When our little girl reached the one and a half year mark she decided that she would only eat a select few food items. She would eat chicken nuggets, mac n' cheese, applesauce, yogurt, and chocolate bunnies. I have no idea how she got so stuck on eating those few food items, but it happened. I brushed it off for a long time as I thought it was "just a phase" that she was going through.
Oh no! It would not end.
After her second birthday, she was still only eating those foods listed above and I was still making two meals at dinner. I would make Mason and I dinner and then would make her a dinner that consisted of the few foods she would eat. I would spend so many hours stressing about her not being healthy or getting enough nutrients in her meals. Let's face it... she wasn't eating well-rounded meals and I knew that something had to be done about it!
One day it occurred to me that I was forgetting that I was the parent and that I had to make better choices for her even if she didn't like it. I would give in when she wouldn't eat because I just wanted her to eat something. I can laugh about it now but around that time, I was nearly seven months pregnant, emotional, and worried that she would starve. My normal, non-sleep deprived brain knew that she wouldn't starve but I let that irrational fear consume my thoughts.
Finally, I reached a point where I knew that I had to do something because continuing on the path of only eating five foods would obviously be bad for her health.
So I got tough.
I prayed and asked God to give me strength and wisdom on this situation because it is very important that she not only eats what I provide, but that she eats healthy meals that will help her grow properly.
For nearly two stressful and tear-filled days she was only allowed to have what I offered her. I offered her healthy meals and snacks and if she refused them then I would set them aside and would warm them back up when she said she was hungry. She wouldn't eat a single thing that I offered her those two days. It was really hard because I was so frustrated that she wouldn't just give in and eat what I was offering as I knew she was hungry. She is a very, very strong-willed child! I held on and guess what happened... barely forty-eight hours later?
She ate what I offered AND asked for MORE! I cried happy tears. I worry endlessly about my kids (and I am sure you do too) and I just really wanted her to get out of the picky stage. I also knew that once she tried new foods she would love them! I just had to stick with it to show her that I was serious.
I have always heard the saying that, "They will eat when they're hungry." It is true. I was glad that I stuck with it and did not give in because now she will eat anything and everything.
Before someone reading this assumes that I am the world's meanest mom, I want to clarify that we do still have times where she refuses foods or entire meals. The biggest rule we have for mealtime is that she has to try ONE bite of whatever we are having. If she doesn't like it then she doesn't have to finish it, but at least she tried it. We also give her special treats after some of her meals for being such a great eater. I want her to learn the importance of making good food choices and saving the sweets for special occasions. Of course we let her have fries or ice cream occasionally, but she knows that it isn't something we will have everyday. I feel strongly about putting the right foods into our bodies as it greatly affects how we act and feel each day. Some of her favorite foods now include: broccoli, apples, grapes, scrambled eggs, and string cheese! These are food items she would have never touched before. Score!
So dear tired, hard-working, at-your-wits-end mama, here is what I clung too while going through the picky phase:
1. You Know What Is Best
When God blessed you with children He also gave you wisdom on how to raise those sweet kiddos. His word talks in depth about raising children for His glory. He also wants us to ask Him for wisdom when we don't know what to do. I asked God to give me wisdom on how to get Emmeline out of the picky eater phase and He definitely helped me! You know what is best for your child...they don't know what is best for themselves. Kids can only see the situation from their very limited perspective. My toddlers thought process was that she only liked five foods and that other foods wouldn't taste good. Also, she is smart and saw that I wasn't following through with making her eat what I provided so she knew I would give in.
2. Be Strong!
Yes, it is tough when your child is fussing and grumpy all day because they wouldn't eat any of the healthy meals or snacks you provided, but I promise that it won't last long. A day and a half after I cut out foods from Emmeline's diet and started offering her what I wanted her to eat, she was hungry. It didn't even take two full days before she decided that her will was no match against mine. YOU have to stay strong and realize that you're helping your child for the longterm. Letting kids eat whatever they want will only result in them being extremely unhealthy later on in their lives. Stay strong, Mama!
3. Some Kids Have No Choice
This is more of a personal opinion that my husband and I have, but I thought I would go ahead and add this to the list! There are kids in our communities that are starving and kids all over the world that are starving. Poverty stricken families, a lot of times, are only able to feed their children the same foods for every meal without a lot of variety. As a teenager, I went to Honduras two different times on mission trips. The Honduran children eat rice and beans for breakfast, lunch, and maybe dinner if their parents can afford food. A large majority of the children only get to eat at school (again... if their parents can afford for them to go or they are sponsored by a family in the USA). Something that I want to instill in our children is that we are very blessed and very fortunate to go to the store and buy the foods we need and want. As long as there are starving kids around the world, we are going to be thankful for every meal we have and are going to eat what is provided.
4. They Will Thank You One Day
In the few short months that Emmeline has been eating healthier, her behavior has changed for the better and I can tell that she is gaining healthy weight. One day when she is making healthy food choices on her own, she will thank me! Your babies will thank you too one day, I promise! When we started our wellness journey as a family I started really small. We cut out soda, processed foods, excess sugar, etc! Start small and before you know it your body will be craving fresh, clean and healthy foods only! The meals below aren't 110% clean but we have come a very long way as a family and are learning more about healthy foods everyday!
I added pictures of a few meals that we have had over the past few weeks below.
From left to right:
Grilled chicken, Pineapple, shredded Cheese, and corn tortilla chips (not pictured)
Homemade whole-wheat mini cheese pizzas, apple + pear + spinach pouch
Grilled Cheese, Salsa and chips, and a yogurt cup (not pictured)
Chicken nuggets, sliced apples, and a chocolate chip granola bar
Chicken nuggets (again... I still let her have her favorites occasionally... and these pictures were taken a few weeks apart), mashed potatoes, and broccoli
Salsa Chicken, shredded cheese, and star shaped tortillas, applesauce (not pictured)
As far as beverages go, we allow her to have: Half apple juice/half water, water, milk, and she can have half tea/half water at dinner time. I don't buy sodas, but dear husband won't kick his love for mountain dew so he occasionally brings one home for himself.
Breakfast Toddler Meals Post and Favorite Snack Post coming soon!