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Sunday, February 14, 2016

What To Do When Your Kid Won't Eat Their Food

Greetings, dear readers!

This is the end! Despite the many delays caused by technical difficulties, my health, and life just generally getting in the way, I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED THE 21 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE!!! I will share my thoughts and reflections on the challenge at the end of this post, but onward to the prompt for day 21.

Carrots are for rabbits, not people!

Since I write a family and lifestyle blog, I had to do a bit of thinking to narrow down a list of topics that would work well with the prompt. I realize that getting a nine month old child to eat vegetables isn't the same as getting a three year old to do it (or even a grown adult, for that matter), but for parents starting out with solid feeding, here are some things I observed that help make feeding her nutritious food easier.
  • Stay away from the prepackaged baby food!
    • It may come as a surprise, given the huge industry that has sprung up around babies and raising them, but don't buy premade baby food. While the jars may have the right proportion of food or texture appropriate for the age of the baby, they are expensive and limited in flavors. What you can make at home is far cheaper and more nutritious.
      • Note: if you do buy baby food, get limited amounts and save the jars. Even though my husband and I avoid the baby aisle like the plague, there have been times where we needed to get something quick for the baby to eat. We saved the jars because they were glass and reusable for future feeds.
    • Expense aside, my big gripe about baby food is that the end result is unrecognizable from the ingredients that made it! A jar of garden vegetables has pictures of peas, carrots, and potatoes on the label, but what is in the jar looks like a radioactive green mush that tastes as terrible as it looks. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. If you won't eat something, they wouldn't either.
  • Note the taste, temperature, and texture of the food
    • A baby pushing away a spoonful of squash may frustrate parents and look like an act of willful defiance, but this isn't necessarily so. Check the temperature of the vegetables-are they too hot or too cold? Take a quick taste to make sure the cabbage has the right level of salt and vinegar. Are the beans too spicy? Might the carrot slices be too tough for the child to chew or the vegetable soup too runny for her liking?
    • A tremendous amount of patience and empathy are required when getting children to eat vegetables. Due to their age, their nerves and taste buds are far more sensitive to taste and texture than our adult bodies are. It takes time to train them.
    • I admit, I am an adult who detests vegetables. I would never eat them unless I absolutely positively had to. One thing that has helped me to maintain a healthy diet is to have the vegetables incorporated into whatever the main meal is. My husband, also a vegetable hater, will combine the vegetables with meat so that the flavors will combine and balance each other out, thus avoiding overwhelming the dish or our palettes with something gross like carrots. Instead of feeding children the vegetables straight, try mixing them in with something else like casseroles or stews. As a general rule, kids have similar tastes to that of their parents; if you won't eat something, neither will they.
  • Get them involved with meal preparation
    • A kid won't know what a stalk of broccoli is unless he sees it. By getting the kids involved with meal prep, even if it's just strapping them into a papoose and carrying them around while you make dinner, they begin to associate what different kinds of vegetables are, what they taste like, and how they play a part overall in what makes up the main meal
  • It may be hard, but don't make special food for them
    • If all else fails and the baby will not eat her mashed sweet potatoes, even though she was eating them without complaint just last week and there is nothing wrong with them taste or texture wise, don't make a special food for her instead. 
    • As they get older, children love to push on the boundaries set for them because they don't understand moderation and need to learn it. It may be exhausting trying to convince your child to eat the beef and vegetable stew you made for dinner, but don't cave. I would recommend telling the child he doesn't have to eat the stew, but that you're not making anything special for him. Take it or leave it, to put it bluntly. There may be a tantrum thrown in response which may or may not involve food winding up on the floor (at which point, apply appropriate disciplinary measures), but the neural connections in the child's brain are beginning to form the association that when it's mealtime, the child needs to eat what is put in front of him or else he will go hungry.
  • Check your child's health
    • If your child is sick (has a cold, a headache, or just generally isn't feeling well), this could definitely impact whether or not they will want to eat their vegetables. Their condition might leave them with little to no appetite, or might make certain foods taste strange.
Mealtime is a family affair. Use this opportunity to expand not just your child's palette, but your own as well. You may be surprised what kinds of foods your child likes that you don't or wouldn't have thought of.
Can you think of anything else I missed? What helped your children eat their vegetables? Let me know in the comments below.

Before I sign off for the night, I would like to take this moment to share some final thoughts on this whole 21 day blogging challenge I undertook. Before my health and later my botched computer update issues derailed my progress, my regular posting of entries did lead to a spike in traffic, though it didn't stay that way because my posting regimen got sporadic for a while. Still, I did enjoy taking part in the challenge. I challenged myself in many ways, coming up with topics for the different prompts. It made me refine what I really wanted my blog to be about. I also became more familiar with the more technical aspects of blogging, like meta tags.

If I had to do a blog challenge again, I would definitely do it. I wouldn't do one in the immediate future since I need some time now to decompress and digest the whole experience, but I am definitely up to doing another blog challenge if one should come to my attention. For one, it was refreshing to have something of a structure to follow instead of letting my prose meander all over the place. Some discipline goes a long way towards making a quality product.

For anyone who is interested, here is the link to Alana Le's 21 day blog challenge. Sign up, take the challenge, and let me know how it goes for you.

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