At least once a week at Casa Gregory, I fight the urge to hoist the dining room table over my shoulders and launch it out the window.
The feeling hits me after repeatedly watching our 17-month-old casually toss the contents of his dinner on to the floor. When he gets into a certain mood, it doesn’t matter what’s on his plate.
Avocado? Floor. Sweet potato bean burgers? Floor. Lasagna? Floor.
Did I mention my biggest pet peeve is wasting food? The 30-second rule doesn’t seem to work with gooey, crumbly things – I’ve tried!
Fortunately, two recent events have doused my dinner-time rage: 1) After two days of hardly eating a thing while fighting a cold, our son spent the next three days eating practically the entire contents of the fridge. 2)I learned our little monster has taken to chowing down on daycare food on top of what we’re sending him with. He’s essentially eating two lunches. No wonder he doesn’t want supper!
Lesson learned. Is our dinner dance typical toddler behaviour? Will I have a picky eater on my hands? Time will tell but as I found out, there are ways to prevent finicky palates.
Jennifer House is a registered dietitian, a mother of three and the founder of First Step Nutrition.
“I think picky eaters are certainly born with a tendency to be picky but there are things parents can do that will help the situation,” House said.
House follows Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding. Parents of toddlers to adolescents determine what, when and where the child will eat.
The child decides if they eat and how much.
House says this approach prevents parents from becoming short-order cooks while taking pressure off children.
“I usually suggest having one safe food at the meal which would be a food that if your child is really hungry that you know they like and they would comfortably eat so even if it’s buns or pasta or carrot sticks,” House explained. “And then if they choose not to try the other foods, that’s OK, that’s up to them. But without the extra pressure, they’re more likely to reach out and try those foods on their own.”
House adds that children’s appetites fluctuate.
“You know, for a few days they will subsist on nothing but air and then the following days they will usually make up for that – perhaps even eat more than you!” she said with a smile. “We just want the child to be able to eat according to their appetite and the parent just has to trust that the child is the best judge of their appetite.”
I’m hopeful our son will enjoy all kinds of food. When I was pregnant, I had daydreams about taking him for Ethiopian food or sushi. I would explain where those kinds of foods originate and why they taste so damn good. I want him to appreciate food and feel thankful each time he sits down to eat.
I went to Trusha Patel, owner of Canmore’s Spice Sanctuary, to find out how you can you broaden your child’s palate early on. As the mother of 11-month-old Ziva, she’s well-versed in the subject.
“I would start with something really gentle like cinnamon and even turmeric and a little bit of fennel as well,” Patel said. “All of those are really good for the digestive system and they also don’t have a really strong flavour.”
Patel has been adding pinches of spices to Ziva’s food since her “spice baby” was four months old. Now, Ziva is eating Mexican blends, green curry and chili.
“I think it’s really just to get them introduced to different flavours and bringing them up to much more of an adult palate a lot quicker and hopefully avoiding picky eaters later on.”
I’m taking her advice. On Friday, we ordered Indian and our little monster devoured saffron rice and even tried a few bites of chana masala and dahl.
The samosas wound up on the floor, but that’s okay. My dining room table is still there too.
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