kids, moving internationally, and eating

Nate used to be a really good eater. Once he started eating table food, he really couldn't get enough. Around 18 months old, he started getting picky. He would refuse to eat his favorite foods, spend entire days eating nothing but pickles and cheese, and could not be convinced to try new foods. If I considered the food he ate for an entire week, rather than just each day's menu, he still had a fairly well balanced diet. We chose not to have the mealtime battle of wills.

He was still in this picky phase when we moved to the other side of the world. Though we have a lot of the same foods here in Kenya, everything is slightly different. I expect an adult would enjoy the differences in ingredients and cooking in Kenya, but it was a lot for a 2-year old to deal with. He stopped eating almost everything. He also stopped gaining weight. We became rather lenient with Nate and eating, just to get some food into him. He would refuse to eat all day, then wake up crying with hunger pains at midnight.

Nate's weight chart. We moved 6 weeks after his 2nd birthday, just before the "2" dot.

Around 2 1/2 years old, he started eating meat, and he also started gaining weight again. He maintained a vegetable strike for several more months, though I could get him to eat peas about once a week. After Nate turned 3 he became a bit easier to reason with, and we instituted a vegetable requirement at supper. I could get him to eat either peas or green beans every day.

I think his food issues come down to 2 things: control and fear. I used to think it was only about control. We let him save the vegetables for last if that's what he wanted to do, but he also knew that he could get seconds of his favorite dish as soon as he finished the veggies. We tried to give him as much control over it as possible, without letting him skip eating vegetables altogether.

Once he was used to this vegetable requirement, I decided to try requiring him to eat a bite of everything served so that he could branch out, and we wouldn't have to have peas or green beans at every single meal. It started with 1 carrot stick - he liked everything else on the table that night. He fussed and complained and tried to refuse to eat it, but once I actually got the carrot stick into his mouth, he grabbed it out of his mouth, held it in his hand, and calmly took bites of it. The next night, the same thing happened with the carrot, but he almost made himself sick when I made him eat a bite of potatoes, too. We talked about it and determined that food he isn't used to eating is scary. Ok. I was a picky eater as a kid, and I can relate to that actually.

So what do we do about it? I decided to work on 1 new food at a time with him. Since we'd already started on carrots, we kept that up until he would eat a serving of carrots without being afraid. Then we moved on to zucchini. It seemed worse at first, but we progressed through it much more quickly. I think we'll give zucchini a little more time to settle in, then we're going to start on broccoli.

He was so proud of his bravery in eating an entire zucchini spear last night. I'm proud, too!


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