The mission

The purpose of this blog is to report on my experiences with various parenting-related issues. Reviews of advice, crafts, and whatever else comes my way. (Originally this was meant to be a Glass Explorer project, but I was unable to procure funding... in case you're wondering about the title. Pending retail release..................)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ruminations on Junk Food and Picky Eating

Stale Christmas cookies and green peas... a winning combination?

I never considered my son a particularly fussy eater. I attributed this in part to the fact that I tossed the advice of feeding bland foods nearly completely out the window. Baby food was something that I fed on occasions when my son was hungry when I didn't have a meal prepared, something he got with his babysitter, and something I offered at the very very beginning of the feeding stage. I never viewed it as food-food. 

Spicy Indian curries were one of his favorites when he was under a year of age (and he still eats that kind of thing, but a little more selectively these days). Of course I avoided the extremely spicy stuff, and was careful to make sure he didn't smear any capsaician in his eyes. He also grew up enjoying sliced fennel bulb, green peppers, and other veggies with tuna salad dip, and canned salmon with homemade neufchatel dip (tastes like shrimp dip if you add onion and chives)! Broccoli and cauliflower he tries from time to time but dislikes.

The real mystery, though, is lettuce and any other leafy vegetable. It cannot be attributed to finickiness, because he has always refused to try them at all. If it wasn't for the fact that kids are known to try to eat poisonous plants all the time, I'd suspect some kind of protective instinctual aversion to eating leaves in toddlers and infants.

Except for when he is at hibachi restaurants. Inexplicably, he will down several bowls of iceberg lettuce in ginger salad dressing. Tried to offer it at home and no go.

However, I discovered a trick.

He was cuddling next to me and distracted, playing some new game I had put on the tablet that he was really interested in. I was eating some iceberg lettuce with Italian dressing. On impulse, I swerved the fork from my mouth towards his. The lettuce approached from slightly behind and to the side. Below his radius of vision. He was aware I was moving the fork towards him, but too distracted to make the effort to see what I actually had. Reflexively, he opened his mouth. Took in the oily lettuce. Chewed contemplatively.

Then ate all the good heart pieces. ;_;

That happened several days ago. But today I was thinking about his eating habits when he had to choose between finishing an old Christmas cookie and some peas. The pediatric dentist and oral hygienist have been very impressed with my son's teeth. This makes me exceedingly sad, since the plentiful bad teeth in other two and three year olds is starting so early from poor feeding habits that are not in any way necessary. Leaving bottles filled with juice with infants, endless flour-based snacks, cookies, cakes and candies, etc... My son brushes his own teeth, but not every day. Yet his teeth are clean. (I know, I have to be more vigilant to develop good brushing habits, I'm merely explaining the shocking differences in oral hygiene.) My son mostly eats apples and bananas throughout the day. A sandwich or two and sometimes he just likes to eat bread, and he drinks lots of milk and water. Occasionally I buy juice. He almost never gets soda pop and I almost never buy it. When we do have it, it is Coca Cola, which we don't give often, primarily because of the caffeine. Nearly all his soda consumption and a good portion of his junk food consumption come from family members who treat these items as daily items of preference.

Anyway, back to the peas. I was thinking about how sometimes my son chooses fruit or vegetables over cookies and cakes. And I realized, I never made much of a special issue about junk foods. I neither treated them as specially forbidden (simply not buying, say, super sugary kids' cereal is not treating it any more special than when I frequently chose to not buy, say, Swiss chard). I don't treat junk food as a main course, and I usually don't treat it as a treat, either (just M&Ms when potty training, and I did see him begin to treat M&Ms differently before the end of their use as a potty training treat). I would expect that he wouldn't treat such foods as a special indulgence he can have whenever he has the money for it. He would either want it or not.

But culture is also shaping his ideas of junk foods. Shows like Trotro have episodes specifically dealing with a main character having a problem with sweets, which instead of teaching my son a lesson about eating too much sweets puts the idea into his head that there is something special about sweets and that kids want to eat them all the time, until they get sick. He has also been learning to fear spiders from kids' shows featuring people having a fear of spiders. Right now the fear is play-acting dramatization for him, but I wonder if he will grow to dislike spiders? I am afraid of spiders, but I have been doing everything I can to be exceptionally brave when I see them, enthusiastically pointing them out when I find them.

/end meanderings.

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