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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

"Carbotarian" kid takes finicky eating to new high



One of our Whoa, Momma! readers Rachel sent in this request:

I am the mom of two boys, ages 5 and 2. My oldest son is a carbotarian – I kid you not.  He has survived the first 5 years of his life eating no meat, no veggies, no whole fruit (only fruit-flavored items).  He has been this way since infancy.  We’ve even tried “sensory therapy” with no success.  It is time to take this problem to other mothers!  Can you steer me in the right direction?

Mom_stubbornboy Wow! So Rachel's son must be living on pasta and not much more.

Sherry has a finicky eater who swears he doesn't like cheese but would eat it on pizza everyday if she let him. And I have one who I have coaxed into expanding his palate, but it has taken a long time and a lot of patience.

One book I got back when my finicky eater was a toddler that really helped was Coping With a Picky Eater by William Wilkoff (I'm sure you can find it in the library). Where it most helped was to make me realize that three squares a day is just not in the cards for many toddlers. Many kids do just fine on two decent meals a day, so stop fighting if they aren't hungry.

If you can, concentrate on the higher-vitamin fruits like apples with skin on, berries of all color, cantaloupe, etc. Keep offering veggies and make the rule only that he has to try it.  Be good to your word and drop the subject because you'll be tested at first to make sure you mean it so even the foods the child previously liked may get passed on.

Then try to make meal time as pleasant as possible and do not even talk about what the child is eating, good or bad. Just talk about your day.

Meanwhile, give them a multivitamin to make yourself feel better and add finely diced carrots and peppers to meat sauces, quesadillas, meatloaf, etc. Do not have junk in the house that would be tempting to offer as an alternative. Offer a bedtime snack of some yogurt or cheese slices to make you feel better after a finicky dinner. But make no comment on the dinner eating. You want them to look forward to meals!

Wilkoff suggests putting just one tablespoon each of the meal on his plate, saying nothing and only offering seconds if they eat what you gave them. If they don't eat, don't say a word. Offer a healthy snack in 2 hours. If they don't eat, once again don't say a word. Offer another meal in 2 hours and do the same routine.

Here are some other tips I've gleaned from Wilkoff's book and other moms of picky eaters:

SNEAK IT: I load up carrots and diced zucchini and even chopped spinach in spaghetti and pizza sauces. I add diced tomatoes, carrots or spinach leaves to quesadillas and grilled cheese. Soup is a wonderful way to add extra veggies. And Sneaky Chef and other cookbooks have great ideas like adding carrot puree to mac and cheese that goes unnoticed.

OFFER IT: Even though I have added and sneaked veggies I still have some on the plate at every meal. Don't hide our love of healthy food, model it.

My kids never cared for veggies but they will eat all manner of fruits so I add fruit to every meal, especially cantaloupe (which has the same vitamins as carrots) and berries.

MAKE IT A GAME: We call broccoli stalks "trees" and imagine we are giants eating a whole tree. Sliced carrots are coins and we see who can put the most money in his belly. Silly stuff works wonders.

: This has been one of the most helpful things lately, getting the kids to help make dinner. If they helped make it, they have a sense of pride and really want to like it. Let him tear lettuce, measure water for rice, add veggies to the soup.

I tell my kids I will never make them eat something they truly don't like, but I want them to at least try it and say "No thank you" to see if they like it. Even if it's something they have tried before and not liked, I ask them to have just one bite the size of a quarter to make sure. I explain that tastebuds change as you grow and people often love stuff they hated as a kid. By doing this I finally got the kids to like broccoli and carrots because after several "No thank you" bites, they finally developed a taste for them.

Rachel, try these tactics and let us know if your "carbotarian" has a change of heart at mealtime.

-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne


[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:02am]


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