And by "you," I mean Nate.
Nate is a picky eater, but I feel like I need a better term than that for him. When I think of the phrase "picky eater," I envision a kid sitting at a table, gingerly peeling back the bread on his sandwich and closely examining the contents.
Nate would pull the sandwich apart and look at all of it, but not very delicately. It's also fully possible he would walk up to the table, take one look at the sandwich, simply say, "No. I not hungry." and walk away. That scenario would actually happen with many, many things.
Nate will eat:
- chicken nuggets
- macaroni and cheese
- carrots (this plus the two above items constitute at least 50% of his dinners)
- grilled cheese/quesadillas (sometimes)
- pancakes/waffles (always)
- smoothies/yogurt (always - must be drinkable, though)
- fries (we only serve sweet potato fries)
- fried egg (especially in the "bird in a nest" style)
- long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc)
- apples (whole, not sliced)
- bologna (this is a new development)
- tacos (deconstructed - meat, cheese, taco shell, corn - all separate... this used to include beans and rice but those have mostly fallen out of his favor)
- snack food (fruit snacks, mini muffins, popcorn, applesauce in a pouch, etc)
Things Nate used to eat and almost never does now:
- rice (and "rice and beans" as a combo dish)
- bananas (but he made my day by asking for one the other day and then eating it completely)
- cooked vegetables other than peas and corn
- short pasta
- anything with sauce
- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- some cold cuts (turkey, ham)
Nate has never liked/eaten:
- anything cold (ice cream, popsicles, etc)
- raw vegetables other than carrots (I'm convinced he thinks I'm feeding him houseplants or backyard bushes when I make a salad)
- soup/yogurt in a cup/pudding/cereal with milk (i.e. anything requiring a spoon - he requests a fork for dinner every day and won't eat without it being on the table... BUT he rarely uses it and won't ever use a spoon. My charming little caveman.)
Sigh. I have minimal complaints about Nate. I wish he didn't get out of bed after bedtime and I wish he ate more. That's it, really. So I know to be grateful (and am, every day)... but man, what I wouldn't give to be able to serve him some soup and a salad. I don't even remember when the food refusal began, but I so fondly remember making one dinner and serving all three of us. That is very rarely the case now since I don't want to live on chicken nuggets. I look at old pictures of him shoveling food in his face in his high chair and want to cry because I really miss those days.
And I know the research says he's training me to feed him what he wants - that if I put out food and don't let him eat anything else, he won't starve himself and will eventually eat what's in front of him. I believe it, too. But I just do not have the strength to deal at 8pm when he's hungry, refusing to eat what's available and pitching a fit because I won't let him have a yogurt or some cheese (again). I know it sounds ridiculous and I wish I could really think back to myself 10 years ago and remember what I would think if someone told me they couldn't get their 2 1/2 year old to sit at the table and eat something. I probably would have thought that person wasn't trying very hard... and maybe I'm not.
When I was engaged and debating changing my name, someone said to me, "You have to pick your battles. You have to decide for yourself if this is the hill you want to die on." I.e. is this issue important enough for you to stand your ground, not budge, and make it a central focus of your life.
Nate's nutrition is important to me - extremely so, particularly because obesity runs in my family and I believe the food culture in our country is toxic. However, I'm just not willing to send my two year old to bed hungry. I am not convinced he will understand yet why I'm doing that if he doesn't eat what's on the table. I think it's a dangerous line in terms of my power as a parent - being the keeper/distributor of the food - and I don't want to wield that power in any way that Nate could misinterpret in a damaging way.
So what do I do? I put bananas, whole wheat flour, and flax meal in his waffles. I put kale and spinach in his smoothies. I limit him to one yogurt, snack of each type per day (though I do not have control over what his caretakers may give him on their own). I ask him what he wants for meals sometimes and if his request isn't reasonable or doesn't work right then, I explain why and offer an alternative. If it's outside the norm but still reasonable, I do it. I have him help in the kitchen sometimes (he likes to mix/stir things) and I always offer him a bite of what I'm eating (he has not once ever taken me up on that offer, though).
Really, I'm hoping this is a phase and it passes. He's two. I can see this continuing into three but I'm hoping by 3 1/2 that he's eating more than he does now. I don't need him to be an adventurous eater now (though I do hope he is some day). I want him to be someone who will always try something, because I think that's valuable, but I also want him to lead a healthy and fulfilling life, and have a healthy relationship with food. So hopefully a year from now, I can think about making a list of what Nate eats regularly and the list will be so long that I won't be able to remember it all.