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I'm a 30-something wife and mom. My boys are my pride and joy. Together, we are navigating being a forever family post international adoption.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tips for a Picky Eater

When we adopted Buddy, he was very small for his age.

This is typical of all children who come from situations similar to his, but he was an extreme case. According to his pediatrician, he was in the 10th percentile for his age group. He was anemic and underweight despite us giving him a multivitamin and lots of nutritious food for months.

We noticed when we first adopted Buddy that he was very picky about what he would eat. He didn't like most vegetables or dairy products and was particular about food texture. He was also a bit fickle in his taste. He didn't like cooked onions, but would eat raw ones. He loved sausage but hated animal fat. He would eat cucumbers but not celery. Many dishes were often commented on as being too spicy, sour, or even too sweet.

We were very concerned about serving Buddy things he wanted to eat. In an attempt to do so, we asked him what he liked to eat before he was adopted. He came up with hard boiled eggs and white bread. It turns out Buddy had a long history of picky eating and would regularly refuse to eat a meal if it contained anything he didn't like in any amount.

Meal time became exhausting and boarder-line ridiculous. Hubby was preparing lovely meals that were being greeted, more often than not, with what is closely translated to as "gross." So we drew the line on picky eating. We were conscious of the fact that Buddy had just had a huge life change so we used the following strategy to slowly expand his pallet:

- Start small: We didn't expect Buddy to become and adventurous eater overnight. We started with the rule of 3: you need to eat 3 bites of everything you are served.

- Stay calm: Some of Buddy's behavior was more about control and getting attention than the actual food on his plate. It was important that we stayed cool regardless of how he reacted to a meal.

- Stick with it: Kids have to try something about 10 times before they will like it. The more new foods they try, the lower that number gets. It took awhile to get Buddy to eat broccoli, but he loved kale chips on his first try.

- Build on success: There are some foods that Buddy loved, like pasta. We would add new foods to the ones we knew he would eat, such as celery and cheese into pasta salad.

- Be adventurous ourselves: Hubby and I love ethnic food, so we began cooking it about once a week. Buddy wasn't required to eat everything we did, but he was usually interested in trying.

Now, a year later, Buddy has sampled cuisine from all over the world. He will tuck into a burrito, curry, or stir fry just as happily as pizza or spaghetti. And, because he has found new favorites by trying things outside of his comfort zone, he is much more willing to eat foods he isn't familiar with.
Buddy eating a spicy Caribbean roti wrap

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