How to Eat a PB&J Sandwich
According to Lorelei Jane, Age 2
Step One: Crusts must be removed from the sandwich and consumed separately.
Step Two: Sandwich must be cut into small bite-sized squares. If the parental unit dares to give larger portions – for example, a sandwich cut into quarters – as much of it will be shoved into the mouth as possible just to make a point. This travesty will never happen again.
Step Three: Each tiny sandwich square must be pulled apart, as they are eaten.
Step Four: Put one side of the sandwich into mouth. Immediately after that, put in the other. They are absolutely, positively not allowed to enter the mouth at the same time.
The last six months have been extremely difficult in this household when it comes to food. There are a few major issues that we – and I – have really struggled with. Let’s start with the one that is the most
fun uncomfortable to talk about:
Issue One: Breastfeeding
Subtitle: Yes, I’m going to talk about my boobs.
I was one of those people. Lorelei was breastfed until she was twenty (maybe twenty-one) months old. It wasn’t a conscious decision. When she was born, I didn’t set out to breastfeed long-term. By the time she was two days old, I was really hoping that I would manage to do it at all. And then I set the goal of one year. One year was a perfectly respectable amount of time, I told myself. The year-mark came and went. While no one was pressuring me to quit breastfeeding, I did get the occasional question about when I was planning on weaning her. Again, I was not out to make any sort of statement so my standard reply was, “She doesn’t seem ready yet.”
On and on it went. Eighteen months came and went. While I still think that she wasn’t ready at that point, it became clear to me that I wasn’t ready yet either. Breastfeeding had become something of a crutch for me. It was an easy way to soothe her, an easy way to put her to sleep for a nap or for bed. It was an easy way for me to feel like she was getting enough to eat. Honestly, the only reason I finally weaned her was because I got myself knocked up again and – although perfectly normal and safe to continue breastfeeding through pregnancy – I had zero interest in that and I knew that it was finally time for the both of us to give up our crutch.
Issue Two: No Separate Meals
I was strongly opposed to the notion of making Lorelei meals – dinner in particular – that were different from the one we were eating. The only time I would make an exception was if I was making something I deemed to difficult for her to eat – think creamy soups and really spicy foods. I firmly believe that giving your child tasteless meals of the average “kid-friendly” variety was the surest way to raise a picky eater. So, she ate what we ate. Unfortunately, this lead to issue number three…
Issue Three: Is She Eating Enough?
Lorelei has always been on the small size. We’re talking from birth. Her weight has always fallen in the 5-10th percentile. Nothing, really, that we should really be concerned about. As our pediatrician reminded us once or twice, neither of us are very large so it seems only natural that she would fall on the smaller end of the spectrum. That, however, does not stop me from feeling extremely paranoid about her gaining enough weight and getting enough to eat. Despite being told on multiple occasions to just provide dinner and then let her eat it or not, I couldn’t really get behind the whole “let her starve” advice. Knowing our luck – and Lorelei’s stubbornness – she would starve before she ate what we put in front of her.
Fortunately, we have found a few strategies that have helped us get over this first round in the great food war (I am sure there are many, many more to come). As I always say, I am not an expert. This is what has worked for us and if you are also in the midst of a food battle, let me tell you now that it will eventually end.
Strategy One: Dress it Up
Lorelei would not eat meat for the longest time. No chicken, no ground beef. Nothing. She even went off eggs for a while. We were at a loss as to how best to get her to eat any sort of protein – thank goodness for good old PB&J and beans (lots of beans) – until we realized she loved sauce. That girl loves Sweet Baby Ray’s. Your toddler might be a ranch dressing or a ketchup kid, but the concept is the same. Whether they like to dip – Lorelei would be more inclined to just lick the plate if we let her dip her own food – or they prefer the food coated in sauciness, dressed up food is always better. Eventually, they won’t need as much or any sauce at all to eat that delicious grilled salmon that you prepared for Christmas Eve dinner. We still keep an ample supply of BBQ sauce in the fridge for emergencies.
Strategy Two: Give Them a Choice
Despite my previous aversion to preparing separate meals, I have recognized the fact that she will not always want to eat what I have mind. Fortunately, we have reached a stage in her development where she knows the words for a lot of the foods we eat and I can offer her a choice. I stick to things that I’m also willing to make and want to eat for dinner. It requires that you have a certain amount of flexibility with your meal plan, but it can lead to a lot less screaming and crying.
Strategy Three: Preparation is Key
Just because they don’t want to eat that green bean doesn’t mean that they don’t like green beans at all. Lorelei likes her vegetables for the most part, but they have to be prepared the right way. For example, green beans will be consumed if they are roasted (fresh) or straight out of the freezer (frozen). Steamed or microwaved from frozen green beans, however, will be spit out immediately. It’s all about trial and error and finding what works and then adjusting your plans accordingly. Or, if all else fails, employ strategy one and throw some sauce on that veggie.
Strategy Four: Blend It
Does your toddler hate fruit? Leafy greens? Milk? Try throwing them all together in a blender and see if they’ll go for that. Lorelei’s favorite snack is a smoothie. Right now we make it with frozen strawberries, frozen spinach, whole milk yogurt, a scoop of applesauce for sweetness and a splash of milk to thin it out. Boom. Snack. And they’re eating vegetables. It doesn’t bother Lorelei (for some reason) that you can see chunks of green in the liquid but if it does bother your little one, try mixed berries, it will hide it better.
Strategy Five: Bribery
Ha. Okay. I know bribery is bad, but sometimes everything else has failed. It’s food she likes, it’s food she’s picked. We’ve tried saucing it up and yet she still won’t eat more than a bite. So we bribe her with a book. That’s right: we will whip out one of her many, many books (usually we even ask her which one she wants) and for each bite or couple of bites we will read the next page. She’s reading (yay!) and she is also eating her dinner. It’s my least favorite strategy and one I’m trying to employ as little as possible, but it works.
If you have stuck with me through this entire treatise on how to get your kid to eat, congratulations! Unfortunately, I don’t have a prize. However, what I would like to know is what has worked for you? I’m sure that there will be a day soon when everything changes and none of these will work, new ideas are always welcome.