Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sneaky Chef?

If you have a toddler (or had one), then you know that getting them to eat can be the most aggravating task in the entire world.

One day they love something, the next day they gag at the sight of it. What they once gobbled up, they won't touch because the way you presented it (even if it's the exact same way you've presented it for the previous 241 days). They get their favorites and cling for dear life to them- and of course their favorites aren't healthy.

Jay was my stud eater. He started putting down solids at 4 months and never turned back. In fact, by 9 months and two teeth he could devour an entire piece of pizza- crust and all. He would try everything, and while fruits and vegetables were never his favorite, we could get a few in there. And then he became a toddler.

He hit this magical state where he stopped wanting most foods and shut down completely. He became my worldly foodie that I bragged on, to my eatnothing child. And as of a few weeks ago, I mean nothing. Well, ok, that's an exaggeration. He loves chocolate. And nutella. And chocolate sandwiches. And chicken nuggets, pizza, white rice, and kolaches (without the hot dog now). Healthy right. His current count is ZERO fruits and ONE vegetable (corn and only on the cob) that he will eat. He even gave up his beloved smoothie for a couple weeks!

What's a mom to do?! It's my job to make him a healthy, well rounded kid. How do I accomplish this when he would gladly go to bed hungry most nights (and let me tell you- he has gone to bed hungry a LOT of nights!).

I absolutely refuse to become a short order cook. He is offered just about the exact thing we eat every night with few exceptions. The one thing I will do for him (because I was this way and have since grown out if it), is separate some of the foods we have. For instance, if we are having enchiladas, I will give him chicken (seasoned like what goes in), tortillas, and beans, etc.. that are served inside of it. But I will not offer him chicken nuggets while we have pork tenderloin and peppers. I also make sure to ALWAYS serve at least one thing I know he will eat- whether it be rice, or pork, or corn, or whatever- there is always at least one thing on his plate that he will eat. I don't want to set him up for failure- especially when I am trying to teach him good habits.

I will say that there have been a few nights that he has just flat out refused what we've offered. We have tried the three bites rule, the no dessert rule, no iPad rule, etc... And some nights he gives in. And some nights he just is too darn stubborn. So he is dismissed from the table and gets nothing else before bed. I try to leave his plate in tact on those nights in case he changes his mind and wants that. But he doesn't get to snack on whatever he wants. If he's hungry, then he gets his dinner plate. If he says no to that, then that's it.

The great thing is, he's never starved :)

Some think it's too harsh. Some think it's too lenient. Being a seriously picky eater growing up, I understand his frustration. But being a mother who wants best for her child, I also understand the other side (Mom, remind me to apologize to you for this!).

I also give him the freedom of choice for breakfast, lunch, and snack. Which I think is pretty great. I usually offer two-three things (and yes, sometimes chicken nuggets is one of those choices- gasp!). But on a typical day he gets to choose a couple of relatively healthy things. And we do just fine.

But he's still picky. And I still stress out about his intake (or lack thereof) of fruits and veggies.

So, I began a new mission. The Sneaky Chef mission. No, you can't actually call me that because I'm sure it's trademarked with the book that's out. But that's my goal. Thinking of ways I can sneak fruits and veggies into his (and my!) diet!

I bought the book The Sneaky Chef. I did some research between that and Deceptively Delicious and found that most adults and kids prefer the recipes in the TSC.

So I've tried a couple out so far (changing them to my liking) and we've had some success. We already did the smoothie trick- which was awesome and very successful!

The other things I've tried are mini-pizzas- make them on whole wheat round flat bread (or pita) and put some veggie puree under the layer of sauce, under the cheese/pepperoni.

I have also started buying veggie pasta from HEB- which packs a couple of servings of different veggies into pastas (penne has corn, squash, and something else.... bowtie has spinach, carrots, etc..). I also made a tomato based sauce with a few veggie purees (carrots or sweet potatoes). He also loves the chicken and spinach sausage, so that's another way to sneak it in!

I recently found some hummus chips at the store. He LOVES those- which is awesome! Very healthy, made of chickpeas- perfect!

I tried to make some zucchini chips after three people posted about them. FAIL FAIL FAIL. I thought they were disgusting so I didn't even offer them to the kids. I swear I followed the recipe, but I must have done something majorly wrong. Ick.

On a sidenote about the books- I am way too lazy and busy to sit around and puree six thousand veggies. So I buy the baby food already pureed ones (judge me- I'm over it) and use those.

Oh! I also switched to only vegetable/fruit juices. V8 juices, CapriSun makes some, and the Fruitables ones. He loves juice and other than water, it's the only thing he drinks. So if I can squeeze a serving in those, I will do that!

I am working really hard to do the best thing for my picky little stubborn boy. The good thing is that I'm insanely stubborn- so now it's become a competition for me to out-stubborn him on this one.

If you have any other great tricks, I'd love to hear them! I love the idea of sneaking stuff into muffins or pancake batter- but he doesn't like either of those. I have the recipe out in TSC to try homemade sneaky chicken nuggets. It just looks like a lot of work and I'm not ready to tackle that one!

I'll let you know of any more good recipes as I work my way through the book!


the blogivers said...

Why do so many toddlers have to go through this phase?! It's maddening. Glad you are finding some things that work! I have developed a bad habit of showing Davis a bite of something he likes (ie: Nutrigrain bar), acting like I'm about to put it in his mouth for him, then sneaking a piece of fruit in instead :) He never gags the fruit back out, so that makes me feel a little better... still a pain in the butt though!

Ashlie said...

What?!? Pasta with veggies pureed in! I need this! We don't have HEB in Dallas, but I may have to stock up when I'm in Houston.Presley is actually a pretty good eater, but we still have our struggles. The only thing I've done is make a banana, strawberry, and spinach smoothie for me in the morning. Then I freeze the left overs and call it ice cream. P loves it, and has never said anything about the greenish color. Your doing great, Mama!

Gillian said...

Stumbled upon your blog and think this post is great. Thanks for all the info! My 14 month old is starting to become picky... some days he eats like a maniac and others he'll go all day without a thing. Such great tips here, so thanks! And great job to you... I think taking the "tough mom" route is sometimes the best one and it sounds like it's working for you!

michelle roos said...

my oldest is a TERRIBLE eater. Has been from day one. At his two year check up it had gotten so bad that we had to start working with an eating therapist from ECI and a gastro specialist who put him on an appetite stimulant. After a year, it's better in that now he actually eats food. Before he lived on milk and pediasure! But he eats like FIVE things. And my baby is quickly becoming worse. He wants to live on fruit and waffles! The only way I get ANY fruits or veggies into my oldest is V8 and these frozen Del Monte Strawberry sticks. They are by the little fruit cups. You take them home and freeze them like a popsicle. He would eat the whole box if I let him.

Jenni said...

I feel your pain! Connor has had two bites of dinner the past three nights. Then, he wants a snack later (usually pretzels, ice cream or something else not nutritious) so we have started saving his plate and if he wants to eat later, that's what he gets. I read a mom who took it a step farther, and that's what her kids got the next morning for breakfast! I never read how that turned out in the long run, though! Do share what other recipes you find. Does he like meatballs? We LOVE this recipe at our house: (I follow the tip one of the first comments and bake them!) Her chicken nuggets are good, too!

Meagan said...

Just another things Jay and Preslie have in common. Prior to 14 months (yes I know the exact month), she ate EVERYTHING. Afterwards, she began getting picky, and now we are at the eat nothing game. Or like you said, she has her select list and doesn't deviate: cantaloupe, yogurt, chicken nuggets, honey mustard, pop tarts, vanilla goldfish grahams. You get the point.

I love what you are doing with Jay. No judgement here. I have it on my list to blog about (it's been on that list for prob two months) because I feel like it's the one thing that I fail at most as a parent. Food battles. So that's coming soon (ie: shortly after Blakely is born). Kudos, mama, for working so hard and being so disciplined yourself in teaching your boy healthy habits!