Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nora has always been an awesome eater.

She did great with breastfeeding. During the pureed food stage, she ate every single kind of puree that we offered her (including sour/bitter cranberries, when mixed with a bit of applesauce!). We thought it was hilarious, because she just took to everything, opening her mouth like a little bird for bite after bite after bite.

Unfortunately, finger foods have proved to be more of a challenge.

I've been a somewhat picky eater all of my life. I'm way better now--I'd maybe call myself "choosy" but not necessarily PICKY. However, I would say I was severely picky as a child. My mom always said that she had been a picky kid, too, and that I was her "mother's revenge" for giving my grandma such a hard time when she was younger. My mom always swore that I would someday pay my dues as well. I thought I had escaped that sentence with Nora, but now, I'm not so sure.

Cake was deemed "a-ok" with her on her birthday

I'm nervous that Nora is developing picky tendencies. But since we're first time parents, it's hard to know what to classify as "normal" toddler eating behavior, and what to classify as "picky." It's my understanding that toddlers are...finicky?...about what they eat. One day, they might love sweet potatoes. The next, they may refuse to even taste them. For those of you with older toddlers/kids--have you found this to be true?

I've also read that babies may have to try new foods anywhere from five to 15 times before they "accept" the new taste. We've taken this (and the advice of our pediatrician) to heart, and we continue to offer her things, even if she's rejected them in the past. Sometimes, we'll get lucky and she'll suddenly start to like something! Other times, she simply rejects it over and over again.

Michael and I have been debating with each other whether pickiness is a nature or a nurture problem. Michael likes pretty much everything, and always has, whereas I (as I already mentioned) am pickier. He believes that it's a matter of nurture--if you're raised to try everything and anything, and essentially forced to eat what you're served (or go without anything), you won't be a picky eater. Based on my own experience, and the stories my mom has told me (about how I would literally gag over the taste of certain vegetables, even as a small baby), I believe there is something to be said for a nature argument.

In all likelihood, aren't we probably both right? I'm thinking it's probably a combination of both.

At her 1-year well-baby visit, our pediatrician basically told us to offer Nora whatever we wanted her to eat, and if she didn't eat it, to put an end to mealtime. She believes that if you set a pattern where you offer something else after your kid refuses to eat something, you'll just be teaching them that they can always get what they want to eat. And I totally back her up on that--I see how that would be true, and have seen such patterns develop with friends' kids. Still, it's difficult to be tough with your 13-month-old daughter who is just starting to try all of these foods, you know? If she doesn't like something, we're really supposed to just cut her off?

Nora's not starving. She eats well during a lot of her meals. But the past week or so, she just seems to be really testing us at dinner. Anything new we give her to try, she takes MAYBE a couple of bites of it, and then launches the rest off of her tray and cries. 

Feeding a toddler is tough.

So... for those of you who have "good eaters"--were they ALWAYS good eaters, gobbling up anything and everything you put in front of them? Or did you have to "develop" the good eating habits over time? Anybody with picky eaters that you managed to (at least somewhat) reform?

The other problem is that I feel like we're feeding Nora a lot of the same things all of the time. Partly because she rejects a lot of new things, but partly because it's hard to come up with ideas. Whenever we do make a good dinner for ourselves (which is not as often as I'd like right now!), we try to feed her what we're having, but a lot of nights, we're feeding her separately from what we end up eating. And for lunches to send to daycare, it's tough to think of easy things to pack. Our pediatrician said that the more you limit their food choices, the more you are encouraging them to be picky, so we want to make sure to break this habit as much as possible.

For the record (and since I'm anticipating that some of you might ask), I'll share a list of foods that Nora does eat. And y'all can tell me if I'm crazy for thinking she might be picky.

Nora eats: cereal w/milk (shredded wheat, corn chex, wheat chex, bran flakes, etc.), pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs, bananas, pears, peaches, pineapple, mandarin oranges, applesauce (and any other fruit puree), plain yogurt, peanut butter sandwich, grilled cheese, cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, american), sweet potatoes, white potato, pizza, pasta w/sauce, ravioli, macaroni and cheese, deli turkey, puffs, hummus sandwiches, apricots, steamed carrots, avocado

Unless I'm forgetting something, these are pretty much all of the foods that make up her diet. While I know it's not TERRIBLE, it is really not all that extensive. Right? I think we're good on carbs/grains, and fruit. Where we're struggling most, I think, is with protein and vegetables. The girl can only eat so many eggs, cheese, and sweet potatoes. We've tried other veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, green beans) and sources of protein (veggie burgers, beans) and she is just not into them--at least not yet.

Any advice? Suggestions for new foods to try to add to the rotation? I've mostly been able to stay patient, knowing this is all part of her development, but I have to admit to getting a little frustrated sometimes. Dinnertime in particular has become a bit of a battle, usually resulting in her crying because the food on her tray is not what she wants. I would love to get back to peaceful eating!


LisaJ October 18, 2011 at 8:51 PM  

I think she eats a pretty decent variety. I do have to say that I am surprised she has had peanut butter. Did you get the all clear on that from your pediatrician? Ours told us to wait until at least 2 years old since it is a high allergen. It always amazes me how different each pediatrician is!

My son is four days younger than Nora. And he was always a great eater. He still is, but I am noticing that he is becoming more opinionated on what he wants to eat. He is also snubbing foods that he once liked.

Now on to some other food ideas. He LOVES chicken, ground beef, and steak. I just cut the pieces up small. He used to like peas, but now he snubs them. He loves broccoli and he liked squash and zuchinni. Squash you could either puree or do in slices or cubes. For zuchinni or squash slices or cubes I saute them in a very small amount of butter or olive oil and some seasoning. I've given him "tacos"-I just mix the taco meat, cheese and tortilla pieces together and give it to him on his tray. He likes black olives too. My MIL gave him tuna noodle casserole and I guess he liked the tuna. And one of his absolute favorites is the little frozen meatballs or any meatball for that matter.

Any easy lunch to pack up is a chicken & cheese quesadilla. That is easy to heat up and easy to break apart. I just don't put a lot of cheese on it and shred the chicken.

Gia October 18, 2011 at 8:55 PM  

I will be following this post because Logan is off baby food all-together (has been since 8ish months...hated baby food) and I feel like he gets the SAME THING daily for lunch. He will eat pretty much anything but it gets boring for him.

Ashley October 18, 2011 at 9:08 PM  

my son was a great eater when he was on purees, and like you, I found finger foods a struggle. Not so much because he won't eat, but because one day he could LOVE something, and the next absolutely hate it! We have a very hard time getting him to eat meat, which our doctor says is common for toddlers because of the texture.

My doctor just tells me not to worry about how much he eats in a day, but how much he eats over a week. One day he may eat a little, but the next a lot. And that they will eat when they're hungry, and stop when they're full. Toddlers are not social eaters like we are. As long as there is healthy weight gain, then it's all good!

Good luck!

Erin October 18, 2011 at 9:38 PM  

Annie has always been a pretty good eater, but she has her picky moments, that's for sure. We've always followed your pediatrician's advice and I do think that helps. She does know that if she doesn't eat what's offered, that's it. However, what you CAN do is offer her one part of the meal that you KNOW she'll eat. So you could have a main dish, bread and fruit - where you at least know she'll eat something. What I do then usually is offer the main dish first. Before, she'd at least consent to being fed a bite. Sometimes now she refuses even that. If I was planning on giving her fruit anyway, she still gets that, but if not, nothing else. She has definitely eaten things one day and refused them another.

I will say that Nora's food options seem pretty limited to me, but maybe that is because since maybe 10-11 months old, we've just fed Annie what we're eating 90% of the time. So that includes spaghetti, lasagna, (usually I add spinach and other veggies to the sauce) chili of many varieties, soups, salads, sandwiches with meat/cheese/lettuce, enchiladas, frittatas, etc. What I found to definitely be true is that if something was prepared in a tasty way (like not just plain steamed veggies for example), she was MUCH more likely to eat it (just like an adult! :) I know it's super tough to get a meal on the table most nights though - that's where taking advantage of the crockpot or freezer meals or leftovers can help. Meal planning is truly the reason we can do this - whenever we slack on it we all eat like crap. My husband and I also have a food blog where we post the new recipes we try and also if Annie liked them - it might give you some new ideas: wegotfed.com/

weelicious.com/ has some AWESOME meal ideas that are toddler friendly as well as easy to prepare in most cases, and please the parents as well. We all love the carrot and broccoli orzo, and the pizza balls, and many many more.

Good luck! Honestly, there is nothing that is more frustrating to me than a stressful mealtime... we've definitely had a lot and it is SO HARD after a long day! I hope you all find your groove soon!

Heather October 18, 2011 at 9:38 PM  

@LisaJ--The "no peanut butter until age 2" (or other high allergen foods) rule is considered sort of "old school" at this point. Not that it's a bad thing--I know MANY (most?) pediatricians are still giving this advice. But the latest studies actually suggest that delaying the introduction of certain foods actually INCREASES the chance of allergies (I know, right? Can they make up their damn minds?) so our pediatrician told us that we had no restrictions when she gave us the all clear to start solid foods with Nora. We gave it to her a couple of times when she was maybe 9-10 months old, but it wasn't until she really started taking to finger foods that we started to give it to her often. She loves it! And thanks for your suggestions. Nora has eaten zucchini/squash before, thanks for the reminder! We haven't had too much luck with meats (chicken, beef, etc.) but we keep trying. Tacos are a good idea that we'll have to try, and I love the suggestion of quesadillas for lunch.

@Gia and @Ashley--Sounds like it may just be a toddler thing! It'll be interesting to see some other responses. :)

Kate October 18, 2011 at 9:42 PM  

Does Nora eat chicken? My almost-one-year-old loves cut up chicken breast. I usually pan-fry (in a small amount of olive oil, just for flavor) one breast on Sunday night and cut it into chunks for dinner on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I also make this pasta fagioli recipe for her and she LOVES it: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2008/12/pasta-fagioli-64-pts.html

Have you tried cauliflower? My grocery store has a bag of broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower (Green Giant fresh veggies) that I steam and chop (extras freeze really well). Lily will eat the mixed veggies plain, but sometimes I toss them with little elbow noodles and a bit of tomato sauce.

Heather October 18, 2011 at 9:46 PM  

@Erin--Nora was late in taking on table foods, so we're still doing a lot of new introductions at this point. When we do get dinner on the table (it's just been hard with all of the moving/house renos, etc., but we've been better, especially this week), we always give her what we're eating to try. It's just that it's not always successful! To add to the confusion with her eating habits--she will eat pretty much ANYTHING if it is coming from our plates. But NOT if we're all sitting at the table. For instance, tonight, she ate her steamed carrots and sweet potatoes, but refused to touch the beef stroganoff on her tray. So, I said "all done" and took her into the family room. I had about three bites of my meal left, so I brought it into the family room with me. And what does Nora do? Crawls up to me and "begs" for food. I decided to test a theory and offered her some off of my fork--and she couldn't get enough of it. WHAT.THE.HECK. Toddlers are complicated.

Heather October 18, 2011 at 9:49 PM  

@Kate--Up to this point, she hasn't accepted chicken. And we've tried cauliflower, which she rejects, too.

Last night, I made homemade mac and cheese, and mixed peas in with everything. I thought for sure she would eat them that way, but wouldn't you know--the little stinker picked all of the pieces of pasta out and ate those, leaving all of the peas on the tray. But we've successfully been able to get her to eat a little bit of broccoli (not much, though) when covered in tomato sauce, so it's not a bad method to get the veggies in there. Gotta keep trying!

Erin October 18, 2011 at 9:53 PM  

Oh Annie does that too - refuses something, and then when it seems like it's someone elses, is all about it. Toddlers ARE nuts, and that is important to always remember :) And they truly will not be like this forever!

My friend wrote a great post on this topic that you might find interesting. My favorite part was when she pointed out that during family meals, even if your child doesn't eat the vegetables/meat/whatever, at least they are observing you eating a balanced meal, and sometimes that is all you can hope for!


GoodnessGraces October 18, 2011 at 9:59 PM  

Sounds pretty normal to me. I have a 19 month old and for the last few months so pretty much refuses most veggies. We can sneak them into pastas many times or into things like muffins, but that is about it. Pretty much the same for most of my friends with similar age toddlers. I do work hard to make sure that she doesn't eat chicken nuggets and such every day. I do find that I stick lunches when she is at MDO that I know she will eat (turkey, fruit, cheese, etc), but at home we try lots. I have found she is more adventurous when we are out to eat than at home so I really push veggies then. I also feed her once or twice a week pureed veggies - sometimes mixed in her yogurt.

mashley October 19, 2011 at 7:33 AM  

The rule in our house is you eat whats made for the meal (dinners are the only time we normally struggle with the kids) or there is no snacks til the next meal. At first I would save the rejected food in the fridge and when they were wanting food that was their option.
Also, I sneak extra veggies like spinach in smoothies. I have taken some ideas from the book The Sneaky Chef to get more veggies at first then just slowly introduced the veggies back in like only one ore two bites.

Kristin {Sea Cow Circus} October 19, 2011 at 7:51 AM  

Not much to say that hasn't previously been mentioned, but our daughter has always been a pretty good eater. I read that kids go through some picky eating stages (like regressions) around one year and 18 months, but we just don't stress about it because she's still growing and thriving and doesn't wake up starving in the middle of the night. Some days I'm hungrier than others, too, so I just try to go with the flow on that. We struggle the most with veggies, too - but one hit has been spinach balls. Elle LOVES them. I use a parmesan recipe from allrecipes, but there are a ton of varieties. We tried kale chips and she wasn't a fan, but I'm planning to reintroduce those, too. As for meats, we've found that she loves meatballs and taco meat (ground turkey, ground beef or shredded chicken, as long as it has taco seasoning, she loves it!). She loves black beans when they're in enchiladas, too.

Anna October 19, 2011 at 4:31 PM  

My Logan loves, loves, LOVES cottage cheese with pepper. Our pedi told us that there isn't much calcium in cottage cheese, so you have to watch out for that, but it is an excellent source of protein. Maybe that will help?

Rebecca October 19, 2011 at 6:03 PM  

My husband was a VERY picky eater when he was younger. Like only chicken fingers and fish sticks till he was in middle school picky. I'll be damned if my daughter turns out like that! I try to cover all the food groups each night. Some times all she eats is fruit and some times is only meat. I just try to roll with it. As long as she's happy, healthy and eating most things, I'm not stressing over it - too much.

Our biggest hurdle is proteins. She doesn't really like cut up meat unless there is some bbq sauce on it. She loves her some shredded meat, doesn't matter what type. Beans are hit or miss but I put black beans in a quesadilla and she'll eat them right up. For some reason I didn't think she would like fish but she does. I've given it to her a bunch of times and she always eats it. She even likes tuna out of the can so that easy for me!

Elyse October 19, 2011 at 6:13 PM  

I've been a nanny for years for children who have had all sorts of different "food backgrounds" so to speak. Some had parents who gave them anything and everything, others were more selective and some just stuck to the "kid basics" with no worry about balanced meals. So I've seen the spectrum. I think it's really a combo of nature and nurture.
The current child I care for has never had jarred baby food, fast food, etc. She is fed extremely well and has from the beginning. And she was always willing to try things, eat things and even now some of her favorite things are not things you would expect a child to love (like spinach and broccoli). She is 2 years old and I noticed several months ago that she began to have opinions about what she wanted to eat and even now may LOVE avocado one day and the next day just refuse to even let it come near her tray. I usually will give her another healthy choice, like broccoli. If she doesn't want either, I get her down and try again in a little while assuming that when she is hungry enough, she will eat what her choices are.
As far as proteins, what about things like turnkey meatballs, chicken cut up small and served plain, or you can add it to the mac n cheese or pasta, you can do brown rice pasta if you want to switch up the carbs. The little girl I care for now eats lentils pretty frequently, which is also something different to try in like soups or stews.
She also eats mostly what is served or picked up for dinner so she's had sushi (not the raw fish kind), pizza, lasagna (which she loves with ground meal and veggies), lamb, etc.

Hope that helps! The key is to just keep trying. She's definitely already eating more then some toddlers I know.

Chelsey October 19, 2011 at 6:42 PM  

Jackson is the pickiest eater on the face of the earth. I couldn't even get him to eat ANYTHING until nearly a year of age, besides puffs and a few other finger foods and yogurt. I'm talking I tried everything... homemade foods, jars of food, all varieties. It has had me in tears a number of times (sounds dramatic but I was seriously worried he would never eat). I had dreams of feeding him the best, healthiest organic homemade foods, which were quickly thwarted. Now that he is eating a bit better, he has the same tendencies as Nora (eating something one day and then refusing the next, not eating off his plate but wanting whats on ours even though it's the same etc). Right when I think I have him figured out, it changes. There is no figuring out a method to the madness. Like I try to sort out if it's textures, or certain flavors he doesn't like and no, it's just at random. It's crazy! All I can say is I just try to keep a huge variety of stuff around so that I can get him to eat something eventually. It seems like he snacks a lot, as opposed to eating full meals, like at lunch he'll refuse whatever the main course is but eat the sides (like the grapes and yogurt). I'd say, it's all fairly normal toddler behavior, although I have heard friends rave about how their kids will eat anything (and it always irritates me, lol). I'm glad you posted this, even though I still think Jackson is worse than most, it does make me feel better to know that others have the same issues as me!

One protein I can get him to eat are these chicken and apple sausages I buy at Costco (but I know I've seen them elsewhere). I think the brand is aidells and applegate farms has some too. They are all natural and actually pretty tasty. Just a suggestion!

nikinikinine October 19, 2011 at 8:55 PM  

Ryan is piiiiicky. Reese will eat anything you put in front of her. I usually save new foods for last so that if they're going to refuse them and I cut them off, they've still eaten (does that count?)

One thing that's been awesome for us is quesadillas. Whole wheat tortillas, cheese, and anything else you can think of. This week I used a food processor to mince portobella mushrooms, fresh spinach and black beans and then I separately grated zucchini. Sauteed all of that in olive oil and threw it into a quesadilla. The kids can't get enough. I hide peppers, tomato, all sorts of goodies that way. And they're really easy to pick up and chew.

No matter what I do the first bite of anything Ryan eats he spits out (and then normally tries to find where the food landed to re-eat it, because he realized it was good and I'm not poisoning him). Some kids, I think, are just more finicky.

Giana October 21, 2011 at 5:19 AM  

Oh so here's the post on Nora's eating habit. We tried a lot of things for Giana, too.

Here's what she liked so far: chicken and broccoli (cut the broccoli in small sizes), squash with a bit of cumin (we like to introduce her to different tastes), veggie ratatouille, meat balls, fish with a bit of spinach, pasta salad (saute chopped onions, carrots and zucchini in olive olive, a bit of pepper and salt to taste, add parmesan and pasta), pork or beef boiled in water with onions, carrots and potatoes. And also we give her what we usually eat for dinner.

Giana October 21, 2011 at 5:26 AM  

Since Nora eats pasta, or the mac and cheese, maybe you can shred the veggies so it goes with the pasta and she gets to eat them without her noticing it? That's what I usually do with her pasta salad. I put in shredded veggies, in different colors, and she eats them all up.

Catherine October 24, 2011 at 8:44 PM  

My son, a few months younger, has been somewhate similar to Nora. However, he wasn't too great with purees after a little while, and demanded to feed himself much younger than we'd like. Or, much sooner than I liked since I had a freezer full of purees I slaved over!! Anyway, he totally does the thing where he is mostly interested in what we are eating. I find that when we sit down together, he needs to see that my plate, my husbands plate, and his tray all look exactly the same. I also sometimes (when I feel like he might put up a fight about what's for dinner) I take him to his highchair before we sit down to eat, and then I take a piece of food off his tray and either hand it to him, or put it in his mouth to feed him. Like Nora, my son will eat anything I hand him or put in his mouth. Once he realizes he likes it, and clearly sees I got the food from his tray, I put him down and he's fine. Sounds insane, and crazy, but it works!

Also, I have Jessica Seinfeld's book - Deceptively Delicious, and while I am a firm believe in not hiding vegetables, I may be making a few of her recipes to ensure I get in some certain nutrients.

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