By Meika Rouda
I am a total hypocrite. At least when it comes to feeding my son. My six year old son has always been a complicated eater. Well not always, as a toddler he devoured hummus and avocados and bison burgers. I remember feeling a cocky stripe of pride in his adventurous eating and wide variety of foods. He ate green and orange vegetables! And Indian food! Clearly I was doing something right.
That lasted about three months and then he took a one hundred and eighty degree pivot and never went back. While hummus continues as a staple, almost everything else healthy has been erased from his palate. He now sticks to a confined diet of refined carbs and processed meat aka pasta, pizza, hot dogs and chicken tenders. Sometimes a burger, sometimes a quesadilla but all parents know this menu, it is kid food 100%. The idea of us sitting down for dinner and eating the same food is like a dream vacation that never manifests. I keep waiting for him to say “your salmon looks delicious, can I try it?” But he just picks away at his chicken tenders, avoiding the ones that aren’t crispy enough or the ones that have any dark brown spots on the outside. It drives me crazy. But worse than that, I feel ashamed. Here I am living in the Bay Area, the hotbed of local, seasonal and organic and my kid is filling up on exactly the opposite. We have a beautiful garden with lettuce and tomatoes and zucchini, all things he loves to help grow but won’t eat. And then I get exhausted attempting to get him to try new foods. We had a deal that he had to try a new food everyday, just a bite of something. That lasted about three days before I gave up. Why do I want to twist his arm to try mashed cauliflower? The constant negotiating to get him to try something wasn’t worth the minuscule taste that he would inevitably reject.
And now his three year old sister is becoming a narrow eater because her brother is. I know I am feeding them horrible food but I can’t get out of the cycle. Can a kid survive on pasta alone? And in a way I am grateful he even eats pasta. I actually feel happy when he eats pesto or meatballs, that is how low my expectations are for his culinary prowess.
What I really want to know is when does his picky palate release its strong hold ? When does he become more interested in what his parents eat, what is in his garden, what is actually delicious pure food? Will he ever get off the kids menu?
But most of all, I worry about his health. He is small for his age and has tons of energy. I know if I could get him off the carb load it would help regulate his moods but what is worse, a kid who won’t eat anything or a kid who is high on carbs? I have to pick my battles.
I am hoping this is a phase he grows out of, like tantrums and diapers but I am afraid of its lingering affect, not just on his health but on his choices of foods as he gets older. If you aren’t willing to try new things you don’t know what you are missing out on. So I have him join me at the supermarket to pick foods, he always helps me cook in the kitchen and now I am just focusing on the few healthy snacks he will eat instead of all the things he won’t. Here are a few of the healthy things he will eat that I recommend for other picky, carb craving eaters:
1. Pitted Kalamata olives. For some reason my son loves olives especially these. They are also fun to eat as he pops one on each of his fingers and then eats them off one by one.
2. Banana with peanut or almond butter. I slice the banana and place a dollop of the butter on top. It is a perfect sweet and savory treat.
3. Hummus and carrots or pita chips. He won’t eat all hummus, I need to make sure it is smooth and not too garlicky. My son loves the ones from Trader Joes, either the Mediterranean style (sans pine nuts which I scape off) or the regular.
4. Red, Orange or Yellow Bell Peppers. This is a new food for him but I slice them thin and sometimes place them in a letter formation for fun. He likes the crunch.
5. Caesar Salad. This is the only lettuce my son eats and it is doused in dressing. He started off just liking the croutons and now eats the whole salad, as long as the lettuce is crunchy.
So until my son realizes that fish and real chicken are delicious, I will stick to these. If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know!