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Picky Eaters

2 Jan


I have a 14-month old that is very picky about her foods sometimes.  As I was talking to my friend who used to teach nutrition, she mentioned something very interesting to me.  She said that many times parents will assume that a child doesn’t like a particular food because he or she refuses to eat it.  Most of us know a parent that has used the phrase, “Oh, she doesn’t like vegetables,” or “sorry, my darling kid does not eat lettuce, tomato, cucumber, apples, or anything red.”  My friend then explained that:

Babies and toddlers can take up to 15-20 tries before developing a taste for particular foods.  Too often parents give up after a few tries and then assume for the rest of that child’s life that it is something they don’t like.  The child assumes it to be truth, and makes a connection in the brain that they do not like that food.  That’s why it is important to give your kids a variety of foods when they are young and keep offering them again and again.  I know first hand that it can be very frustrating to offer your child something repeatedly only to feel like you are wasting the food when they refuse to eat it, but I have noticed as I have done it with my own little girl that it works.  I find myself shocked to see her eat an entire serving of something she gagged on just days or weeks prior.

Texture Matters.  My husband and I like to play games to try to get our daughter to eat certain things.  One night I tried repeatedly to feed her some of the soup we were eating for dinner and she gagged it up, spit it out, and refused to let the spoon come near her.  I then decided to experiment:  I dumped her food into the blender and 2 minutes later she was practically inhaling the soup as if it was her favorite meal.  I also used to think my daughter hated bananas which made me very sad; however, I was surprised to find her chewing on a whole banana while visiting my mom’s one day.  I discovered that it must be the texture of mashed up bananas that she does not like right now.  If I just take the peel off and offer it to her whole she will usually eat it.

One Bite.  Some may think it’s cruel, but I force the first bite.  I do this because more often than not my child will absolutely refuse to eat something, but once I force the first bite she will realize that it tastes different that she anticipated and she will finish the entire serving.  If I gave up at her initial refusal she would only eat two food categories: bread and anything sweet.

The “List”.  Anyone from a big family notice that the “second half” of the siblings get raised a little bit different that the first?  As a college student visiting home, I was surprised to hear one of my younger siblings say the following phrase at the dinner table: “I don’t have to eat broccoli, it’s on my list.”  apparently my mom had gotten sick of the “fight” in making the kids eat their vegetables that she let them make a list (I believe it was a list of 3) of the top fruits and/or vegetables that they absolutely hated eating.  If that item appeared on the dinner table they were excused from having to eat it, but if it was something not on their list, they had to eat a serving of it.  If only that rule had existed when I was young…I remember many long nights of sitting at the dinner table (gagging repeatedly) hours after everyone else was excused because I refused to eat my broccoli (funny thing is that is now one of my favorite vegetables!).

Offer Choices.  Sometimes picky eating can be a result of your child trying to exercise his/her independence.  In this kind of situation you could try to offer choices as much as possible.  Before fixing dinner, think of 2 different vegetables that could go with the particular meal before settling on one.  Then allow your child to choose his fate:  “Would you like corn or peas with dinner tonight?”  This approach may require some planning, but if avoids a fight and gets some nutrition in your child is it worth it?

Limit Snacking.  My pediatrician even suggested eliminating snack altogether.  He suggested that kids that walk around with sippy cups and fruit snacks turn into teenagers that walk around with potato chips and big gulps.  I personally don’t mind offering my toddler a snack here and there, but when we are going through periods of picky eating, I eliminate them and she is a much better eater.  If you make sure they are hungry when dinner is served, they will be more willing to try what’s on the menu.

If your child is still a baby/toddler:  My daughter refused solids until she was about 8 months old and even then she would only eat the fruits.  I eventually got her to eat vegetables by mixing small portions of the vegetables in with her fruits.  Gradually the ratio of vegetable to fruit became larger and larger until she was eating vegetables by themselves.  Again, I believe this goes back to the principle of many tries before a child develops a taste for certain types of foods.  If they are used to full-time breast-feeding they are probably used to a more sweeter taste.

I post this not to say that my child is perfect little eater–she is still learning to like a variety of foods and still has quite a way to go.  I post to share what I have learned so far and also hope to get suggestions from other mommies out there!  Please!  If you know of something that works that isn’t already listed, please share!

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Exercise: The love/hate relationship

20 Sep

I’ve had exercise on my mind a lot lately.  I have a dying diabetic dad (how’s that for alliteration?), and watching him suffer has really motivated me to create some consistent and healthy habits in my life.  I don’t come from a family that exercises much but I have definitely married into one and over the last two years I’ve felt my heart start to convert to the dark si…er…exercisers side.  All of my in-laws are ultra runners and seem to think running 50 miles at a time is a good time.  Although I never intend to get that intense, I’ve definitely made some progress in the running category.  If you had told me years ago that I would one day run a half marathon I would have laughed in your face.  And then I would have started over again and laughed some more.  I hated running.  My only memory of running was the dreaded “fun run” in P.E. and I remember huffing and puffing to the finish (it was only a mile).  I never considered in my mind that I could one day run and enjoy it.  What I have learned is that consistent exercise is a lot like having a smart phone, owning a car, or drinking Simply Orange orange juice: once it’s part of your life it’s hard to go back.  Not in the sense that once you get in the habit of exercising it’s easy to stay in the habit, because the opposite is true.  Exercise is hard to be consistent with throughout the roller coaster of life; however, once you experience a consistent exercise routine and get yourself in shape, being lazy is never again the same.  I go through repeated phases of getting out of my exercise routine, but now that I know what it feels like to be in shape and get to a point with my body that what used to be hard isn’t hard anymore…it bothers me to let my body get too idle.  I get sluggish, I feel unhealthy, and I start to crave that feeling you get after a good exercise.  So I will admit, I don’t mind running so much anymore.  As I trained for a 10k and then a half marathon I noticed that the more I ran, the more my body was capable of running and I enjoyed it.  One week running 2 miles completely destroyed me….but three weeks later I was running 5 miles without getting tired….and then 9….and eventually 13.  That being said, running is not my exercise of choice and this entry is not about running.  So let’s get on with it.

How do we make time in our busy schedules for an exercise routine and how do we make it fun?

1.  Start small and be consistent.  Serving others brings a lot of joy and fulfillment into our lives; but surprisingly, it is taking care of ourselves first that makes serving others more meaningful and pleasant.  You can’t give to others if your running on empty.  So rule number one is set aside at LEAST 10-15 minutes a day for “me time.”  Breathe deeply, do yoga, dance, listen to music, whatever.  Do whatever brings you joy.  If that thing that brings you joy ends of being something like watching T.V., stretch while you do it or maybe do a few sit ups or push ups.  One person I know just makes it part of their “get ready” routine.  Every morning before she showers she does her exercise of choice for 20 minutes.  And if she is running late one morning she does it for five minutes, but she always does it.  You wouldn’t run outside naked without putting clothes on, right?  Because it’s just something you always have done and you always will do.  Make that kind of a habit with exercise.

2.  Find an exercise buddy.  Exercise for me is always loads more fun if I’m doing it with someone else.  Remember when I said running isn’t my exercise of choice?  That’s because I love to swim.  There’s something about swimming that just makes me come alive.  I feel like I can conquer the world after a good swim workout.  The problem with swimming is I have to drive somewhere to do it.  And I have to get wet, and I also have to change in and out of a swimsuit (may not sound like a big deal, but it is).  I have found that when I ask my friend to meet me at my house at 6 A.M., magical things happen.  The first magic is I actually get up (I would never wake up on my own, but I would also never dream of making my friend wake up only to ditch her).  The second is that I actually swim, and I swim hard.  We both want to make it worth our time so we motivate and push each other.  And we have fun.

3.  If you don’t love your current exercise of choice, find something you do love.

 I never grew up a dancer, but I love to dance.  Just full on move-your-body-in-awesome-and-weird-ways-dance-till-you-sweat dancing!  I can’t wait until my little girl is a little bit older because that is how we will wake up every morning!  We will bust out to some of our favorite music in our pajamas and we will do it until we have no breath left to laugh.  And we will do it every Saturday to start out family chores.  And we will dance while we clean (is this a fantasy?  Or can it happen for real?  Anyone do this with their kids?)  When I went to Zumba for the first time I fell in love.  Dancing and exercising at the same time?  Sign me up!  P.S.  Here is a Chinese site I found that plays full length Zumba videos!

When I was in college I was in a lazy stage of life.  Okay, that’s harsh…my mind was doing all sorts of running and stretching and dancing…but my body…not so much.  I decided I needed exercise but remember the family I came from?  I didn’t really have a clue about exercise but I definitely wanted it to be fun.  So I came up with a routine and challenged my roommate to do it with me.  I was at a park and it consisted of something like this:  First we zigzag run through the trees running a full circle around each one, then we run up each of the stairs but we have to touch our hand to each one, then we run up the slide 5 times, then we hang from the monkey bars and do 100 crunches, and then we do a hand stand and repeat.  Silly?  Maybe.  Fun?  You bet your bottom it was!  And it was a good work out too!  So stop hating what you’re doing and find something you love.

4. Don’t have time?  Just include exercise in whatever you are already doing!

If you hate all forms of exercise but you love talking, get with a friend and walk the neighborhood until you finish telling your life’s story.  If you can’t pull yourself away from your weekly soaps, then get your heart rate up during commercials with some jumping jacks.  If you’re talking on the phone, do some lunges.  Purposely take the last parking stall at the store, and race your kids back to the car!  Okay, maybe there’s a safer place for racing your kids to the car, but you get the idea!

5.  Remember that it’s worth it and reward yourself for your hard work.

Have something fun coming up?  Connect it to your exercise goals.  For example, you are getting with your girlfriends for a weekend getaway in 2 weeks.  If you meet your exercise goal then treat yourself to a manicure, or an outfit, or a really good burger.  Maybe your favorite show airs on Tuesday evening.  Have Tuesday also be the day you exercise.  If you exercise you get to watch your show.  Sometimes if I am having a craving for some chocolate I will tell myself I get to have it if I exercise.  The best part about that is I usually don’t have cravings anymore after exercising!

That’s it for now.  Remember that exercise isn’t just good for you physically, it’s helps heaps with emotional and mental health as well and serves as a great stress reliever!  I went to a health forum a few weeks ago and the doctor there ended his message by saying, “honestly…the majority of illnesses and problems that come into my office could be avoided if people knew how to cope with stress in a healthy way.”  So true.

This is one of my favorite quotes in relation to exercise:

Hope this was helpful to someone, but mostly it’s just a refresher for myself.  I want to be alive when my children have children.  It saddens me to think my dad could be gone soon and my baby is only 10 months old.  58 is too young to die.

Here’s a video my brother-in-law made about his love for ultra-running.  Most of my family on my husband’s side is in this video.

What do you do for exercise and how do you stay motivated?