Food Frustrations: Nutritionist-Bound.
by Risa Green
I am getting nowhere with the food thing.
I’ve written several times about my daughter, and her aversion to anything that does not involve pasta, bread or rice. A few months ago, I wrote that I thought she was making progress because she voluntarily took a bite of steak and didn’t then vomit at the dinner table. But no. Since the bite of steak, there have been no further bites of steak. We’re right back where we started, with pasta, bread and rice.
I’ve been operating for the last year or so out of a playbook instructing parents not to force new foods on their picky children (no ‘eat the lambchops or go to bed hungry’). Not to make dessert a reward (no ‘eat three bites of your greenbeans and you can have a cupcake’). Not to determine your child’s portions for them (no ‘large chicken breast with a small side of rice’ served to them on a plate). Instead, I have been serving dinner as if we live at the Hometown Buffet. A bowl of pasta. A bowl of red sauce. A platter of chicken. A dish of broccoli. A plate of cookies. A bowl of fruit. Everyone sits down with an empty plate, and takes what they want, and as much as they want. (Except for the cookies. With those, you only get one. But you don’t have to save it for last). The idea is that it’s my job to present my child with healthy foods, but it’s my child’s job to decide which, and how much of each, she wants to eat. The theory is that in doing so, I will avoid making food “an issue” for my child, and said issue will not come back to haunt her (or me) in the form of bulimia, anorexia, comfort-eating, or stashing candy bars under her bed when she is a teenager. The other theory is that, after being exposed to chicken and broccoli and red sauce and fruit night after night, she will, eventually, get used to these foods and begin eating them herself. Which is all well and good, except that it isn’t working.
After a year of serving chicken fajitas in a million different parts (a plate of peppers. A plate of tortillas. A bowl of rice. A platter of chicken. A bowl of corn. A bowl of shredded cheese.) – not to mention the nearly fifteen million dishes that I’ve washed – my daughter is still choosing to make herself a rice burrito for dinner. That’s right. She takes a tortilla, fills it with rice, wraps it up, and calls it dinner. Oh, and then she has a cookie. And I am supposed to just sit there, and not comment.
Needless to say, my bad-mommy radar is tingling to the point that I am now picking up radio frequencies from far-off lands in my molars. And, my husband and I fight about it constantly. He thinks that this is crazy. (Also indulgent, ridiculous, and stupid). He once saw a show on Dateline where they gave picky eaters nothing to eat but what was for dinner, and guess what? After three nights, the kids were so hungry that they ate everything on their plates. To which I respond yes, but they don’t show you those kids when they go to college, when they’re so angry that they try to get back at their parents by only drinking Red Bull and eating Milky Ways for four years straight.