going to eat the chili. I unwisely drew the line in the sand. I said, “This IS dinner and you WILL eat your dinner.”  Everyone else had gone from the table. My little angel loved milk. So her first tactic was to pour milk into her bowl of chili, thinking I guess, that it would change the texture and flavor of chili to milk. I told her not to do it, but alas, she went ahead. I said if you do it you WILL still eat the chili. So of course, you see the error of my ways – getting into a meal battle. I’ll skip the intermediate steps and just tell you how she won the final battle. She got herself so emotionally worked up that she vomited on the kitchen floor. Yuk! Boy did I feel dim-witted. Post script: I never insisted that she eat something again. She’s not at all a picky eater as an adult, and likes and eats beans and chili, too. I guess that I’m really fortunate that it probably takes more than a few mistakes to go horribly wrong. She like the other two children always tasted bites, and she continued to do that even after the horrible chili incident. I’m glad that I learned form this terrible experience and that I can have a good laugh at my foolishness.

Certainly, you are much smarter than I was, for allowing myself to get into a meal battle. But eating behaviors are complex; they develop from many, many experiences. Our range of foods, especially here in the U.S. is vast; we eat foods from many cultures. In addition, there is a vast array of foods available to us. Mostly the vast variety is good, but it increases opportunity to stumble. Certainly learning some of the techniques for feeding children will help to develop healthy eating behaviors, and will make it easier to avoid mistakes like my big mistake.