Sunday, June 13, 2010

Can a person live on just chicken fingers, mac 'n cheese and peanut butter sandwiches? Apparently.

Jake: "Remember when we went to that festival the other day?"
Me: "Which festival? We go to a lot of festivals." [Kind of true.] "The Sanitation Department [i.e. garbage trucks]? The fire station?"
Jake: "No, not a festival, actually... you know, that place where we got all the beautiful food?"
Me: "You mean the Farmer's Market?"
Jake: "Yeah, the Farmer's Market."

I LOVE that Jake can appreciate the beauty in fresh fruits and vegetables. And we DID buy a lot of colorful, fragrant, beautiful food from the Playa Vista Farmer's Market on Saturday- nectarines, cherries, strawberries, swiss chard, red chard, bok choy, carrots, celery, basil, fresh-squeezed orange juice and sourdough bread. I really wish I had thought to take a picture, it was all so beautiful. (The picture above is from Playa Vista Farmers' Market's Facebook page). BUT... I know that even though Jake can appreciate the beauty of all of this healthy food, it will be a struggle to get him to even try a taste of most of it.

How did my kid become such a picky eater? I can honestly say that I don't really know. As a baby, Jake ate anything. Pureed baby foods were pretty much anything-goes. I never found time to make my own baby foods- I was working, and bringing him to work with me, so it was like I had two jobs simultaneously. By the time I got home, that last thing that I wanted to do was make baby food, so I just bought the organic premade stuff, figuring that was better. As he got a little older, he transitioned to non-baby foods okay, too. At least, I think he did. I can remember him eating bits and pieces of my food. But, that was also the time that I wasn't really cooking at home, so we were picking up food pretty much every night. And honestly, when I was eating a burger and fries, it wasn't exactly the kind of food that I wanted to feed to my baby (or toddler, as he got a little older). So, I guess that was the beginning of when I started making him his own meals.

I wanted his food to be healthy, but also convenient. I wasn't cooking at home, so I wasn't making time for frequent trips to the grocery store. If I bought fresh fruits or vegetables, I would need to go to the store fairly often in order to keep the house stocked. So, I started buying freeze dried fruits and veggies. Trader Joe's has some good options- strawberries, mangoes, bananas. [Jake never liked the chewy dried fruits, only the ones that are freeze dried and crunchy.] Oh, and Snapea Crisps. Costco carries Brothers-All-Natural, which makes great freeze dried apples and pears. Whole Foods carries a brand called Just Tomatoes, and Jake has always loved their freeze dried peas (also the bananas, strawberries and mangoes). And Sensible Foods makes a great freeze dried corn (which I buy through Amazon). Jake always loved the freeze dried stuff, and it never went bad, unlike fresh fruits and veggies, which he might eat one day and then refuse the next. It was just the easiest way to get him to eat healthy food.

Besides freeze dried foods, Jake will (now) consistently eat chicken nuggets, french fries (although we don't cook them at home), and pizza. Sometimes macaroni and cheese (if from a box), bean and cheese burritos, cheese quesadillas, or a peanut butter sandwich (but absolutely NO jelly). He'll sometimes eat fresh grapes, strawberries and apples. And he drinks most fruit smoothies or juices. Oh, and bread and crackers. And pretty much any kind of dessert. Did I miss anything? I don't think so.

So, now that I AM actually cooking at home, and relatively healthy foods, I'm not sure how to get Jake to eat what I cook. I know, I know, if I really want him to eat what I cook, them I won't give him another option. But have you seen my kid? He's super skinny already. I'm certain he would choose NOT to eat at all, rather than eating something that he doesn't like.

And also, I'm not sure how much Jake's dietary preferences might be related to actual food allergies. It took me a long time (like, until adulthood) to realize that I have oral allergy syndrome, which basically means that I am mildly allergic to many raw fruits, vegetables and nuts. I used to think that I just avoided foods because I didn't like them. But once I started trying to make myself eat a wider variety of foods, I realized that the reason I didn't like many of them was because they make my throat itch, my lips tingle, or my tongue swell. Mangoes, bananas and avocados are some of the worst for me, to the point that I have actually felt like my throat was swelling shut when I ate too much. But I also react to a lesser extent to raw cucumbers, tomatoes, citrus, berries, melons, almonds, cashews, celery, carrots, peppers, potatoes, pears, kiwi, nectarines and plums. I mean, that's practically everything, right? So, what are the odds that Jake's picky eating habits are also related to mild food allergies? Pretty good, I think. I'm not saying that it explains ALL of his pickiness, but I do think it's likely a confounding factor.

When Jake had his last birthday, we had a new rule, "Four year-olds try things." This worked for awhile, to get him to at least take a bite of the less-desirable foods. But we rarely get past that first bite, even now, 10 months later. Most of the time, he's already started shaking his head no and making a gross out face AS he's putting the food into his mouth. So, what now? In two more months, is it, "Five year-olds try at least five bites"? Or, "Five year-olds eat what their parents eat"? Because I have a feeling, if that's the case, then we'll all be eating chicken nuggets and fries.

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