•   Saturday, 25 Jun, 2022
My childrens picky eating is overtaking mealtime

My childrens picky eating is overtaking mealtime

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Who wants spaghetti" I call out to my children as I peer into our pantry.

"Me" scream my two sons, ages 2 and 4, in unison.

I bring the water to a boil, toss in the pasta but absolutely no sauce because my kids prefer it with butter.

I ask the boys what color dinner plates they want. Without fail, my 4-year-old yells out, "I want green!" while my 2-year-old throws his hands out toward the other with excitement, "Blue, blue, Mommy!"

I toss the plates down in front of them with a side of sliced strawberries and some diluted apple juice in their sippy cups, and I pour myself a glass of wine.

I feel accomplished, but 15 minutes later that feeling dissipates. My children haven't touched anything on their plates minus a few berries.

"No like!" my youngest pouts. Without looking up, the 4-year-old says, "I want a Popsicle."

Here we go again, I think to myself. The next 30 minutes consists of me bribing them to eat just a few more bites in exchange for something sweet.

I find myself giving my home-cooked meals to our dog, Franky. She's the best-fed member in our house.

It turns out that my dinnertime drama is far from unique. Picky eating is common among young children. Up to 50% are unwilling to eat vegetables or try new foods, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Putting together a meal for my children is half the battle, whether they eat it or not, psychologist Alli Delozier told me in a recent interview.

"Take the pressure off of eating at the table," Delozier said. "Simply by putting the foods on their plates or on the table, you're doing a great job as a parent because you're still exposing them to those foods. They see 'em, they smell 'em, they can touch 'em, they can taste 'em. And every time they get that exposure, they're one step closer to learning to like that food."

Several parents in my circle of friends told me to check out an Instagram account called "Kids Eat in Color." Jennifer Anderson, a registered dietitian, created the page, amassing more than 1 million followers seeking what she says is "evidence-based information and strategies for child feeding and nutrition."

"This is the age where (your children's) biggest power is to say no and to have opinions," Anderson said. "And so, this is totally expected. You're not doing anything wrong."

As for my anxiety when my children don't eat their food. Anderson said that's normal, too.

"What happens though is when kids are saying, no, we often as parents get really concerned, like, 'Oh my gosh, they're not gonna eat. They're not gonna grow. They're gonna be sick.' ... And so out of that fear, we do a whole bunch of things," Anderson told me.

"We put a screen in front of them so that they eat better. We make them what they want. We kind of say, 'OK, you can eat all day. I'll follow you around with this spoon,' " she added. "We've all done it, like chasing the toddler around, 'Take one bite.' We start saying things like, 'Take one bite or I'll take the iPad away. Take three bites before you can get down.' And then we start requiring these things from a toddler whose biggest power is to be like, 'You tell me to do that. No way.' And so, we kind of fall into these habits that they really work against us in the long term."

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