Muffin really isn’t a picky eater. (Knock on wood) He never really has been. From his first bites of crushed grapes to a new-found love of celery and eating kale chips, he continues to surprise me with the things he will put in his mouth, chew, and swallow. And repeat.
But picky eating among children is a known problem. There is no guarantee that if Josh and I have another child, that that child will not be a picky eater. I just have to go with what I know and hope for the best.
I had this post planned for a while (on my blogging calendar–my Chik-Fil-A cowlander, as a I call it) when I stumbled upon Melissa D’Arabian’s Picky Eaters Project on Food Network’s website. For those who are suffering with a child who is a picky eater, it’s a very in-depth look at what causes picky eating as well as a method (with printables!) for introducing new foods in hopes of creating eaters that are not picky. I watched all of the videos and read all of the material, and it is very comprehensive. She did a lot of the research, so I did not have to. 🙂 I do believe that there is some merit to her findings.
I, for one, was picky (and still am, to some extent) concerning textures. I was fully grown and teaching when my first principal (who should have also been a gourmet chef) made grits and grillades for the faculty for Teacher Appreciation Week. That was the first time that I could swallow grits without barfing. I remember one time when we still lived down south and my mom, my sister, and I were driving to visit my grandparents. We stopped at a restaurant, and I couldn’t have been more than two. (They say that you can’t remember much from when you were that age, but I remember what came next very vividly) For some reason, I got grits. They were boiled (and probably instant). I took one bite, and my gag reflex kicked in. Violently. I tried them again (still during my childhood years) and the same result occurred. But my principal had baked the grits for the grits and grillades. That left for a softer, less gritty texture. I still struggle to consume broccoli and cauliflower because of the texture. I can eat broccoli stalks all day long, but the florets just mess me up.
But this post is not about me; it’s about Muffin.
Muffin who ate greens before his first birthday while his dad blanched. Muffin who eats “trees” (broccoli) like they are candy–and without dip–while I struggle to swallow just one floret. Muffin whose favorite food is fruit (even over candy).
I think it helps that Muffin just really likes food (like his dad and I). He loves to cook it. He loves to grow it. He loves to harvest it. He loves to eat it. He loves to watch it being made. He loves to smell it. He loves it if it looks nice. He loves to talk about it. He loves food. I’ve never asked him this because I’m worried he would think his mama crazier than he already thinks she is: but I bet he dreams in recipes.
He also experiments with food. Not to spoil a future Funny Muffin Friday post, but he created a new gourmet treat (I could not watch as he ate it) on Sunday: a pretzel taco. I wish I were kidding. He added pretzels to his taco of flour tortilla, chicken taco meat, beans, sour cream, green and black olives, and cheese. And ate it.
Now, I’m probably going to make a lot of people angry with this post. I do believe that many of Melissa D’Arabian’s points about the causes of picky eaters have merit and go a long way to explain why some families have eaters that are picky and some don’t. But if your child does not have an over-sensitivity (genetically) to spice, textures, flavors, or smells or an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods, and all of your children are picky, I’m going to be mean and blame the parents (to some extent, at least).
My oldest nephew would definitely be one exception. He has tried the foods that my sister put in front of him, and he gets sick from them. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with the food, but, like me, it is probably a texture thing. And sadly, I’m not sure as to the cure for it, except as you get older you become a (little) less sensitive to it. Different ways of preparing it (take the grits, for example) helps a lot.
I’ve seen television shows where grown adults will only eat meat and bread. They won’t eat fruit, and the only vegetable that they’ll eat is a potato. Something went very horribly wrong there.
Let’s go waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back. Like gestation. During my pregnancy with Muffin, I ate a lot of different things. I have no idea how I avoided morning sickness (although that would be an interesting study–to compare the eating habits of children born to morning sickness mommies with those whose mommies did not have morning sickness). I’m pretty sure that Muffin should have come out as an avocado because I think I ate one a day during most of my pregnancy. And the last trimester was breakfast, lunch, and dinner Mexican food (leftovers for breakfast and lunch). Seriously, he should have been born wearing a sombrero.
Let me just say this (if you couldn’t tell already): I tend not to eat bland food. That was also true of the first month-and-a-half after Muffin was born, and I was breastfeeding. Again, I ate a wide variety of foods that probably some of the taste got transmitted into my milk (although I refused to taste my milk, so I wouldn’t know).
Then came the formula (which is another whole long painful story best saved for another time). Josh and I continued to eat as we normally do with a variety of things (including vegetables). Muffin saw us eating a variety of things (in fact, from the time he could focus, he would watch us eat, memorizing our movements). Mealtime was a social experience; we didn’t suddenly invent sit-down mealtimes when he started to chew. Yes, we watched TV as we ate, but that added to the social aspect and table discussion.
In other words, everything was very natural and very organic. We didn’t try to jump through hoops or reinvent the wheel or try to fake through eating healthy food around the time he first noticed us eating. We didn’t pretend to eat meals together at the table together; that’s what we did. I think if those two things aren’t already in place at the time of the child’s birth (if not before) that it serves to make things difficult to raise a not-picky eater.
When we got ready to introduce solid food, I went down the aisle of the grocery store devoted to baby food with a look of awe at the variety of pureed and watered down dishes. I became obsessed with finding Tyler Florence’s Sprout food. I made my own with sweet potato and froze it. Now, here’s the thing. Have you ever tasted Gerber baby food? I’ll wait while you go to the store and select a jar and taste it. May I recommend the green peas or the green beans? Or for fun the potato? Now I’ll wait while you stop gagging. There is no taste to the food. It is the blandest, most watered down gunk that you will ever put into your mouth. The myth is that babies have delicate taste buds, and you don’t want to overwhelm them. Ohhhh kaaay. If I were an 8-month old and had that put in my mouth (and I know this for a fact that I did this because my mom told this story at least a hundred times), from that point on I would check the spoon to see what was going in my mouth and refuse the baby food. Baby food companies are cursing children to become picky eaters. It was years (I was an adult) before I would eat English peas (now perhaps my favorite vegetable, at least of the canned variety), and I still shudder at the thought of canned green beans. The moral of the story: if it’s not something that you would consider consuming on a regular basis–solid food-wise, don’t give it to your infant. Sprout baby food does taste (and smell) like real food, so it’s got a leg up on the competition. My sweet potatoes that were really sweet potatoes that were baked until the natural syrup oozed out, then de-jacketed and mashed (without much water added). They were not boiled and watered down to oblivion. I didn’t add sugar or salt or any extra flavorings, but Muffin knew what sweet potato tasted like.
I remember we were at a restaurant, and he had refused another offered container of baby food. He stared at us, grunting, until we peeled him a grape and mashed it up. And then he was silent…gumming the grape.
After he rounded his first birthday, we continued to offer him the food we were eating. Very rarely did we make him a separate meal. We do sometimes buy the dreaded frozen chicken nuggets, but they are usually reserved for lunches (and Josh and I usually partake, as well). I breathed a sigh of relief when it became obvious that my dairy sensitivity did not get passed on to Muffin.
There are a few things he won’t eat. Really, there are.
He doesn’t like raw onion (although he will eat it if it is diced and cooked in something). He doesn’t like bell pepper. He will eat around it if he comes to it. In terms of temperature, he prefers his food cold or room temperature. He’s not fond of salad (lettuce) although he will sometimes eat it on sandwiches and tacos. He does not like blue cheese, but he will eat blue cheese dressing. Brie cheese is another dislike. And spicy foods are a problem now. Although he will still drink salsa if you aren’t watching him closely enough.
But he will try foods. He tried the brie and gave the rest of his bite to Daisy. He likes experimenting with different tastes (I just wish I could remove the pretzel taco from my memory). He loves buffets because he loves the variety of things to try.
And he loves to garden and harvest from the garden. Most things he grew and harvested, he would at least try. He loved eating the cucumbers, and I don’t think Josh or I ate a single strawberry off of the strawberry plants last year.