Parenting Picky Eaters: Tactics that Work!

I want to push us all to think about the family as a culture, not just mom’s responsibility.  And I’m starting with food.  Sign up for my free seminar:

stainedglassmama copyParenting Picky Eaters: Tactics that Work

One of my kids is a sensory averse white bread lover, the other is a seeker who snacks on raw onions! If I can feed these two, I can help you feed yours, too.

May 28, 8pm EST; 5pm Pacific
Click here for more details and to sign up!

If you’ve been reading along, you know: I’m frustrated with how much moms are on the hook for cultural problems, starting with kids’ diets.  Obesity, diabetes, test scores, long-term health, even behavior is linked to what moms are feeding their kids.  And yeah, moms.

I’ve written before about the decline of the “typical American family.”  Statistically, there is no longer any one family structure that constitutes a third of American families; there is no typical category any more. And yet simultaneously, the barrier to healthy eating rests on women — studies show.  Somehow it seems that women can’t seem to get out of the kitchen.   Still!

If you have a picky eater, rent those kids a movie, pick up your favorite beverage, and join me as I share some of my best secrets to taking the stress off mealtimes.  You’ll get a free .pdf of three Edible Tools for Fussy Eaters immediately upon signup.

Let’s do this.  See you on the seminar!

 

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Picky Eater at the Library Party

Academic library folk can party!  Every year we went to a swank restaurant owned by an Italian celebrity chef.  My former micropreemie, now toddling, came to work with me a couple of days a week and was also invited.

It was a pasta restaurant, his favorite! Yummy comfort foods — what’s not to love?

There was a much-anticipated $5 gift swap, wine, and small talk.  A little more wine.  Appetizers.  Then we picked from a special menu pulled together just for us — a trio of extremely lovely highbrow pastas. Gnocchi with duck; garganelli with Prosciutto, peas, and cream; ravioli with wild boar and rosemary.

Fudgey, creamy, or spicy.  Uh oh.

Luckily, I had backup.

I found our waiter and, with big smiles and nodding my head, made my request.  My cheeks felt flushed. Again.  I sat at the big round six-top with Peanut on my lap.

WillNotEatClick

Click here to receive three quick videos with tips for your picky eater.

I ate; he didn’t.

CLICK to tweet:  If you have a sensory or food-averse kid, you know — you cannot wait them out.   They’d rather not eat.  At the six-top, my coworkers noticed, looked worried, asked if he was feeling okay.  I was still smiling wide, nodding, and now sweating, too.  And still flushed.

If you have a picky kid, you’ve probably stuck food in your purse a time or a hundred.

Finally the waiter came out with my secret weapon — purse nuggets!  In those days purse nuggets were my constant companion; just throw them in frozen and by lunch they’re ready to heat up.

He’s still picky at 13, but it’s okay. In the decade since then, I’ve worked out a system and he’s come a long way.  He’s no longer underweight and I don’t fret about his diet.

Purse nuggets got us through some scary times, and I am grateful to the nugget inventors of the world.  But shifting to a deliberate family culture around food has changed everything.  He’s become curious and he even eats outside his comfort zone — and points it out, haha.

If you want tips for building food curiosity in your picky kid, click the link above to get 3 quick videos sent right to your inbox.  And stay tuned, I have a webinar coming up in May that will help you ditch those purse nuggets forever!

If you can’t wait another day, check out my Parenting Picky Eaters program.  And as always, follow along the antics in the fun house on Facebook.

Purse nuggets be gone!

Burning up: shame about my picky eater.

Her turquoise eyes were snapping!

She looked me right in the eye, inches from my face.

“Well then, what WILL he eat?”

My face burned.

My beloved stepmom is a locally renown cook; she’d been feeding my two man-nephews for ten years while they tried to eat the entire town out of house and home.  It’s her joy, her gift, and her bragging right.  She is a great cook.

“Chicken nuggets.”

She did not blink. Flinch. Or show any emotion.

I felt ashamed.  The burning increased.

If you have a picky eater, a sensory kid, or a food-averse child, you know that burning feeling.  We’ve lived it more than once, and you have, too.

I felt accused and worried that someone might think less of my wee child.

Food in general left me feeling like a failed mom and  even more protective of my picky eater out in the world — even as I negotiated my own frustration about that pickiness.

I was an older mom.  The generation before me had their answers: wait them out, don’t give in.  The generation after me had their answers: let them graze, give them multiple clean choices.  Neither paradigm felt right for us.  My kid had been intubated at birth; my kid had a couple of diagnoses; my kid was an awesome miracle.  My kid was picky.  And still is. But we have a working system around it.

WillNotEatClickClick here for three quick video tips on picky kids — delivered to your inbox.

A recent article in the Boston Globe did a great job pondering if picky eaters are made or born.  Kids, with too much power, with new diagnoses, with more serotonin receptors in their guts than their brains.  Parents, not wanting or affording to waste food, not wanting to struggle in the little time available to families, told by pediatricians as long as the kid eats, it’s ok.

I believe picky eating is normal.  Extreme picky eating seems to be on its way to the new normal — for too many diverse reasons to simply choose one.  Having control over something in a quickly whirling world, so many delicious available choices, so many processed foods, so many sensory diagnoses, so many anxious parents, so much judgment.  There’s biology at play, as well as: family dynamics, working conditions, money, those serotonin receptors, time, wellness and its lack.  It is historically emerging.

I believe it doesn’t matter why.  Moms in the trenches need a plan and they need it now.  We can’t wait for researchers to figure out why picky eaters are on the rise.  I have a plan to share, and you can get a taste of it (ha!) by clicking the photo above for 3 free video tips of low-key ways to expose your kids to new foods.

My Parenting Picky Eaters program builds a family culture of curiosity around food.  It helps you track what your kid actually eats — it’s almost never as bad as it feels.  It’ll give you tricks for sneaking in the good food while you simultaneously expose your kids to new foods and ignite their curiosity about food. You’ll learn the four words that hijack dinner and add some new terms to the conversation.  Family traditions, teamwork, and a bonus book-and-movie list round things out.

As always, pop on over to Funnermother on Facebook to see what else we’re up to in the Fun house!

Sensitive, Picky Eaters? Listen in as I’m interviewed on this very topic!

Listen in tonight at 7 as I discuss with Donna Ashton my signature system for building food curiosity into your family culture.  Learn the four words that are derailing family dinners.

Donna is the founder of The Waldorf Connection, where parents can get support giving their children an education of art, music, and movement.  Donna is a champion of home-schooling ease and a mentor for family-first home-based businesses.
My talk is free, so just click here to jump on the call.

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To cheat or not to cheat… on your kids

Eat more veggies.

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Smiling veggies

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I haven’t been a fan of sneaking food into kids.  But.

New studies point more to clearly to the importance of healthfulness in kids’ early diets in predicting long-term health “What your child eats now will make an enormous difference to his adult health….Produce may ward off asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, metabolic syndrome, artery-clogging plaque” and more (Parents, June 2015, p. 66).

When my micropreemie was two and still underweight, my mom put a cotton ball on the ceiling fan and hit the switch.  Yes, one could see it as an early introduction to mindless eating, sneaking it in while he laughed hysterically.

vintage botanical print of spinach

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When he was about 5, I bought a cookbook of recipes for foods that had healthy ingredients secreted inside them.  Unnoticeable.  Don’t ask, don’t tell — toddler style.

Does that strategy “teach” kids to like or tolerate, say spinach?  A nursing student mom I know says yes, some other moms say no.  I opted for a little sneaking in while I worked on educating their palates.

But what if — what if we re-thought brownies let’s say.  What if brownies could just BE a dessert that had a healthy dose of spinach?  What if “spinach” came to be associated with spinach pie, greek pizza, salad with bacon, AND chocolate spinach cake, aka brownies?

What if we eliminate the stigma on healthy foods?  What if we just stop sneaking, but don’t stop making those same recipes? This is my goal.

Our chocolate chip cookies have mashed beans in them, and Thing 2 just doesn’t care any more.  “They taste good, that’s all I need” he says.  A few of my best dessert recipes are available on my Free Resources page… then head on over to Facebook and tell me how they turned out for you!

Planning Now for A Kids-At-Home Summer

kids running through field

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I’m setting up some daily structure for the summer now.  We have one important rule: no computer before 11 am. They are allowed an hour a day during the summer, and it works better if I give them “time to earn” that privilege.  This summer they’ll also be allowed an hour of playstation time, but not before 3.  And they are required to read for at least an hour a day. That’s our day by day.

They are looking forward to ending their first year in public school and having a long leisurely summer.  They did a great job tackling a big transition, and I’m happy to have the chance to stay home and allow them the kind of summer I had as a kid.

But I also asked them to put a couple of fun things on their wish list for the summer, and here’s what they picked.

vintage circus camel

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Thing 1: Living Treasures Animal Park, Build A Cactus Garden, Grow a jade plant

Thing 2: Get good Pokemon cards, Ride a camel, play laser tag at Lazer Storm

All pretty manageable goals for a summer vacation.

We go to the library regularly year round, we have a big-for-the-suburbs garden to tend, and I’m going to continue having them prepare dinner one night a week. So those are our weekly activities.

I’m also going to get them to the water park, to Maine, and with luck I’ll get us ALL organized for a camping trip.  Our first.  Eek.

colorful waterpark print

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My friend Gina over at Sister Serendip has a great summer plan for loose weekly themes and manages to keep five little ones lightly focused and fairly busy all summer.  Check her out, too.  And then tell me what YOUR plans are, over on Facebook or in the comments below.  Here we go!

“I have an ice cream and you can’t have one”

ice cream print

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“I have an ice cream and you can’t have one” Eddie Murphy chanted in a singsong voice. Decked out in a red leather suit in 1987.

Oh, we laughed at the ice cream skit, how manic the kids get when they hear the ice cream truck coming, telling everyone on the block “ice cream man is coming, ice cream man is coming!” — and how they lorded it over the other kids when they got their ice cream.

blue milk poster

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Do you remember the next line in Eddie’s song? “I have an ice cream, and you can’t have one, coz you’re on welfare.”  Yes.

And we laughed — little kids marching out someone else’s parents’ distress and gloating over junk food.  Would we laugh now?  Probably not.

Because it seems like now, the adults are saying it, and it’s serious. “Is junk food child abuse?”

Google called up over a million articles when I asked, and lots of people are saying yes. And they’re not on crazy hippie web sites; they’re in the UK’s Daily Mail, Huffington Post, TED talks….

I have scowled to myself at the playground, haven’t you?  But, our judgement gets in the way of solutions.

compassion

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Poor folks need knowledge, in their language, to help them make good choices. They need access, in urban centers AND in sad rural wandering roads, to grocery stores. Here in Pittsburgh, folks take several buses to get to an affordable grocery store. Growing up in rural Maine, it was a long haul to one. Folks need the means by which to purchase foods, or foods need to be affordably priced or grown at home — or all three.  I’ve written before on how folks also need time to cook at home.

So that trigger response of “what are they feeding these/those kids?” is a sign.  A sign that compassion and social action are called for. What to do? Go to a town meeting about public transit and make sure poor neighborhoods have access to grocery stores, vote in local elections about zoning laws, support your local WIC program (Women, Infants, Children – a nutrition program started by president Carter targeting at-risk kids), donate to a food bank.  Or start by exercising your compassion — on the playground. In the grocery checkout behind someone with food stamps. Or when you see kids of different sizes.

For more talk on food and kids, join in on Funnermother on Facebook.  We can make a change.

Rice served thrice: batch cooking for easy meals

blue pottery rice bowls

Click this image to see more gorgeous pottery from Hughes Pottery.

We are very busy, poor meal planners, and have kids that suddenly don’t like dishes they used to like.

You may not be surprised by this Funnermother fact. 🙂

So our cook once, eat thrice technique allows us to focus but not actually be tied to a menu that might not work at the last minute.

brown rice soap

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Honestly I’d rather order takeout every night, like on that sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. 🙂

But it is too expensive, and not as healthy.

Last week’s blog post, Winner, winner, chicken dinner, walked you through several days of yes, chicken dinners.

brown rice drawing

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This week I’m giving you a sneak peek into some of the ways we use rice.  Rice has come under scrutiny because it absorbs arsenic; at the end of this post you’ll find reputable resources for making the healthiest choices you can about rice by your purchasing decisions and by rinsing it.

We have not stopped eating rice, though we never did eat it every day or even every week.

I cook a double or triple batch on the stove top, and use it over three days or three meals.

brown rice cookery

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First, I serve it as a starchy dinner side dish with fish or chicken and maybe a dash of tamari or sliced cooked mushrooms stirred in.  You could also toss in toasted pine nuts — though Thing 1 is happiest with plain rice.

The second time we see it, I toast several servings of rice in a frying pan and add ginger and soy, scrambled egg, frozen peas and either shrimp or minced meat. Ta-daaa!  Fried rice that I sometimes will supplement with takeout dumplings or store-bought frozen eggrolls.

rice

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For our third use, I may serve it as a side with a cheese omelet topped with salsa, with refried beans inside or as a second side.  With fresh chives or green onions sprinkled all around, usually by Thing 2.

There you have it.  Dinner, lunch, breakfast — diverse flavors and easy meals with  batch cooking!

Rice and arsenic in the press:

In January 2015, Consumer Reports wrote: “White basmati rice from California, India, and Pakistan, and sushi rice from the U.S. on average has half of the inorganic-arsenic amount of most other types of rice…. white rices from California have 38 percent less inorganic arsenic than white rices from other parts of the country.

Brown rice has 80 percent more inorganic arsenic on average than white rice of the same type. Arsenic accumulates in the grain’s outer layers, which are removed to make white rice. Brown has more nutrients, though, so you shouldn’t switch entirely to white. Brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan is the best choice; it has about a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices.  Rice that’s grown organically takes up arsenic the same way conventional rice does, so don’t rely on organic to have less arsenic.

Grains lower in arsenic

The gluten-free grains amaranth, buckwheat, millet, and polenta or grits had negligible levels of inorganic arsenic. Bulgur, barley, and farro, which contain gluten, also have very little arsenic. Quinoa (also gluten-free), had average inorganic arsenic levels comparable to those of other alternative grains. But some samples had quite a bit more. Though they were still much lower than any of the rices, those spikes illustrate the importance of varying the types of grains you eat.

Cooking to lower arsenic levels

You may be able to cut your exposure to inorganic arsenic in any type of rice by rinsing raw rice thoroughly before cooking, using a ratio of 6 cups water to 1 cup rice, and draining the excess water afterward. That is a traditional method of cooking rice in Asia. The modern technique of cooking rice in water that is entirely absorbed by the grains has been promoted because it allows rice to retain more of its vitamins and other nutrients. But even though you may sacrifice some of rice’s nutritional value, research has shown that rinsing and using more water removes about 30 percent of the rice’s inorganic arsenic content.”

A February 2015 article from the Cleveland Clinic corroborates these preferences and methods for reducing arsenic in rice.

Livestrong hosts a 2013 article listing other potential problems with brown rice, such as fungal growth on leftovers.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner: cook once, eat thrice.

winner winner ch icken dinner

Click this image to purchase your own chicken from Diane Hoffman.

My family does not eat leftovers.  Nope.

Except for greasy take-out pizza.

My most efficient way to deal with the family’s high standards is to cook a big quantity of one item and use it to make completely different dinners.

Last week, for example, it was chicken.

winner winner chicken dinner

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I tossed chicken breasts in the crock pot and dumped in the last two inches of FIVE different salsas.  Haha.

One full jar of salsa works, too.

That night we had cheese and chicken quesadillas — cooked like a grilled cheese sandwich in a buttery frying pan.

Cut into triangles with a bowl of steaming salsa in the middle, add a side of beans, done!

Winner winner, chicken dinner

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The next night, that chicken was scraped of salsa and shredded for BBQ chicken hoagies, with white corn and apple wedges.

The third night we had pizza!  Chicken an onion pizza for three of us, while our fourth had cheese pizza with slices of cold chicken on the side.

We added a salad with carrots, apples and sunflower kernels, but you could also use cole slaw or carrot and celery sticks with a dippable salad dressing — give them three dressings and try them all!

winner winner, chicken dinner

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If you’re overwhelmed by picky, bored, or plain old hungry kids, let’s talk.  I have a short course on Feeding the Finicky that works on building a happy food culture, and I have a more intense Kitchen Coaching Program that works to streamline meal planning and prep to accommodate food allergies, a new vegetarian in the family, msg sensitivity, or whatever else is happening.

Or pop on over to find me on Facebook for tips and quips!

 

 

 

Moms’ self-care: yet another task?

bath tub at the ocean

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I admit, I despair of those articles telling me all the things I must, should, or could be doing for myself.

Take 15 minutes, practice mindfulness, reach out to friends, take a bath.

self care is not selfish

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They are all great ideas, they are not selfish or outlandish, and they sound so do-able.

But they’re not.

Not for me.

I am a little jittery already, and taking time to smell the roses just… makes me uncomfortable.

Those self-care ideas still feel selfish, even though I know they’re not.

Or they feel like tasks: things I need to remember, maintain, or organize.

And before I could take a bath, I’d have to clean the tub.  Boo.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned some alternate self-care strategies!

self care

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I have, and they fall into three general categories: incorporate, schedule, outsource.

Incorporate nurturing things into your life.

After finishing a huge project I paid myself with luxurious flannel sheets, and every time I use them it is a treat for both eyes and skin.

Add a scent to your nighttime routine.

self care

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Or a luxurious soap to your morning routine.

self care

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“Surround yourself with” sounds like an enormous task of planning and commitment to me.

Instead, find one image that you love.

It could be a place, a trip, a person, a color, a dream.

Something that you will see and smile.

Then, put it where you will see it.

Or plant a perennial — my lilac tree looks good, smells good, and throws some shade.

Done once, enjoyed daily.

Schedule the things that get you through the week.

If you are reading this, you probably know that I love Mondays because it’s moms’ night out.

self care

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Every Monday, rain or shine.

And it must work, because our families respect it and make sure it happens.

Lunch, massage, a britcom, playing cards, a knitting or exercise class, a drink, or Wednesday evening gardening.

Schedule it once, enjoy it regularly.

Outsource what you can.

Start by getting your kids to do whatever age-appropriate chores they can.

self care

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Getting my kids to take out the garbage and recycling, and wipe and put away dishes, was far more gratifying and stress-reducing than I imagined.

And Thing 2 loves food prep: retrieving, washing, slicing. She loves setting the table.  Thing 1 loves lighting the candle if we have one.

It all adds up, and she chatters through the whole thing to the “audience” of her imagined cooking show.

Maybe you have someone who does your taxes, teaches your kids an instrument, or cleans your house.

self care

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And if you are juggling food sensitivities, diets, picky kids, or newly declared vegetarians– you can also hire an experienced researcher and planner to work with you on streamlining your family meal.  Me!  🙂  We can work together to get mealtime back on track.

Visit my website to see details on my short course on Feeding the Finicky and my more intense family meal overhaul called Kitchen Coaching.  And as always, pop on over to Facebook to catch daily tips and quips.