As a baby Noah would eat almost anything. All the nasty mushy baby food sent him into a feeding frenzy and he could clear three containers of carrots and peas. He would plow through a container of peas while I stood hiding in the corner still gagging and recovering from the smell of opening them. That smell today makes me want to puke. At Thanksgiving he ate turkey as I smiled happily at our first Thanksgiving (he was almost 2), he loved spaghetti, chicken, and steak. He has always loved yogurt and peanut butter. As he grew older and pickier peanut butter became the fall back food (and hey it was full of protein). I once walked into my parent’s to see Noah sitting in his high chair with a piece of chicken smeared with peanut butter on it. My mom said “but I thought it would help him to eat it.” I went a little ballistic over that. One thing was for sure I wasn’t going to feed my child something I would never eat, let alone smell.
In the past 2 years he had gone from being a food disposal system to putting up filters for everything except for peanut butter, waffles or pancakes, sweet potatoes (but I HAD to remove the skin), granola bars, and pretty much anything else carby, sweet, and crunchy. I swear it was like he had an alarmed sensory system for healthy food. And by “healthy” food I mean normal food.
I tried it all. I would put out a meal and say “this is dinner.” Everyone says if kids get hungry enough they will eat. I call bullshit on that. Not this boy. If he wouldn’t eat dinner one of two things was guaranteed to happen. I was always braced for both.
Scenario 1: He would look at me and say “okay that’s fine, I don’t want dinner.” I would plead with “there won’t be any snacks later” to which he would turn with this twisted little grin on his face and say “that’s fine I don’t want any snacks.”
Scenario 2: After I took his plate he would start crying, begging, pleading for something else to eat, bracing for a meltdown I would cave and say “okay but only something healthy like yogurt or a banana.” I mean he had to eat something right?? So maybe the joke was on me because I wouldn’t let him starve it out. Something about my kid being hungry just doesn’t sit right with me.
I read articles about 80% of brain development being done by age 2 or something like that. I thought to myself this kid is fucked. I’ve ruined him. I gave him vitamins, I would bribe him with treats. “Eat these four pieces of chicken and you can have a granola bar.” Because at least that was something right? Then I would wonder did the chocolate covered granola bar cancel out any benefit of those 4 pieces of chicken?
Then I moved on to being convinced he had texture issues. As an occupational therapy student, I became convinced he had a sensory processing disorder that made him unable to “handle” certain textures. He went from eating yogurt with chunks of fruit in it to gagging at anything that wasn’t smooth. I would force him to try something like spaghetti and he would gag, his eyes would water and I literally thought “my god he’s gonna choke to death!”
It was time I called myself on MY bullshit. I would reason with myself “I never feed him fast food, Cheez-Itz aren’t chips, chocolate laced granola bars aren’t candy bars. He takes vitamins. I didn’t buy junk food like chips, candy, cookies, pop, or other typical kid treats. See he doesn’t eat so bad! It could be worse he could eat fast food everyday! But I was worried about him not getting the vitamins and nutrients he really needed for growing and brain development.
Noah’s typical day consisted of MULTIGRAIN waffles smothered in HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP FREE syrup. Lunch would be ALMOND butter and jelly, lots of jelly, some WHOLE GRAIN goldfish with NO ARTIFICIAL COLORING, and fruit snacks made from FRUIT and VEGETABLE juice. As you can see I emphasize all the “HEALTHY” qualities of these foods. The only thing I know now is that there was ONE thing I was giving him that was healthy. The almond butter. That is it.
Now don’t go thinking I am judging ANY of you. We all do what we have to do to feed our kids. People have different eating habits and just because someone does something one way has nothing to do with how much they care about their kids or their wellbeing. I can already see you backing away, the raised eyebrows and the pursed lips. I see you. “Oh hell no did she just say that fruit and juice flavored fruit snacks are bad?” Yes. I. Did. But by “bad” I mean bad in that they prevent me from reaching my goal for my son, and that is removing the sugar addiction and getting the good nutrients into my beautiful 4-year-old little boy.