munchkin meals: parenting at it’s finest

We’ve established from the very beginning of my Munchkin Meals musings that MacKenna is by far NOT the best eater on the planet.  Far, far from it.  Even as a toddler, she is still extremely picky and, let’s just say, stubborn about what she does and does not want to eat.

Over time, we have started giving in to her pickiness more and more.  Mostly because we were just tired of fighting her on our meals.  Dinner together used to be our favorite time of the day, but in order to make that time “family time”, MacKenna’s meals have become much more routine and with much less variety.

Living with my parents has sort of exacerbated the problem.  It has nothing to do with them really, but again, in order to avoid a full-on toddler tantrum, we seem to be giving in to her desires.  It wasn’t until this past weekend when my mom told me she was surprised we let her eat so many sweets that it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Those of you who know me well know that I am a very healthy eater, filling up on fruits and veggies in most of my meals, but that I always have room for dessert (hence the basis of my blog name).  Up until about a year ago, MacKenna very rarely had dessert.  It would have to be a special occasion for her to have dessert.  Now, it is an every night thing.  It ranges from M&Ms to cookies to yogurt with Ovaltine and sprinkles mixed in (when we decide to be on the healthy side of things).  It was a habit I never wanted my child to get in to because I didn’t want her to be too picky.

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Oops.

I’m not proud of this by any means.  While I absolutely LOVE seeing her face light up when she gets a treat, she is no longer eating her meals well.  I’m not sure these things have anything to do with each other, but I know that it is definitely not helping.  *sigh*  Parenting at it’s finest right there, folks.

So, here is the new plan.  Dinner is the priority.  I’m still OK with her eating chocolate cereal for breakfast because she usually doesn’t just eat that – she usually drinks a smoothie in addition as well as some other healthier breakfast foods.  Lunch is at the babysitter’s and is hardly ever an issue.  But, dinner is rough.  Our standards are quesadillas, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese because we know she will eat these things.  She usually gets blueberries or apples in addition which she will eat (although sometimes we have to add some peanut butter to the apples to get her to eat them).  But, I really want to expand her food repetoir.

So, last night, I made bean tacos for dinner.  Similar to her quesadillas, but with beans in addition to the cheese and some avocado.  She happily ate all of her avocado but took one bite of the taco and was done with it.  *sigh*

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So, dinner turned into carrots with hummus and a hot dog.  She ate 2 carrots and 2 bites of the hot dog with ketchup.  She asked for “cake” (chocolate yogurt with sprinkles) but told her she couldn’t have it since she didn’t eat well.  We did give her some fruit snacks before bed though, so 1 step forward, 2 steps back.

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It’s a work in progress.  My goal this summer is to get her eating the meals that we are eating.  She does like some healthy foods, thank goodness, but I want those to be the norm.  I will continue to lead by example and introducing those foods to her with the hope that maybe she will eat more like her mama.  A mama can dream, right?

  • Lee

    I’m sorry it’s rough! Hopefully she’ll get a bit more adventurous as she gets older.
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  • OH I RECALL THOSE DAYS SOOO CLEARLY.
    it gets easier
    then harder
    then easier
    then harder….
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    • Kristen

      OMG. So true…

  • haha i feel like all toddlers are picky eaters! i know my niece and nephews are!
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  • Parenting sounds hard! It also sounds like you’re doing an awesome job in a tough situation!
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  • Eliz

    The New York Times has done some interesting articles on resetting a picky eater was falling into bad habits. Our attitude has been the parents decide what to eat and the kids choose if they eat. It’s very unlikely she will starve if you don’t give in to her demands. Offer something healthy and if she doesn’t eat it that’s it until the next meal. Otherwise if she know she can hold out for something sweet or something she prefers that’s what she’ll do.

    • Kristen

      Thank you! This is really great advice and I definitely agree that she can go without a meal. I think we are still under the assumption that she’s so small she needs to eat something, when really, she’s learned how to manipulate the system!

  • ErikaMC

    First of all, I love that you admit this and to know I’m not alone is great! I totally feel like a failure sometime with how picky our son is and that I give in to him so often. I think he is at an age now (probably past it) that we can start the “eat this or don’t eat anything” rule and maybe that will help. Though we don’t give him hardly any sweets so at least we don’t have to deal with that on top of it.

    • Kristen

      Yeah, I think we are just at a point where we can’t make exceptions anymore. I want her to eat REAL food – not just sweets!

  • Amy

    I asked about this same issue at my son’s 2 year checkup last week. Like Mackenna he was small for a long time (~10th percentile for weight) so my top priority was getting calories into him. But I am seeing us fall into that pattern of making him special meals when he rejects what I make — a parenting practice I DO NOT WANT to perpetuate. Anyway, his doctor told me he’s old enough to handle eating what we serve him. If he doesn’t want, say, pasta or fish and rice, let him make that choice but don’t make him something special to compensate. That teaches him that all he has to do is say, no thanks! and mom and dad will make him a hot dog or a bowl of yogurt for dinner.

    I do think it’s important to include something on the plate that he WILL eat, but in general we’re not going to be offering him a selection of his 3 or 4 favorites whenever he doesn’t feel like eating what I’ve made.

    Good luck!

    • Kristen

      I definitely think this is spot on. I think we have taught her that if she doesn’t want it, it’s OK, we will just make her something else. Does he have to eat his entire plate before anything extra is given or is there a certain amount he can leave?

      • Amy

        Not sure yet — we’re just starting to implement this new “rule”. My plan is to just offer him a plate (including something he likes) and if he doesn’t want it, tough.

        • Amy

          However, I also don’t want to make mealtimes into battles, so we’ll see …

  • My son was SUPER picky for awhile, so I definitely feel for you!! It can be so hard! I hate fighting over dinner!! If I made something he wouldn’t like he had to make an effort to try it before he could have anything else (yogurt or fruit). We started with one bite and as he got better we’d try to get 3 or 4 bites out of him. He’s doing SO much better now (4). He’ll try just about anything now. He’s very much a meat and potatoes boy! Anything he can dip in ranch is usually a winner. Sometimes I want something different though! Haha!! We still have our struggles but it gets easier. Hang in there!
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  • Jill

    Toddlers are tough! We also follow the idea other people have mentioned that we decide what food is served and our daughter (almost 2) decides what to eat and how much of it to eat. We do try and make sure to offer at least one item that we know she likes at a meal, but it is completely up to her whether to eat or not. If she doesn’t then she has to wait until the next meal or scheduled snack time. In general, she eats well, but it really varies meal to meal how much she eats. I totally understand being worried about kids eating since our girl is a peanut too! I really found material by Ellyn Satter helpful in terms of deciding how to go about feeding kids. She has advice for meals with kids of all ages.