You’d think all of Eva’s food allergies would be the most challenging thing about feeding her. Nope. That’s actually a micro challenge compared to the daily battle we have over not being able to READ HER MIND and know what she is/isn’t eating that day. I’ve actually had her ask for something and then, in the amount of time it took me to get it out of the fridge and heat it up, decide that she actually hates that food and never wants to eat it again.
I always said that I wouldn’t be the kind of parent who would cater to a kid like this. I don’t run a diner. I’m not a short order cook. This is your food. If you don’t want it, you don’t eat. Go ahead and starve.
Yeah, that’s all well and good before you’re a parent. And I’m not caving in and making her specially requested meals because I just can’t stand to say “no” to my toddler. I can say “no” to my toddler all day long. Can I wear this swimsuit to school? Can I play with the big scissors? Can I light the candle? Can I have a puppy? Can I put this small metal thing in my ear? “No” x 1000.
I make specially requested meals because Eva gathered that my parenting plan was “go ahead and starve” and she was all “I think I will starve and when you take me in to the pediatrician they’re going to tell you I’m at 8% of the average weight for my age and they want to feed me through my nose. Now tell me again about the house rules, MOM.”
- Bribery. People who don’t bribe their children are making life harder for themselves. I consider bribery just another math lesson. Three bites of potatoes = one marshmallow. Three bites of chicken = two marshmallows and an extra story at bedtime. And so on.
- Have a house rule that says they have to try everything. We only require one bite, but that’s one bite of everything on the plate. Sadly, even getting Eva to eat a combined 5 bites is still about 70% more than she’ll eat without the rule.
- Sneak calories into beverages. When Eva goes on her occasional strike against all foods, she gets smoothies. I put bananas and honey in them to mask the fact that I also put yogurt, tofu, cottage cheese, etc. into her smoothies. I’ve even smoothied steamed cauliflower just to get them in her.
- Use cookie cutters. Eva will refuse foods and then turn around and eat them immediately if I use cookie cutters to chop them into shapes. This works great for slices of roast turkey or pieces of meatloaf.
- Use sprinkles. I have put sprinkles on everything from oatmeal to mashed potatoes to enchiladas. Whatever. You can also add food coloring to things like pasta or mashed potatoes to make them more fun.
- Take turns giving each other bites. Let her use your fork to feed you and then tell her that it’s your turn. (Note: be prepared to eat your food in weird combinations and/or after it’s been dipped in your milk.)
- Create a good eating environment. Play music. Sit with your kid. Use divided plates and only serve two bites of everything. (It’s less intimidating.) Light candles at the dinner table and reserve the privilege of blowing them out for people who clear their plates (or, in our house, eat three bites of each food item).
- Go for the occasional fun-to-eat meal like fondue or set out elements of the meal and let them finish the preparation (i.e. making their own tacos or adding pasta sauce and cheese to pasta).
- Mince and serve on crackers. I kid you not, this works on everything. Surprising hits in our house have included scrambled eggs and beef stroganoff.
- If desperate, allow the iPad (or some other kid-show-playing device) at the table and only let it play if they’re eating. This requires both that you sit there like a test proctor and that you bend the general recommendations for pediatric screen time, but as someone who parents a toddler known for hunger strikes that last 10+ hours, just know that this does work in a pinch. Beats that tube in the nose.