These Times, They Are a Changing

May and June have been a crazy couple of months for the McGrew family.  My husband, Tim graduated from the MBA program at William and Mary, AJ graduated from preschool, we have had tons of family visiting and most recently our family has relocated to Alexandria, VA.  It is just a few hours north of our happy home in Williamsburg, but it is like living in a totally different universe.  While my husband and I are excited about all of the great things our new city has to offer, the Babe and her brother are not quite as enthused.  We are trying our best to make a smooth transition as possible for them, getting the house together, visiting the new school, joining a pool, but it is still definitely challenging at times.  While AJ is really just moody, the Babe is trying her best to take control over every aspect of her world that she can.  Truthfully, I am not sure if it is the move or her setting a prime example of the terrible two’s.  Most likely it is a combination of both.  The most frustrating thing is that she has decided to demonstrate her power over her food.  As every parent knows, you cannot force your child to eat, and it appears that the Babe has figured that out too.  We all know how it goes, making progress (in any aspect of child development) and then BOOM!, back to square one.  She had been doing so well, sharing meals with us as a family, eating most of what she was given.  Now who knows where her mood will take her, there are some meals where she literally will take one bite.

So what’s the game plan?  We are sticking by our guns and still starting with the same foods that the rest of the family is eating at the meal. On average, she is initially refusing the meal about 90% of the time.  At that point one of two things will happen (after sufficient time has passed for her to debate about it and for us to at least eat something).  We will A. bribe her with small pieces of a coveted snack (currently pretzels) for taking bites of her dinner.  Or B. offer her other nutrient-dense,  easily prepared foods (cheese, PB & J, fruit, etc.).  Now you may not agree with these tactics, but in our house they are not permanent and our goal is to get her to eat the dinner or something substantial.  Dinner is really the picky time around here for both the Babe and AJ, mainly because it is the one meal where they do not get to choose the main course.  It is the meal where we push them to try new foods and new ways to prepare familiar foods.  At breakfast and lunch, they are given several options for what they would like to eat, so those meals are usually met with minimal resistance.  Just as we have done before, we are going to stick with it, try not to get frustrated and just keep moving along until this phase is over.  We have to remember the big picture, that as long as she is healthy, growing sufficiently and happy it really won’t matter that for a month or so she had to eat a piece of pretzel between every few bites to motivate her.  This too shall pass.

Happy Birthday to the Babe!

Today is the Babe’s second birthday. I know it is cliche to say, but time really does go by fast. Her big bash is on Saturday so for today we are celebrating with at trip to Sweet Frog (frozen yogurt). Nothing says happy birthday like an ounce of low-fat frozen yogurt covered by 10 ounces of candy. Truthfully, she’s probably just have fruit but AJ is on to it in the candy department. He is all about creating a dirt sundae. The last two years have been anything but dull since she arrived and we are so blessed to have her in our lives. These are some of the lessons she has taught in a way that no one else could have gotten through to me.

1. No two children are alike. (I know everyone says that, but do you really believe it until you experience it?)
2. Listen to your child, even if they can’t talk yet. Oftentimes they are trying to tell you exactly what they need.
3. Patience (Yeah, I haven’t totally mastered this one yet, every day is a lesson).
4. Go with the flow. The Babe does not seem to thrive on routine for every aspect of her life like her older brother, which was especially challenging in the feeding department. (My husband probably would disagree that I have embraced this, but hey, I try).
5. You are/should be your children’s biggest role model. They watch and ultimately mimic everything you do from what you eat to what you say.

All in the Family

Family influence, where do you draw the line? Let’s face it, just because you are in the same gene pool does not mean you share the same beliefs about food and feeding your children.
This topic has been very much on my mind lately as we have been visiting various family members over the past week. (As I write this I am sitting at my parents’ dining room table). How our parents/families have influenced our eating behaviors is a whole other topic for another day. Lets just focus on the present situation, or should I say temptations. To be fair, the purpose of this visit was to attend our annual “family renunion” at Mardi Gras (Mobile, AL not New Orleans). So by definition it is a time of gluttony. I tried to do my best to bring some of our staples that would not be easily available such as milk, fruit, breakfast food where the first ingredient was not sugar. Would you believe I devoted half a suitcase to this?
Basically, my strategy is to at least provide some balance to what the kids are getting every day. I am not the type of parent to tell the well-meaning in-laws they can’t share their treats with the kids. The situation is temporary and no one wins if I say no. My hope is that this is a lesson in moderation for the Babe and AJ. What better example than to see all the excesses available, be allowed to choose some all while still having healthful foods at the same time. It usually went something like this, “Sure you can have some chips, but you need to have a cheese stick and some fruit too.” Or, “Ok, you can eat that cookie with some milk (low fat and plain)”.
Now when it is your own parents, it can be much easier to be more outspoken about your desires. (This is possibly due to your argumentative skills you have been perfecting since middle school, or that may be just me). Ironically, my mother falls at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. She should be the spokeswoman for fruits and vegetables. I have to to be very diligent in reminding her that it was necessary to offer the higher calorie foods first to her petite granddaughter. While she did not necessarily agree that it was okay if the Babe did not have fruit with her lunch, she did comply.
The point is, know your limits and pick your battles. Short of food allergies and intolerances, I believe it is much easier and beneficial to relax a little on the food “rules”. Try to remember that all parties involved love your kids and just want them to be healthy and happy.

Battle Hymn of the Picky Eater

How many of you have been there? You prepare this nice meal, absolutely positive it is kid friendly, only to have it immediately rejected by your toddler within seconds of putting it on their plate. This has been my kids’ MO since they both were around 12 months old.
Initially, my son AJ’s stand was against any food that was once living and walked, swam or flew around the earth. I know this is not an issue for all, but he was on the smaller side and I was still concerned with his protein intake as well as other vitamin and minerals. That boy could have consisted on yogurt, bread and fruit alone. The Babe on the other hand, she definitely has a more diverse palate. She is intrigued by a wide variety of flavors and foods. You can generally count on her to at least take that first bite to try the new food. But that is where it ends, food seems to be for tasting purposes only. (Really, I should be thankful for this, tasting is half the battle). In the Babe’s case, I suspect teething is the culprit for her lack of appetite. Her pickiness is definitely heightened when there are ANY teeth breaking through. There are no favorites, no go-to foods that she will always eat. Dining is totally at her whim and often times she just has zero interest. My two children, textbook examples of the common eating behavior termed “food jags”. AJ demonstrates the classic desire to eat the same foods time and time again, while the Babe often refuses to eat at all, shoving aside foods that she has devoured in the past.
So there it is. Picky eating has been, by far, my one of my greatest challenges as a parent. Mostly because it drives me INSANE. There is all that wasted time, effort and food, but I continue to work at it. I am proud to report that after many years of relentlessly exposing AJ to new things and repeatedly trying them, at five years of age he now eats and enjoys foods from ALL the food groups. He still has picky tendencies but both he and the Babe’s diet and palate are continuing to expand.

Here are some tips for dealing with the picky eater in your life:
1. Stay calm.
2. Make sure they are hungry at mealtimes. (No snacking or giving filling beverages at
least 60-90 minutes before a meal).
3. Offer the new foods or foods you most want them to eat first.
4. Have minimal distractions.
5. Make it appealing (for a kid). Use fun shapes, colors, plates or silverware.
6. Eat together as a family, be a good role model.
7. Offer a variety of foods.
8. Don’t be a short-order cook. (This is especially true for older kids. With your
food-refusing toddler, I personally believe there is some grey area on this one).
9. Let them make decisions when possible. i.e. milk or water, peas or carrots, the Elmo or
Mickey Mouse plate
10. Try, try again. On average it takes 8-10 times for a child to grow accustomed to a
new food. It is not unheard of for it to take 20 plus time for this to occur. (See tip
number one).

Success!

We are very happy to report that the babe (my 19th month old) had successful 18/19 month check up. And when I say successful, yes I do mean that she is healthy, but she also gained three pounds in four months. Now, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average weight gain for toddlers between one to two years is about three to five pounds. Score one for the Babe and score two for the Mama! This took months of patience getting a strong-willed toddler to eat (did I mention, she wouldn’t even stop to do that if she wasn’t strapped down in a high chair?) foods that are both high-caloric and healthful at the same time. There was no way I was going to cave and feed her “junk” all day. The AI (Adequate Intake) for daily calorie consumption is 992 kcal* (calories) for girls ages 1-3 or 15kcal per centimeter.** In the Babe’s case that equates to 1200 kcal/day. That is quite a bit of food for such a small being. Here are some of the foods we added or substituted for my daughter’s enjoyment.
Enfamil (Stage 3) formula, added to whole milk
Whole milk yogurt made with cream
Almond butter
Nutella
Whole milk cheddar and colby cheese
Butter
Like I said, these are just a few of the foods we used, and most likely that made the biggest impact on her daily diet. There were numerous other tactics we employed while cooking or preparing her meals/snacks to get results. Now the plan is to continue until she is older and demonstrates adequate gain for a longer amount of time. Here’s to continued success!

*The Institute of Medicine, Dietary Reference Intakes
** Mitchell, M.K., Nutrition Across the Lifespan, 2003 (I know it is dated, but I liked the information provided on this subject.)