Friday, June 22, 2012

Finicky Fridays - Commencing Operation Eat it or Starve

I've mentioned that HRH is a picky eater before (here and here).  If she were in charge of MyPlate, there would likely be an abundance of ice cream, Goldfish crackers, and grapes, but probably not any zucchini or tomatoes.
It's a constant battle in the kitchen.  On the one hand, I want to make sure that my family eats a variety of healthy (and yet delicious) foods.  On the other hand, I don't want my child to sit there, eating nothing.  She's a little too young to understand how fortunate she is to go to bed hungry only by choice - or else I'd be laying on the guilt thicker than Tammy Faye's makeup.
A few weeks ago, my friend Megan posted this picture to my Facebook page:

Of course, it made me chuckle a bit laugh out loud for ten minutes, but at the same time, it made me cringe.  At myself.
Buddy Hackett said, many years ago, "My mother's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it."
I definitely haven't been in that category as a parent.  I have been so focused on making sure HRH doesn't "go hungry" that I've been compromising and letting her eat her small window of "HRH-approved" foods.  While many of those foods are fruits, it's really not acceptable to allow her to set limitations.

So, I have officially launched Operation Eat it or Starve.

That doesn't mean that I'm plunking down a plateful of mystery hash (or, as my mom called certain menu items, "Spinach Blob" and "Noodle Blob" - no lie) and expecting her to eat it.  I want eating new foods to be a comfortable experience, so we're looking for a balance here.
Intrigued by the studies that show children prefer 6 to 7 different colors and interesting patterns on their plates, I have been trying to be creative and artistic in my efforts to offer her both "safe" and familiar foods coupled with new foods.
I say trying because I am not the most artistic person ever.  Defense Exhibit A: my drawing of Princess Aurora (as requested by HRH).

Notice the rose red lips.

The good news is that cookie cutters are good for more that creating shapes out of cookie dough.  The even better news is that The Internet has great ideas that I can copy to my little heart's content.

In: creative, fun food platings at meals
Out: snacks - unless plates are (for the most part) cleaned

In: excitement about beets and squash
Out: badgering

Here are some snaps of what I've tried this week.  I can't take credit for any of the creativity, but I can take credit for the less than perfect adaptations of plating ideas that I found online.

Watermelon rain cloud, carrot lightning,
blueberry rain, apple umbrella (with cheese handle),
and brown rice path
(this looks way cooler with a red apple)
HRH ate the carrots, part of the apple, and the rice.  Maybe a few bites of the cheese, too.  She had been introduced to everything on this plate before, so everything should have been safe.

"Eating Nemo"
Brown rice sea floor, apple anemone, carrot seaweed,
watermelon mini-fish, peanut butter sandwich fish
with cheese stripes, and grape bubbles
The carrots and apples were all eaten, as were the cheese stripes and half the peanut butter fish.  The green grapes were getting a little soft and "yucky," so those were left after a close inspection.

Cheese sun over a rainbow of strawberries, raspberries,
carrots, mango, kiwi, blueberry, and blackberry,
nestled between banana clouds
I ended up eating most of this.  Except the cheese, which HRH consistently eats.  I even made a cocoa-peanut butter-agave spread that I thought she should use to dunk (or just eat with a spoon...), but I was, apparently, mistaken.  Good thing I like it.

Last night's dinner was our first big jump, as I began adding new/different/scary/unknown foods into the mix.
Squash and carrot sun overlooking a brown rice butterfly
(body - black beans, design - cheese and beets, antennae - carrots)
fluttering over a squash-grape-raspberry flower bed
Again, the cheese was eaten first, as were the carrots, raspberries, and red grapes (which seem to stay "crunchy" longer than the green ones).  Then this conversation happened:

HRH: I want milk, please.
Me: You can have some milk after you eat one piece of squash.
HRH: But I want it.
Me: You can have some milk.  But first I want you to eat one piece.
HRH: I don't like it.
Me: Remember Elmo teaches us to try foods two times before we decide if we like them or not.  Please try one piece.

At which juncture she selected the smallest piece of squash, inspected every centimeter for about five minutes, licked it, sniffed it, put it in her mouth, and gagged before spitting it out.
No milk was offered for that Oscar-worthy performance.

So far, my opponent has proved tenacious and stubborn.  Not that I expected a miracle (otherwise this post would be addressed to the Catholic Church about how I need to be sainted immediately), but I was hoping that the melodramatic gagging over the world's smallest piece of squash would be less... melodramatic.

Currently, I'm concocting a few ideas for the Ms. Food Face plate as well as how I can perhaps use chopsticks to trick convince HRH to even try some tofu.  But I'll also be happy if she eats the watermelon and Bing cherries that she requested last time we were at the grocery store.

Did your parents have creative or sneaky ways to get you to eat when you were little?
Or did they have any horrifying foodstuffs that served only to create food aversions?
What creative plating ideas have you seen or tried?


  1. Lady, this is basically the most crafty set-up...ever. So I'm going to vote with You Are Going To Win The Battle.

    And I am tres impressed with HRH's milk-diversion tactic.

    1. She is indeed a craft devil, but we've already had small successes (spoiler - she ate celery). I'll be posting more next week; this week, we obviously have Other Items on the Docket. But she will eat, and I'll have a cocktail. :)

  2. Okay, kudos to you for some serious strategy and tactical ingenuity in the universal quest to get picky eaters to eat more than two kinds of food. Best wishes in Operation Eat It or Starve. Oh, and my favorite line in this post (there were two runner-ups too) is "Remember Elmo teaches us to try foods two times." Ah, the wisdom of a small, furry puppet.

    1. The ability of a red Muppet to use the same words I do and have greater effect is both mystifying and frustrating. At this point, however... whatever works. I figure that with the stubbornness of both her parents, HRH is going to need to be beset by multiple fronts in order for the battle that is being waged at the dining table to swing in my favor.
      I did have some successes - stay tuned - there will be an update later this week!