Posted on January 20 2017
Today has been a hard day in the Wire household. I have two toddlers fighting off various infections with the help of antibiotics that simultaneously heal their bodies while causing their colons to frequently erupt. I thought once infancy was over so were the blowouts, but that apparently is not the case. The older of my two has also been on a three-month-long nap strike, so around one in the afternoon he becomes a special kind of unpleasant. I could tell he was wearing out so I thought I would try and get him to take a snooze. After a good thirty minutes of wailing, his room fell silent. What I mistook for my little angel sleeping was actually him, in a full blown act of passive aggression, spreading his own poo all over and into every surface of his bedroom he had access to. Why, child?! Even with all the frustrations he brought me today, there was a moment that filled me with complete and utter joy - the moment he actually ate all of his dinner.
I used to take a considerable amount of pride in the fact that my child was a great eater. We skipped baby food and went straight for child lead weaning, which is just a fancy way of saying we fed him whatever we were eating in manageable pieces for him. He never turned his nose up at anything, and for the longest time his favorite foods included things like California rolls and pho. Then, as if some sort of dark spell had been cast on him, he entered the dreaded Beige Phase.
The Beige Phase is exactly what it sounds like. My child went from having a very eclectic pallet to only finding foods ranging in shades of beige acceptable. Chicken nuggets? Good. Bread? Perfect. Noodles? Bring 'em on. Cheese? Heck yes. Anything with any slight non-beige pigmentation? Oh hell no. You might as well forgo putting it on his plate and dump it right into the dog's bowl.
I had a false sense of confidence early on that we would never enter this stage with him, because of what an awesome eater he had always been. If you haven't reached this phase with your child yet, or if you somehow managed to override their very basic toddler hard drive and skip it all together, count yourself so incredibly lucky. I have always felt very strongly about what foods I feed my kids. What I make for dinner is what is for dinner. I don't do a meal for my husband and I and a separate meal for the boys. That just doesn't fly with me. Having a child who literally refuses anything that isn't the color of sand has made it incredibly difficult to stick to this, even given how strongly I feel about it. If you're in the same boat as me, you understand how frustrating it can be, so I'd like to share a bit about things that have helped me overcome his pickiness and make sure he is getting all that he needs and isn't going to bed hungry.
For whatever reason, he's less picky when it comes to breakfast and lunch, so I use this to my advantage and get as many multi-colored foods in him as I can. Breakfast usually consists of oatmeal or cereal and a banana. Sometimes, usually when his dad makes them, he will eat eggs, but there's no real consistency to him finding them acceptable. Lunch is really where I try to get the most color on his plate. He's never been big on fruit, but he does love the applesauce squeeze pouches. You can find them in a slew of different brands and varieties, and I lean more towards the ones containing super foods and with bright and colorful packaging. This lets him get more nutrients than just plain applesauce and helps him find a positive correlation between colorful food and tasty food, since he enjoys the pouches so much.
I struggle to get him to eat meat as well, unless it is those aforementioned chicken nuggets, but some afternoons he'll munch on lunch meat. I've found that he definitely prefers turkey that comes from the deli compared to pre-packaged turkey, however, that can add up if you're on a strict budget like we are. We don't always splurge on the deli meat, but when we do we make sure he gets the majority of it.
Although he isn't very keen on whole pieces of fruit, smoothies are one thing he almost always goes for. This is another great way to get protein in him just by adding some whey protein powder to his smoothies. My husband or I will usually make a big batch so that everyone can have some and our son will drink a pretty decent sized one to himself. You can put so many great things into smoothies and it's easily my favorite "hack" to getting my toddler all the good stuff his little body needs.
When it comes to dinner, I still stick to my guns as far as not making him a separate meal than what I've prepared for the rest of the family, but I do make sure that every meal includes at least one thing I know he'll eat. Even if I know I've made something he likes, like lasagna or tilapia, he still typically refuses to eat it, so I make sure to include mashed potatoes or rolls or something to that extent that he will eat and that will fill his tummy up enough. I'm adamant that he at least take two or three bites of everything on his plate, and for the most part he will comply.
Every child is different, and every family is different, so what works for us may or may not work for you. Some of you may be ok with making your children a separate meal, and that's ok. When your child is in this stage, it can be so exhausting trying to keep them fed, but you're not alone. We definitely have days where we do mac and cheese or happy meals for dinner, just to avoid the drama dinnertime tends to bring. Sometimes you just have to do whatever works, and I hope there's something in here that will work for you and make meal times a little easier.