Tuesday, March 27, 2018

"Too Spicy!"

It’s safe to say I might have left a few of you hanging, promising to do a blog series on feeding kids, pumping out one post and then falling radio silent on the topic. For anyone who has been waiting, thank you for hanging in there.

I set up the framework for my approach to feeding kids by outlining the Division of Responsibility in a recent post here. If you haven’t already done so, I hope you will go back and read it.

Before we get any further, I want to level the playing field. I want to assure you that I struggle with feeding my kids too. I don’t have perfect little eaters. For a brief, conceited blip in time, I thought I did (ha! keep reading), but the reality is, none of us do. Please be assured that I don’t come at this from a place of having it all together. But I certainly hope you will find my tricks and tips and insight helpful as we journey this together.

I remember my first year as a mom. I couldn’t wait for the six-month milestone to arrive so that we could dust off the high chair I’d been storing in the closet of our condo, the very first baby item I’d purchased, mere months into our pregnancy. Of course that would the first baby-related “necessity” I would come home with, despite the fact that it wouldn’t be needed for an entire year. That high chair joined our clan on one of those hormonally-charged-we-must-get-everything-ready-RIGHT-NOW days that every woman who has ever been pregnant knows well. Somehow buying a high chair, the bump around my middle barely visible, satisfied my nesting urges that day.

We welcomed our daughter, survived the sleepless nights that made up that first half-year and then it was finally time. I was eager to venture into the world of solid foods, bound and determined to raise a super eater. I was sure she was going to like everything, never complain and jump at the opportunity to try new things.

Puffy with pride and confident in my background as a dietitian, I forged ahead in feeding her. I made baby food from scratch. I seasoned her purees with cumin, chili powder, even cayenne pepper, hoping “make” my daughter like spice and heat. Regarding all those parents I heard complaining about their picky kids, well, they were obviously just doing it wrong, I thought to myself.

I must confess that in those early months, I honestly believed I was on to something. My daughter did in fact consume her spicy purees without issue. She tried everything I gave her. People complimented me on having “such a good little eater” and I took full credit for all our successes.

That is, until we hit 18 months, and everything changed.

“Too spicy!” my verbal child would suddenly wail. She began refusing foods, and not just the spicy ones. The girl who, just days prior, was eating me out of house and home, was now turning things down right and left. I immediately grew concerned. What happened? What went wrong? I felt embarrassed and ashamed that my child, the daughter of a dietitian, was showing signs of pickiness, while an audience looked on.

As it turns out, nothing went wrong with her eating. Simply put, toddlerhood happened. My daughter was merely transitioning into a new developmental phase that was completely normal, yet it caught me totally by surprise because I was unprepared.

Alas, my pride bubble burst and I was quick to learn that in fact it wasn’t my “stellar feeding skills” that landed me with such a compliant eater during that glorious first year. It was the developmental phase she was in and her personality to which I owed the credit. This second year of life brought with it new surprises and my daughter became just like all the other “picky eaters” I’d been hearing about. The only difference being that she had a cuckoo mother who was spiking her food with chiles.

Most of our “parental feeding worries” stem from incomplete or inaccurate information regarding the normal nutritional stages that our kids go through as they develop. It’s easy to get our panties in a wad, stress out, and take it as a personal failure when our kids aren’t eating the way WE think they should.
Have you had a similar experience with a child who suddenly grows skeptical over a previously-accepted food? Would you call your child a “picky eater?” Does your child ever get stuck on one particular food item and ask for that same one, over and over again? Does your child’s appetite seem erratic? Is he or she easily influenced by what those around him or him are eating? Does your child have a strong affinity for sweets?

Well, guess what. I have great news for you:


You can breathe a sigh of relief now. Though learning that your child’s eating behaviors are normal doesn’t make them any less frustrating, I hope it will allow you to let your stress level drop a couple notches. Your child is not “too far gone” in their eating patterns. In fact, they may just be passing through a normal nutritional phase, some taking their sweet time on a more scenic route.
Be encouraged, the feeding challenges of today won’t last forever. You are just passing through.
Want to know when my next post on feeding kids goes live? Hop on over to my home page and enter your email address in the "Subscribe to my posts" box in the far right column. (If you are using your mobile device, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "View web version" first to find the subscribe box).

Stay tuned for my next post where I will dive into some normal nutritional phases in greater detail...

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posted by kelsie