Family Table or Battlefield?

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I did a search this morning for blog posts about picky eaters.

And now I feel compelled to write a blog post about picky eaters.

I came across sooo many shared experiences, so many opinions and tactics.  Some of them inspired me, some made me laugh, some made me sigh in solidarity, and some of them disturbed me quite deeply.

A few of the thoughts I found include…

“Picky eaters are spoiled kids.”

“They’re manipulating the parent.”

“As the parent, I will win this fight.”

If you hadn’t already guessed, these are a few of the thoughts that I’ve personally come to find unsettling and potentially harmful.  (See this post I wrote about fighting battles with your kids)  But…as a mom of a picky eater (and a mom of a kid that will Hoover down anything you offer), I understand the immense frustration that comes with a “selective eater” in the family.

So, here we go with links, data, research, and my own experiences and opinions!


Let’s start with a few of the different types of picky eating.

This article by Scientific American outlines the differences.

Sensory-dependent eaters reject a food because of its texture or smell (“Yuck, slimy!”).

Preferential eaters shun new or mixed foods.

General perfectionists have specific needs, such as foods not touching one another.

Behavioral responders may cringe or gag when right is not “right” (“Ham and cheese should be on white bread, not brown!”) or may refuse to come to the table before they even know what’s for dinner.

It’s not always about how a food tastes.  Appearance, routine, personality type, mood, energy level, etc…  They all play a roll.  Your child might not be eating because they’re hungry and feeling tired, weak, or just bummed out.  Consider all of these things, not just the number or forkfuls going into the kid’s mouth.


Could it be simple biology?

Children are born with natural, even reflexive, aversions to potential dangers.  This article by Parenting Science explains this idea really well.

Bitterness is a signal of potential toxicity, and kids—with their smaller bodies and less-developed capacities for detoxification—are more vulnerable to the effects of toxins.

It wouldn’t surprise me if natural selection has equipped children with an extra-sensitive system for rejecting bitter tastes (Glenndinning 1994).


There’s also a possible genetic cause.

The researchers found that kids who possessed at least one copy of the bitter-sensitive allele were more likely to detect bitterness at low concentrations. In addition, these kids reported preferences for sweeter drinks and cereals with higher sugar content. They were also less likely to name milk or water as a favorite beverage.


Understand that picky eating is not always just about food and stubbornness.

About 20% of the children were picky eaters, meaning they either ate only a restricted number of foods or could not eat with others because of their limited range of food preferences. Only about 3% fell into the latter category of severe selective eaters. Those children were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or social anxiety. Even children in the moderately picky eating group were more likely to show symptoms of depression, social anxiety or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder compared to children who weren’t picky eaters.

http://time.com/3981050/picky-eating-health-risks/

Picky eating may seem insignificant, but it deserves (needs) to be handled appropriately with measured and thoughtful methods.

One also can’t help but wonder if these disorders are a correlation, caused by nutrition issues, or a result of emotional, mental, and physical stress stemming from unhealthy methods and situations. (e.g., forced eating)


Understand that picky eating is often a perceived problem rather than an actual problem.

The majority of children between one and five years of age who are brought in by their parents for refusing to eat are healthy and have an appetite that is appropriate for their age and growth rate. Unrealistic parental expectations may result in unnecessary concern, and inappropriate threats or punishments may aggravate a child’s refusal to eat.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474391/

Parental efforts to make small eaters eat more may have the opposite effect. Caregivers may pressure children to eat without appreciating the physiological decrease in appetite that occurs between one and five years of age (4). Children’s appetites tend to be erratic during these years. Although toddlers and preschoolers vary considerably in their intakes at meals during the day, their total daily energy intake remains fairly constant (6). Healthy children have a remarkable capacity to maintain their energy balance over time when offered an assortment of nutritious foods (6). Parents who believe that their child is abnormally small or nutritionally at risk are more likely to overreact to variations in the child’s appetite (7).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474391/


And then there are all these factors…

  • Kids and babies go through growth spurts and periods of decreased appetites.  The medical field is well aware that weight gain slows and appetite decreases in children of a certain age.  This is normal.
  • All animals are born knowing  when they are hungry and when they are full.  Forcing a child to eat when they aren’t hungry and denying foods when they are hungry teaches the child to ignore their body’s natural cues and creates unhealthy eating standards during their most formative years.
  • Children who are heavily pressured to eat foods actually eat less.  Source
  • Adding conflict, anger, frustration, feelings of defeat and marginalization, and fear do not make for a healthy eater.
  •  Some children have legitimate, sometimes severe, sensory processing disorders that can make mealtime an anxiety ridden experience full of mental turmoil and physical discomfort due to their brain’s inability to process what their senses are experiencing.

Here’s what you can do

  • Present new foods as standalone items.  For example, offer just peas rather than peas & carrots or peas inside a casserole.
  • Present new foods over and over.  The general consensus is that most people, children included, need to be exposed to a new food about ten times before developing a taste for it.
  • Offer new, even unfavorable foods alongside other preferred foods.  Hate broccoli but love carrots?  Serve both.
  • Include children in food preparations.
  • Accept a child’s preferences and experiences as legitimate, just as you would an adult’s.
  • Model good eating habits and behaviors.
  • Make meals an enjoyable and positive family time.
  • Treat eating as you would any other learning experience.  The brain power and dexterity to tie shoes doesn’t develop overnight.  The ability to process and enjoy spinach may not come overnight either.
  • Never force foods, especially with the “clean your plate or else” method.

As I said… I have a picky eater.  The kid that hates trying new foods, the kid that is adamant she doesn’t like a certain food even though she’s only seen it once on a Food Network show.  The kid that will spend an hour saying, “I’m still eating!” even though nothing has been touched on her plate.

My experience has taught me that choosing to fight this battle is what creates and perpetuates the battle.

“Winning” and having your sobbing child finally swallow that last bite of chicken before they slump out of their chair and run away to find a comforting toy while you toss dishes into the sink because it’s 9PM, and this is absolutely friggin ridiculous…  It’s not worth it.  

You didn’t win.  You once again cemented the child’s feeling that dinner time sucks and food makes people feel bad.

I feel like I can say these things, even though some may find it to be a little harsh, because I’ve done it too.  I’m now in repair and recovery mode with my child, and I want to spare other families from enduring the “just three more bites” game yet again.

Take everything you think you know about picky eaters and dump it.  Parent your child.  Look at them, not the plate.  Be the encourager, the sympathizer, the example, the helper. Let’s lead our children to victory instead of demanding victory over them.


I’d love to hear some other thoughts and experiences.  What’s worked for you?  What’s failed miserably?  What were your experiences at mealtimes as a child?

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Unexpected Minimalism

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I’m super duper busy this week, so this post might be a little blurby! Our church is having a sweet little Valentine’s banquet this weekend for about 30 people, and I ended up in charge of setting up, decorating, shopping for the food, and making desserts.

Does anyone else love being busy?

Stick with me through this.  I have a point, I promise!

We usually go with paper, plastic, or foam plates for church functions since there are so many people.  But if you’ve ever once in your life used a disposable plate, you know those babies would never hold up when loaded with a hefty steak and a generous baked potato.  And who wants to eat off of plastic at a Valentine dinner?  

And I also needed salad plates, dessert plates, bread plates, cups, sturdy forks, knives that actually cut more than butter…

I was starting to feel quite nauseous pricing out “good” plastic.

And then…

I remembered real plates are a thing.

I searched our church kitchen, and I found them!  A few years ago, someone had donated some dinner plates, bowls, and saucers.  We also had a pretty decent collection of matching drinking glasses.

Y’all….I went out and bought enough real dinnerware to feed 30 people for less than what it would cost to use plastic.


I wanted to share all that with you because I think it makes an *excellent* point that minimal is whatever you need it to be.

Sure, the stack of dishes in our church kitchen got a little bit taller this week.  And, yes, I’ll be washing dishes for a long while afterwards.  But…

  • I saved money.
  • I have better quality items that can be built upon and reused. (Imagine a future potluck with NO PAPER PLATES!  Insane.)
  • The church kitchen has plenty of empty cabinet space, so storage is a non-issue.
  • I ensured that the only thing going into the trash cans this weekend will be paper napkins. (I’m working on making cloth napkins to pair with our fabric tablecloths!)
  • People can eat comfortably without having their forks snapping in half :/

Minimalism can be based on so many factors.

Environmental impact, cost, storage space, long term usefulness, quality, personal value, etc.

For this banquet, I considered all of these things, and I concluded with keeping more stuff than I started with.

As I’ve said in another post, minimal is relative.  I also believe it’s much more broad than going through your trinkets or wardrobe and labeling each item as joyful or not.  It can be based on deep pondering, not just an immediate emotional reaction.  It can be based on what you need, it can be based on what you want, it can be based on what you know you don’t want or need.

One person’s method doesn’t have to be your method!  If your method is bringing you peace and joy, don’t let anyone else take that away from you in the name of “doing it the RIGHT way.”

Chocolate covered strawberries, anyone?!

Clear Out Your Medicine Cabinet

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This post is for minimalists, crunchy folk, families with kids, your neighbor, and everybody else.  Whether you want to live more simply with less clutter or just want to improve the health of those in your home, this is for you.

My medicine cabinet is not even a cabinet.  It’s a tiny basket with a pack of bandaids that we never use, a few essential oil personal inhalers, and a thermometer.

*gaspSHOCKhorror*

“But what if your kid gets a fever?”

“What do you take for headaches?”

“You’ll change your mind when you get a sinus infection!”

So, now that we’ve got THAT out of the way, let’s continue to the meat of this post.

I encourage you to go grab a package or two of OTC medication from your cabinet and read the labels.  What are the intended uses of these products?  I’ll use a popular brand of acetaminophen as an example.

“temporarily relieves minor aches and pains due to: the common cold, headache, backache, minor pain of arthritis, toothache, muscular aches, premenstrual and menstrual cramps, temporarily reduces fever”

Source

temporarily relieves minor aches and pains

temporarily reduces fever

I want to use this example because this is one of the medications so many people keep on hand and use for so many purposes.

My point here is that drugs like this do not fix your problem.  They do not cure anything.  They do not prevent anything.  They slightly alter the presentation of the actual problem for a short time and then bring to the table a slew of side effects, noticed or not.

And then there’s this…

giving these medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to prevent fever after vaccination may also blunt immune responses to the vaccine.

Duke University/CDC – Click for Source

And also this…

Our previous case-control study showed that use of acetaminophen at age 12–18 months is associated with increased likelihood for Autism Spectrum Disorder (OR 8.37, 95% CI 2.08–33.7). In this study, we again show that acetaminophen use is associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (p = 0.013).

Click for Source

These medications aren’t helping you.

Yes, your headache might ease off.  But why do you have a headache?  Did you consume too much sugar or caffeine in the past few days and now your body is having to readjust to normalcy?  Did you skip a few glasses of water and allow yourself to become dehydrated?  Did you watch too much television or play on your phone too long?

Are you medicating yourself for something a glass of water, a dose of sunshine, or better time management can cure?

There are natural, better ways to not only treat common health issues, but also many, many ways to circumvent these issues entirely.

  • Prevent seasonal allergy reactions by consuming local, raw honey.
  • Utilize a steamy bathroom, facial massage, and a mug of tea instead of consuming decongestant medications.
  • Use a netti pot instead of OTC nasal sprays.
  • Know that the foods and beverages you put into your body directly affect how you feel at that moment and for a time afterwards.
  • Clean water, mild soap, and applied pressure are all most minor wounds need.
  • Recognize that things like fevers or upset tummies are the body’s way of dealing with an attack that started well before you ever noticed the symptoms.
  • Wash your hands with a mild, *non-antibacterial soap.*
  • Know that your attitude, how you manage yourself mentally and emotionally, plays a role in how you feel physically.
  • Treat the origin of your issue, not just a handful of symptoms.
  • Understand that your body is made to defend and repair itself and often doesn’t need assistance.

We’ve been so conditioned to believe we *need* these medications to “heal” or “get better.”  Even the drugs themselves don’t claim to do that.  Human bodies are powerhouses of sustainability…as long as they are treated with the respect and care they deserve.

I’m not saying that “medicine is evil” or “Big Pharma is killing us all!”  I’m saying that we live in a world where many people would rather take on additional risks, spend extra money, and live in a state of dependency than make a diet change or go for a walk.

I’m saying, “Simple solutions to simple problems.”

I encourage you to make today the ending point of concealing symptoms.  Make today your starting point for genuine, “I love you, self,” self-care.

Protein Balls, Breastfeeding Cookies, Breakfast of Champions

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If you haven’t already found these things on Pinterest, let me go ahead and enlighten you. These are crazy easy and nom-worthy snacks everyone will love, including your budget. You need to make these. Like, today.

These yummies can be relatively healthy or SUPAH healthy depending on your ingredient choices.  For example, I try to avoid nut butters with extra ingredients (added sugars or oils) to ensure my kids don’t go berserk after eating a mini mound of these things.  I also like to add in some ground chia seeds for a little nutrient boost and use local, raw honey for allergy protection.  The great thing about these goodies is that ALL of the ingredients are either pantry staples or have multiple uses.  If you have a local store that sells bulk items by weight (lucky you), you can save a few dollars by only buying a handful of each of your add-ins.

There are recipes out there, but I prefer to wing it. So here are my instructions for how you can wing it too 😉

You need this.

The basic ingredients are

  • rolled oats
  • nut butter
  • honey

I do about a half a cup of peanut butter and maybe a third of a cup of honey with probably a little over a cup of oats. Add and tweak to get a solid mixture.

I love recipes that aren’t even real recipes.

You can customize your cookies with all sorts of awesomeness.

  • dried fruits
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • chocolate chips
  • cocoa nibs
  • toasted coconut
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla
  • brewer’s yeast for the milky moms
  • whatever you have in the cupboard

Chop or pulse these ingredients in a processor so they’re relatively small but still retain their unique textures.

Now do this.

Toss everything into a large bowl and stir together.  You’re aiming for a spackle consistency. No loose, dry oats sitting in the bowl. No soupy goopiness.

Once you’ve got it all mixed together (and you’ve taste tested one or seven spoonfuls) you can roll into balls, flatten into cookies, or freeze into bar shapes. Lightly oil or wet your hands before handling the mixture. I like to refrigerate mine, but all the ingredients are suitable for storing on the counter. Just keep them covered and relatively un-warm.

I toss a few of these at my kids in the mornings because I CAN’T EVEN when it comes to food preparation first thing in the A.M.. And what kid says no to cookies? (weird ones)  I love to grab one (LOLONE?!LOL) when my sweet tooth starts raging.

I’d love to hear your favorite combos or special ideas for these!

Happy January, y’all!