Picky Eaters

Is your kid the kid who won’t eat at the picnic because he doesn’t like hot dogs? Who refuses the pizza at the pizza party? Who has a diet that resembles a supermodel?

Welcome to the club! I have a kid like that too.

JC didn’t start off as a picky eater. In the highchair he dined on such exotic fare as pizza, hummus, and macaroni and cheese.  Once he hit preschool age though, he started to reject everything.

“That’s weird! He really liked (fill in the blank) yesterday!?” was a commonly heard phrase in our kitchen.

The only thing he continued to enjoy was his “jar”:  a Stage Four baby food jar with carrots, turkey, and peas, as well as other unidentified mush. It was healthy and easy so we let him continue to eat it– until it became embarrassing.  We couldn’t send him to day care with a baby food jar packed in his lunch pack when the other kids were eating normal stuff like sandwiches and cookies. I don’t remember much from those early years, but I clearly remember an incident at Shoprite when I was stocking up on “jar” and the cashier asked me how old my baby was. Umm, four? I thought but didn’t say. Instead I lied and said, “Eighteen months,” the age labeled on the jar.

I also remember a trip to the pediatrician’s office when our pediatrician noticed that JC’s feet had turned orange. Yes, orange. Apparently, that’s what happens when a kid eats too many carrots (the main ingredient of “jar”). The doctor made JC sit barefoot until she called in all her medical student interns to observe his feet. “I’ve never seen anything like that!” an intern exclaimed excitedly. “How many carrots does he eat?”

“Lots,” I answered. Lots of mushed up carrots scooped from a jar. With that, the time had come to pull the plug. We decided to cut JC off from “jar” cold turkey (also an ingredient of “jar”) and figured he’d eat when he was hungry.

Fast forward through a few pleading and begging sessions and unsuccessful bribery attempts and eventually, JC’s diet whittled down to two ingredients:  bread and cheese. With the urging of my Italian born-and-raised husband who immensely enjoys the culinary arts, JC succumbed to the pressure and learned to love strawberries and kiwis. With the welcome addition of fruit to his diet, the “Feast” was born.

Behold the feast:

photo-47

The Feast. With a Flintstone Vitamin.

Now that he’s nine and too smart for his own good, he has categorized “feasts” into “traditional feasts” (shown above: bread, cheddar, and strawberries) and “modified feasts,” which include some variation depending on what we have in the cabinets (for example, substituting kiwi for strawberries and/or crackers for bread). It’s his go-to meal. Nowadays, he also dabbles in pizza (with no visible spices, especially green-colored spices), chicken nuggets (McDonald’s only), “green dip” (guacamole) and chips, and Perdue chicken patties (blue bag only). By the grace of God he has taken to eating my mother-in-law’s homemade red sauce so we’ve added pasta to the repertoire (she stacks our freezer full of sauce). Tack on some Oreos and pretzels and in all seriousness, that pretty much sums it up.

We panicked on the day of JC’s First Holy Communion, stressing as we wondered if JC would spit the host out right at the priest. Thankfully, he didn’t (we had told him it was a cracker) and we were smart enough to steer him clear of the wine. Gratefully, he still enjoys the Body of Christ. In fact, yesterday at church JC took communion and said, “That hits the spot!” Then when we knelt down afterwards he looked up at me and declared, “Nothing tastes better than Jesus!”

Amen, kid! (His quotes inspired this post).

Historically, JC doesn’t like to try new foods because he’s sensitive to texture and smell. He hates the smell of his brother’s Cheerios and flees to the other room when they appear on the table. It takes a lot to get him to try anything. This is what he did with a raw snow pea I presented him, then lost track of:

photo-48

I found this wrapped up in a piece of paper under the couch. It’s a snow pea with a q-tip shoved into it. Looks like a boat, no?

Recently though, his appetite is growing and every few hours he asks me to “cook him some grub” (hey, at least he’s not asking me to “bitch him up some grub,” right?), but I don’t really have many options to work with. He constantly wants to eat but eats nothing. What’s a mom to do? I ask him:  “What do you want?” and he answers, “Feast.”

I know you’re thinking it’s time for me to get to the point. My point for all you Parents of Picky Eaters is:  don’t worry.  JC is healthy according to his bloodwork (despite being a little low on Vitamin D), and he’s growing, and he’s smart (he made a snow pea boat, people). He must be getting what he needs from his constant stream of feasts, since he keeps landing on the right spot on that line graph at the pediatrician’s well visits. If your picky eater is happy and healthy, then why fight the battle?

Would it be nice for him to eat a hamburger or hot dog, or possibly even a vegetable? Yes. It would be great. My husband and mother-in-law would be thrilled. But it’s not the end of the world that he doesn’t. Something tells me that once he hits puberty, he’ll expand his palate. For now, as long as his body is getting what it needs I’m happy making feasts. Traditional, modified, or whatever other grub-inspired version he thinks up.

Good luck with your picky eaters! Thanks for reading.

27 Comments

  1. I have food issues like texture. And I’ve worked really hard not to pass them on to Mr. T and I must have done a good job as he eats tomatoes and I won’t go near them! My friends kid loves fruit and veggies, and hates meats. She has to get her protein from cheese and pasta, but my friend has finally (most days) become okay with it since her daughter is healthy. So, I’m with you, he’s healthy, that’s what matters!

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  2. Ha, we hide the good stuff in our kid’s meals. For example, one of my kids doesn’t like broccoli, so we’ll make cream of broccoli soup and call it tree soup instead. That stuff disappears like magic! Another strategy is layering vegetables in with the good stuff like mixed hamburger patties. They have no clue.

    “Oh, you don’t like the salad?” That goes in tomorrow’s hamburger as relish topping!😉

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  3. I’m very lucky – no picky eater at my house. He never really was, and now he’s at the “eating out of house and home” stage. Of course, we have food intolerances, so there is a lot that we *can’t* eat. Although when I’m all by myself, I would consider JC’s Feast to be pretty darned spectacular (either the feast or peanut butter off a spoon)!

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