Vittles - Foodie Mom, Picky Kid - Staying motivated and challenged when your kids' palates are challenging to accommodate


Welcome to the BlogHer Food '11 live blog of the Vittles: Foodie Mom, Picky Kid - Staying motivated and challenged when your kids’ palates are challenging to accommodate panel! If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to comment.

The idea of this panel is how to deal with a family member who doesn't eat much and has a picky eating style.

Q: How important is it to you to work into your blog the fact that you’re living with a picky eater(s)?

Jenny: In general I cook recipes that would satisfy a picky palate - that are family friendly for everybody.

Caroline: Picky eaters lend themselves to comedy. However, it can't be the center point of your life. But the humor is something people can relate to and the challenges can be a great way for readers to relate.

Cindy: What I find refreshing is when mom is real about what she’s feeding her kids. Even if it is a waffle for a snack! The mom putting it out there and keeping it real is what I think is the best.

Debbie: When I find something that works really well I will post about it, so others can learn from what I had discovered worked well. Other than that – my recipes are almost exclusively failures when it comes to my child’s palate. It’s part of my blog, but it’s not my primary focus.
The primary point is that you want to cook what you cook and you want the picky eater to eat it.

Caroline: Posting about food bribery is a great way to get comments on your post. It’s controversial but it starts a good dialogue about the lengths you’ll go through to get your child to eat. Being a prior picky eater myself, allows me to relate to my child.

Jenny: 3 of the days of the week I cook something they will like, and maybe 2 of the nights I will make something they haven’t tried before. That way they are constantly trying new things. Even if they don’t like it at least they tried it and perhaps a few weeks later I’ll try the same dish again and see how it goes.

Cindy: I had to let go of the idea that I had to get my daughter to eat at every meal time. I don’t feel bad about it anymore if she just wants to eat a piece of bread for dinner.

Q: What kind of blogger do you classify yourself as?

Jenny: I’m a food blogger who makes recipes that kids and adults would enjoy.

Cindy: I blog about cooking healthy snacks for kids. However I pay attention to adult food blogs too.

Caroline: My blog initial blog started with another friend and our lives were very dichotomous. Eventually she left and it became all mine and I like that I don’t have to pigeonhole myself into a title – I just blog about food that I love. I try not to make it too narrow.

Debbie: I often refer to my blog as my new baby. I was newlywed and it was my new hobby. When I had my son a few years later – it actually morphed more into a food and family blog. My blog is not specifically a family blog – but it has become that. It’s about my life, and even if it’s a food blog it involves my family.

Q: What do you do with a new eater who only lives on one specific type of food?

Cindy: The 18 month - 2 year mark of a child’s life is just a time when they aren’t as hungry as they were before. A lot of times we consider it picky, but really they just aren’t as hungry. -

Caroline: There is a reason behind why they are only eating one thing. Consider the different voices we hear though – the pediatrician says they are fine, you grew up knowing you ate or didn’t and as a mom you want them to eat. But think about it more – does the food look appetizing? Does it smell unusual? Try different approaches to see if you can figure out what is going on behind the scenes.

Debbie: Also, there are some kids who experience food really intensely and their taste buds are hyper sensitive so if they react badly, just move on and try again another day. Over time that will settle out and they will be able to handle more. Another thing is to have family meal times. Let you kids witness an example of family meal time – of seeing mom & dad eating healthy regularly.

Jenny: One of my friends, Michelle – What’s Cooking With Kids, she put up a great post: Is your child a picky eater or a problem feeder? In this case the child had an actual medical issue that prevented them from eating regularly. So in some cases it could be something different than you suspect.

Caroline: Consider the irony of a picky eater who has a mommy who’s a food blogger! Sometimes I sympathize with it because you don’t want to make your kid an experiment on your blog. Think of how you would have felt to have a parent constantly hovering over you to eat something. I keep it in mind and loosen my death grip over it. I don’t want to make my child feel outcast for not eating the same things the rest of us are eating, so you really have to make an effort to not condemn them for not eating.

Debbie: I hate calling my kid a picky kid because I feel like it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Do you struggle with the guilt of having one kid who is picky and the other who is not? Or is it hard to get it done with two different eaters?

Jenny: No, I know I was a picky kid and eventually I came around. Having two different eaters is hard and challenging, but I think it helps to get them hands-on as much as possible. I let them pick out their favorite foods so they are involved in the process.

Caroline: I love to go to large family dinners because food is about survival – if you don’t go for it, you’ll miss your chance to eat. I enjoy reading about someone who is radically differently that me to give me a perspective about how food is different for so many families. I think it can be really hard to cook, blog, photograph, etc., when I also have to consider if my family will want to eat it or not. When you get it right – a great meal, a great photo, and a great story it’s wonderful and it’s worth it.

Debbie: When my picky eater refuses the meal before I serve it I get flustered. Reading blogs where the mom is perfect and everything works – I hate her. I try hard to make it clear that I’m failing every day.

Jenny: You have to work when you can! Now that my kids are in school I have more time to do it during the day.

Debbie: I actually took a hiatus for 2 years when my child was a baby. I couldn’t do it all and so I took a break.

Caroline: When you blog about your family, your kids, what they eat – you have to find your line. What is the drawing line in the sand about what you blog about? For example – have you even given your child diet food? My daughter once wanted a diet cookie because a friend of hers at school had it but I told her she couldn’t. I explained that it was diet food and we don’t eat it. But once they see another kid eating it - they want it.

Cindy: My kid always wants Doritos as a snack. But my daughter knows where I stand with it. And when the teacher or someone comments on her healthy snacks – she feels proud of it. And that is what I want to encourage her in.

Q: What do you guys think about school lunches?

Jenny: I let my kids buy school lunch once a week – because it’s the cool thing to do. But over time they have grown to enjoy the lunches I pack for them more that now one of them doesn’t even want to buy once a week – he likes my food better!

Caroline: Same thing for my daughter – and after one lunch my daughter was able to recognize that the food was disgusting and decided not to eat it. Also, my son will try things at school that he would never touch at home! Like salad! Although the break once a week is kinda nice!

Debbie: For me, my child being so picky – part of me wants him to eat the lunch since I know there is some psychology behind the idea of him seeing his friends eating lunch and wanting to do the same. Part of me cringes that he is eating school lunch food, but part of me is just glad he ate it!

Q: I think part of it is that kids know that at home he has other options – where as at school he has no food alternatives. Do you all find that if you go the extra mile to make it look good the kids will eat it?

Cindy: I have gotten in to using cute little serving dishes since they are easier to make it look appetizing versus all the work that goes in to a meal to make it look cute. Before I started blogging I used to think cute food was a waste of time – but it did a lot to get my kids to the table when they are younger. So now I’m “one of them!”

Debbie: Also, sandwich cutters can make it appealing, but over time I’m moved past it. I think if it works for you – it’s worth it the time.

Caroline: Life in general teaches us that presentation is super important. But – you don’t want to get trapped in to making these elaborate meals that make your life centered on the meal you’re making. Sometimes it is just the ritual of opening a lunch and compartmentalizing their food that makes it appetizing.

Q: I have a 13 and 14 year old that I have a hard time motivating them to eat the healthy options. Any ideas?

Cindy: While I’m making dinner or before dinner – I just put out some veggies (without dip) for them to snack on. Take advantage of that intense hunger and give them the opportunity to make the right choice.

Caroline: When they are teenagers they eat a lot more because they are ravenous. My mother’s family is from Europe and they don’t believe in snacks and there is something to be said for that.

Debbie: Try not to stress about it – as long as you’re putting healthy things n front of them you’ll be fine. Try to look at it from a perspective of a week instead of daily – if over the course of the week they get veggies, fruits and proteins then they are ok.

Q: How do you reconcile a busy schedule with trying to cook fresh meals for your family?

Jenny: If I have a busy week I utilize my crock pot. Sometimes it seems like a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Also, a pressure cooker is a great tool! I get the big bags of frozen chicken breasts and you can get a breast from frozen to done in 15 minutes. It’s a great time saver.

Cindy: I’m actually not anti frozen veggies. And there are tons of websites about cooking quickly.

Caroline: It is a huge challenge. For me it’s a joy to go shopping frequently but not for my family. I can’t plan a week in advance – it just doesn’t work for me. I make one thing on Sunday that expands into the week several days. Always have chicken, capers, lemons and shallots available and you can make a meal at anytime. Always have them on hand. Or cherry tomatoes are great to have on hand too - they are so versatile. Also, once a week I like to roast a chicken because they will last you at least 2 or 3 nights. IT can be a lifesaver.

Debbie: there are also great canned tomatoes and beans. Look for BPA-free, and keep it on hand for a quick dinner. Also, shopping at a farmers market is great because it’s been out of the ground less amount of time. Also I like to make a good recipe in a double batch and freeze them in individual portions so it’s easy to reheat. I roast veggies too and they will keep in the freezer.

Cindy: I have a cheat sheet that is full of foods my family will eat and I reference it each night based on what I know they will eat and as long as I have those items on hand to make something quick.

Caroline: I also grab a couple heads of romaine and prep it so it is always on hand and ready-to use. Prep can save you a lot of time when it comes to weeknight cooking.

Q: I am a new mom and my son is getting used to eating. I have trouble determining if he’s getting enough nutrition since we are on a vegetarian diet.

Debbie: A lot of it is not stressing about it. Pick things that have a lot of good dense calories so that even if they are eating less, they are still getting the good foods. Most kids eat what they need to eat over the course of time.

Cindy: Oftentimes they are just too busy exploring their new worlds. I aim for variety and try not to think about nutrition. I encourage her to eat different colors and types of food, but I don’t worry about exactly about how much she’s eating it.

Caroline: Studies come out constantly and you have to take them with a grain of salt. They are master studies that are general and most times they don’t pertain to your particular child or their environment. One option is smoothies, the kids love it! Use frozen bananas and mix it up and use it to give them the nutrition that way.

Debbie: I add kale to my son’s smoothies because he thinks they are so cool when they are green! I want to mention that I don’t hide the fact that I’m adding kale – I don’t believe in hiding or sneaking food to your kids. Let them see it and be ok with it!

Cindy: It’s fun to keep them guessing. Put new things in front of them, like a green smoothie, to mix it up! Surprise them and you might be surprised yourself at what they will try!

Q: Do you have a go-to meal?

Jenny: Spaghetti and meatballs... every week. And tacos are good too.

Cindy: For me it is more about the vibe at the table and making sure that everyone is happy.

Caroline: Spaghetti and meatballs is also a go-to for me. Another thing that works great for us are pancakes – they love them. I make all different kinds and I also try to make a fruit puree to put on top of them and by far it is a very big hit in my family. I also create an Asian version of lettuce wraps with marinated steak in apple juice and my family goes gaga over it. I think cookbooks are a great tool. Even if you don’t make the actual recipes, grab the inspiration and make it your own.

Debbie: For my family its pasta and pizza. I keep whole wheat pizza dough in the freezer (or I make it by hand) and we make our own pizzas.

The bottom line is to be creative, patient and relaxed. Your child will eat when they are hungry, so just be the kind of mom that accepts that and learn to roll with the punches.

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