Our Dinner Struggle

It took my 5 year old 50 minutes to eat dinner last night…50 minutes to eat two chicken nuggets, bread, and 2 carrots.

My 3 year old was slightly faster.

We implemented a new rule. No one gets up from the table until everyone is done eating. So, the time it takes her to eat affects the whole family.

Since this rule, her eating time has slowed from turtle to snail to pace. ( I don’t know, snails seem slower.)

My husband got home 15 minutes after we started dinner and he was done sooner. I even fed myself and the baby in under 30 minutes.

It was almost 7:00 pm by the time we were done. Bath time is about 7:20 pm.

Trust me, this is not a brand new issue. When she was younger we use to time her until it started to give her anxiety and she would throw a tantrum. She was traumatized and now freaks out anytime a timer is involved in a situation. I don’t see her running track in the future.

I honestly think for her, mealtime is social time. It’s the only time where she may feel the full attention of her parents, especially if dad is home from work.

This is her time to tell us hilarious jokes and regale us with elaborate stories.  This is also a good time for her to show her dad how high she can jump.

She becomes the biggest helper during dinner  as well. Any napkin, condiment or drink forgotten, she is on it.

This, combined with her actual issues with food can cause me to go comepletely bonkers after a long day.

You may have also noticed how I described her meal. Chicken nuggets, a few carrots, bread. My 3 year old will only eat pizza or a tortilla, she refuses veggies but will eat fruit.

I’ve read all the articles, tried smoothies and making them take at least one bite of something new each mealtime, but it always ends in tears and yelling (from all of us).

I had to stop trying because dinner was becoming so awful. I am tired by this time and just really don’t have the energy to fight them.

My oldest has always been an difficult eater, even from birth. Nursing was hard, introducing foods was hard, finding foods she would eat through the years was hard.

My 3 year old however was great. Nursed like a champ, ate everything I introduced at 6 months  from all veggies to quinoa. Once she hit that two year old mark, it was over. There was no turning back for her.

My husband and I are pretty conscious about food and health right now and we often discuss pulling the trigger and making them eat what we do. But, at the end of the day, I’m tired and cringe when I imagine the fight it will cause.

But yet, my oldest is 5. She needs to learn to eat other foods. We don’t even bother to go to restaurants knowing that we will order food for the girls and they will refuse to eat. The chicken nuggets won’t be right, the pizza isn’t the same as at home. My oldest doesn’t like French fries and that’s all my youngest will eat.

A friend of mine is living out of the country right now. She has younger kids as well and blogs about their family’s awesome adventures. She mentioned in a post going to eat tapas when they were in Spain. I almost laughed out loud when I read this.  For us, just the thought of being at a restaurant that wasn’t Chick-Fil-A and having my kids try anything new was a crazy thought.

I know I’m not the only parent that struggles with this issue. I am also lucky because they at least eat several fruits a day and we don’t give them a lot of desserts and candy. My oldest loves milk and carrots and she will eat certain meats… (By that I mean, chicken nuggets,  meatballs and breakfast sausages).

I don’t want her to live her life refusing to try new foods or new things for that matter. At this point I really don’t know what to do. Do we leave it alone and eventually they will come around or do we show some tough love and get ready for the fight?

We are at a cross roads right now and just don’t know which path to choose.

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4 thoughts on “Our Dinner Struggle

  1. Jill is doing amazing stuff I agree. But remember, every family has their struggles! Blake has become picky. Pretty commin! You are doing a great job with your girls. They are young. They’ll grow out of it!

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  2. Okay, asking for advice? Don’t try to force food. No rules. You offer a variety of healthy options, she picks what she wants. If she’s having growth problems speak to your physician about possible medical issues, but otherwise, let it go.

    You can do some things to help with her nutrition, like keeping empty-calorie foods out of the house, and serving her most-neglected nutrients as a first course before putting the other stuff out. (Example: If she’s a fruit-bat, mine are, serve the fruit for dessert or second course, after protein and other nutrient-dense foods have had time to sit and tempt for a bit.)

    Since she enjoys dinner as a social time, can you give her a different meal of the day (even if it’s just the hour before dinner) when she sits down and just eats? Not every meal has to be a group meal. And then during dinner she can relax and graze and enjoy being with the family?

    Re: Wide palate: Some people have stronger appetites and more adventurous appetites. But if a lot of good food is coming into your home and you and your husband are enjoying it, chances are your picky eater will pick up on that soon enough. We have a picky eater (and I really have to shop to keep her go-to foods on hand — healthy foods, but if they aren’t there, she’ll just forget to eat) but who’s put together a pretty diverse diet bit by bit, and some of it surprising [Loves wasabi or other spicy seaweed, go figure]. And your kids are still very young. A lot changes as children grow older, and even very picky eaters (my older sister was one) will typically add more and more foods until they are consuming a pretty wide variety.

    Also, don’t forget the power of marketing. In our house, all kids like steak. So new meat is just called “steak”. Don’t be desperate and nervous about it, but if you are calmly and confidently presenting some new food in a cheerful and intriguing (to your child) way, it can sometimes help. If not interested, shrug and say, “more for me” and gobble it down.

    Good luck! And seriously, don’t panic. This is pretty common.

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