Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Un-Picky Punky

      Back in July, I asked you all to ask me anything you wanted to know about me in order to get the blog juices flowing, and you responded with some really excellent questions that I was very excited to dig into.  And I promptly didn't answer a single one of them.

      Well, that is getting rectified, at least a little, today. 

Lourie asked, "How do you get your kids to eat so healthy? My kids are very picky plus they are very texture sensitive. If it feels funny they won't eat it. Do your kids get along really well? Do they fight? Is it a happy medium of both? How are you keeping them busy when you aren't barfing or going to water parks?"

Karen wanted to know, "I have been wondering about your relationship with Punky. At what point did you start to feel like her mom, and what are things like between the two of you when she gets back from her annual visit with BioB?"

      Obviously, that covers a whole lot, and this post won't answer all of it, but it will touch on two important points, getting my kids to eat healthy, and my early relationship with Punky.

      Punky was 4 years old when she, MacGyver, and I moved in together.  She hadn't had a descent mother in her life since she was 6 months old (or ever, depending on how you look at it . . .).  MacGyver was a freaking amazing father.  For as much as that little girl had been through, she was amazingly well adjusted, polite, sweet, and smart.

      But she was not a particularly adventurous eater.  MacGyver regularly prepared home cooked meals, but he tended to stick to a few favorite recipes that were not quite in line with my typical cooking habits.  This was one of the sticking points in Punky and my early relationship.

      For the most part, Punky and I got along amazingly well.  But there were definitely bumps in the road.  She took a little time to get used to the idea of sharing MacGvyer with me, and I had a Hell of a time going from being a single student to acting as a wife and mother literally over night.  Actually, the majority of the problems were with me and my complete lack of understanding of how to interact with a 4 year old.  For the first couple weeks, I was completely frustrated.  She seemed spoiled and totally unable to entertain herself.  As it turned out, neither of those things were true.  She was just being 4.  She's actually one of the least spoiled kids you'd ever meet and with just a little guidance she became quite adept at entertaining herself.

      But this post is about food.  "How do you get your kids to eat so healthy?"  Well, with Flintstone it's easy because he really doesn't have a choice.  I eat healthy and did all through my pregnancy.  My breastmilk even tastes sort of like broccoli or kale (yummy thought, I know).  He's been exposed to tons of veggies on a daily basis, and has had very, very few processed foods or junk foods.  He hadn't tried cake or frosting until his first birthday.  And by exposing him to all sorts of veggies, I'm shaping his taste buds to enjoy them more.

      Punky was a bit more of a challenge.  She was totally open to trying new things if I broached it right.  There was a lot of "Hey, look at this awesome new food.  See how it looks like a mini tree?" or "this is neat because it's a kind of leaf that you can eat!"  So long as there was adequate excitement and novelty, she was in.  And if I could incorporate her into the preparation and make her feel like she had some of the decision making power ("Look at all the veggies we can have tonight, which two do you think we should make?" - obviously her choices were limited to veggies I presented to her), I rarely had any problem getting her to try things.

       And, most of the time, she liked what I made.  Sometimes she ate a couple veggies then tried to pick around them, but she had to try at least two whole mouthfuls of every vegetable we put on the table.  If she wanted dessert or seconds on anything, the whole portion of veggies had to be finished.  That rule still applies today.

      And it worked like a charm.  These days, the kid loves veggies.  The dinner she requests most often is a big spinach salad.  She loves brussels sprouts, raw veggies with hummus, even seaweed.  One of her very favorite veggies, she told me just the other day, is peppers.  She loves peppers.  Which is hilarious because in those early days, peppers was the one veggie she claimed she just couldn't stand.

       I'm really not sure what it was about peppers.  Maybe it was the taste.  Maybe it was just too unfamiliar because MacGyver barely ever used peppers in anything (and I put them in damn near everything).  Maybe it was the texture - though she disliked them in every stage of raw - cookedness.  Probably, it was just a little way for her to claim a little bit of power while her whole world was being turned upside down by this new mommy, home, state, school, life.

      But I was determined.  The child was going to eat peppers, and she was going to like them because I love them and I sure as heck wasn't about to stop cooking with them.

      This is the story of the magic recipe that ultimately converted Punky into a lover of peppers.  It remains one of her (and MacGvyer's) favorite recipes to this day.

      I will have more in the future about my relationship with Punky and about tips for getting your kids to eat healthy and to eat veggies, but for now, please read the Sloppy Joe Story.


MiMi said...

We did that with our have to eat your veggies...all of them, and a decent amount, not just like 3 get dessert.

Katherine said...

My kids are becoming horribly picky eaters, so I get a lot of people thinking that I just feed them fruit snacks and chicken nuggets. But it's not true. My kids ate vegetables only for the first few months after introducing solid foods and then fruits and vegetables only. It wasn't until much later that they tasted anything different. But they just got to a certain age where they decided they didn't like things anymore. Things they used to eat just fine. We don't let them have treats or drinks or anything until the food is gone, but usually, it just means that they go without, because no reward has been great enough to tempt them to eat the food they have decided not to like.

Emily said...

Thanks for the advice. My daughter {nearly 3} HATES veggies.

Diandra said...

May parents had one rule about food - we had to taste everything. If we didn'T like it, we did not have to eat it, but we had to at least taste it, every time it was on the table.

(I'll admit taht every girl got to pick one "cheat meal" we would not have to eat, ever, and where we would get something extra. I really hated brown beans with bacon. ^^

(We were terribly well-behaved children. Hard to believe these days.)

Manager to Mom said...

I love the way you broached trying new healthy foods with Punky, adding intrigue and putting some (not all) of the control back in her hands.

Also funny how kids' preferences change over time. Our daughter pretty much would NOT touch pear when we started introducing her to solids (though she ate literally everything else). All of a sudden she flipped and LOVED 'em!

Karen Peterson said...

This is a great post. It doesn't, obviously, apply to me right at the moment, but I have a lot of friends that are struggling with getting their kids to eat their veggies.


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