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Feeding a Picky Eater

Jonas is deep in the middle of a passionate love affair with carbohydrates.  Crackers, fries, tortillas, pasta, bread (whole wheat or French), waffles, pancakes – they’re dear to his chubby little belly.  Sometimes, he’ll cheat on the carbs with cheese or bananas or applesauce, but he always comes back.  It’s been going on every since he tasted his first bite of brown rice cereal, since he discovered the joys of Cheerios, and it shows no signs of stopping.

He’s a picky eater.  Just a few of the things most people find delicious that he  won’t allow to sneak past his lips: blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, oranges.  That list doesn’t even include all of the vegetables he won’t eat – unless the peas are surrounded by macaroni and cheese, Jonas doesn’t want to try them.  Until a few weeks ago, he was convinced that raisins were chock full of baby-specific poison, that apples were of no relation to his adored applesauce, and that fish (even the fried sort) was only fit for feline consumption.

Axel happily eats asparagus, mushrooms, olives, and guacamole by the cupful.  He’d pick pears of pretzels any day.  He doesn’t like everything, but he always tries a bite.  With Axel, the challenge isn’t getting him to eat a variety of foods – it’s getting him to eat enough.  I’ve been known to refuse to give him more lettuce until he eats a bite of his sandwich.  Both boys have the same parents, get offered the same foods, and watch me eat salads on a daily basis, yet they’ve developed very different eating habits.

With Jonas, unless the vegetables are hidden inside of pancakes or buried in a mound of bean and cheese burrito, he wouldn’t even put them in his mouth. But he’d scarf down a roll at a speed that rivals that of our dog.  Much of it seems to be about textures – all-fruit spreads on waffles he adores, but those same fruits in whole form are only good for food fight ammunition.

I’m happy to say that he’s recently started to branch out from hidden vegetables to visible ones.  We didn’t discover a magic trick: we just offered the same things over and over despite past rejection, filled up muffin cups with colorful dips, and kept on eating our own vegetables by way of example.

Apparently, after squash soup gets offered to you a dozen times, and you watch everyone around you eating it, slipping some in your mouth seems reasonable.   He willingly ate a bite of salmon.  He’ll dunk any of his beloved carbs into a dip – unless it happens to be green, in which case he throws the guacamole on the floor.  The other day, he put a spoonful of beef stew, complete with a visible piece of carrot, in his mouth. He’s not changing overnight – 90% of that meal was cornbread – but I’m less worried that he’ll end up with rickets.  Cracks in his defenses have started to appear, and he’s coming around to a few nibbles on a wider variety of foods.

I’m going to continue feeding him vegetables-in-disguise – diced up veggies slipped in wherever I can, mix his pancake batter with pureed pumpkin, offer little cups of vegetable soup as dip for his grilled cheese sandwiches, use cheese sauce liberally, count ketchup as a vegetable – but now, I can see a day coming when he’ll pick up a piece of asparagus and do something with it other than throw it on the floor.

What are your tricks for handling a picky eater?

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