Monday, June 08, 2009

Taste Testing

For the past 18 months or so, we have been eating out almost exclusively. I would cook 1-2 times a week (usually soup or something, rarely real "cooking"), we might throw something frozen in the oven 2-3 times a week (which I don't really consider cooking), and the other 5-8 meals were eaten either at a restaurant or at home with take-out. We had a rotation perfected and everything. DH and I were equally guilty for why it was happening: I didn't want to cook, and he didn't want to do the dishes after! Recently, though, we've all been getting tired of the same old places. I can't believe I am going to admit this in public, but lately Luke has been asking if we can please eat at home. How many kids have to request eating at home?!

The problem with eating at home more, though, is that Luke doesn't eat anything we eat, which to this point has meant making two separate meals, something I swore I wouldn't do when I had kids. But it's just so hard to watch them not eat, especially when they're young. We have also been thinking for a while that he is now old enough to understand (that we aren't trying to torture or poison him), and we needed to start putting our foot down and making him try more stuff. Seems logical to start now! Instead of having to try to get him to sample stuff at a restaurant where he is already programmed to eat a certain thing, he can start trying the foods we grown-ups like at home. That's not to say we won't still eat out, and probably more than average folks, but surely 2-3 meals out per week has to be better than 8, right? I am also hoping it will help me lose some weight, simply by being at home with more portion control. Not really a diet (yet) or even a "lifestyle change," it's simply about being more aware of what I'm putting in my mouth! Hey, it's a start.

So we started this great experiment Saturday night. He had eaten a good lunch (frozen pizza), so we took a risk and went with something I don't think he's ever had before: pigs in blankets (hot dogs wrapped in refrigerator crescent rolls) and baked beans. All he had to do was try a single bite of each. You would have thought we asked him to chop off his own fingers! Sheesh, all the whining and crying. Took us nearly 30 minutes to get him to try a bite of either, with the threat of "if you have not tried a bite of each by the time Mommy and Daddy have finished eating, you will go to bed." I think he realized right at the last minute that we were serious. He wouldn't even swallow the bite of hot dog; he chewed it about 3 times, did "baby shivers" (a sure sign that he really and truly does not like it), and cried until we let him spit it out (something we don't usually let him do, but he really did look like he would be sick). We suspected he might not like it, but we didn't think it would go *that* badly. Then he tried a bite of baked beans, which went much better. He said he liked it, but he also didn't want to eat any more and wanted to go play, so I have no idea if he really did like them, or if he was just telling us what he thought we wanted to hear. Guess we'll find out the next time we have baked beans. We were not looking forward to the next experiment. Sunday, we chickened out and did oven shrimp for lunch and Artuzzi's (out) for dinner. We were all still too traumatized. (I guess we're easing into it! LOL) We decided we would try again for dinner Monday.

Well, tonight went better than I ever could have dreamed! Not that he ate much, really, but there was no crying, and only a minimal amount of fussing. We did panko chicken with parmesan noodles (keep in mind that the child does not like mac and cheese!). We told him that he needed a bite of each before he could leave the table. "But I don't like it." You still have to try it. He started with noodles, and I think a small involuntary "mmm" may have snuck out. "I finished." Nope, you need a bite of chicken. "Okay." And he popped a bite of chicken in his mouth. No baby shivers or anything! Did you like it? "Yes I sure." (I don't know why he leaves off the do/did.) Do you want some more? "No, thank you." Since he clearly didn't mind it, even if it wasn't his favorite, we told him that he needed 4 more bites of either chicken or noodles (one bite per year of age, an old rule of my parents). I suspected he would choose noodles, and he did, but for right now, that's okay. We'll work on taking more bites of each thing as they come back around in the rotation and figure out what he really does and does not like.

So, the current score on new foods is 2 likely new food items, 1 okay item, and 1 no (hot dogs, which is fine, since we only eat them a couple times a year anyway). It will be interesting to see how the rest of the week goes. We have soup of some sort (not sure if it will be potato cheese or taco soup), pancakes (which we already know he eats, even at home), and salisbury steak with julienne potatoes and green beans still to come. Wish us luck!

Currently feeling: looking for some new Luke foods


  1. Sounds like you are making some good progress toward your goals. :) Be prepared to be persistent though, even with foods he initially rejects. The more exposure they have to something, the more likely they will eventually eat it without protest. It took me several years to get Alex eating vegetables, but he does now without complaint. We're still working on Katie, but there are several things she will eat now (like stir-fry) that she doesn't really like or aren't her favorite, but will eat when that is all there is for dinner.

    Both of my kids have a few things that they truly abhor, which I exempt them from having to eat - but in general I insist they at least do a "no-thank-you" bite of everything on their plate. To get snacks or dessert or anything else for the rest of the night, they do have to make a reasonable attempt at eating a decent portion. I found that if I didn't have this rule, everything they weren't used to got the "no-thank-you" bite and they just filled up on snack crackers or something else later.

    Good luck - eating habits are always hard to break and modify. We still don't eat as healthily as I'd like, and we rely too much on take-out and our easy stand-bys, but we try.

  2. Good for Luke, and good for you for encouraging him to try new foods.

    Mitch and I are both the oldest kids in our families, and as such, we are - how can I put this nicely - not very adventuresome eaters.

    Our rule with Hayley, when she was Luke's age, was she had to try it. We went through the whole gagging/teary eyed scenario, and we told her if she was going to get sick, she needed to make it to the restroom. (Never happened.) When she was a little older, the rule was "one bite for each birthday", so when she was six, she needed to manage six bites. I'll admit, some of them were very baby-sized bites, but they were bites. We always tried to make sure there was some tried and true side dish, along with a type of bread, to keep her well fed.

    Now that she's older, she has to start out with what we're having. She can pick out whatever ingredients she doesn't like, and I do my best not to aggravate the situation. (For example, if we're having spaghetti with meat sauce - she doesn't like the texture of ground beef in baked items - I try to keep chunks of meat off her serving.) If she can't manage to eat it, she's free to make a PBJ sandwich and grab a fruit cup from the fridge.

    We implemented this at about second grade, when we decided we really, really wanted to start eating like adults again!

    Good luck figuring out what works for your family. Hayley won't eat spaghetti with meat sauce, but she absolutely inhales beef stroganoff; it's years of trial and error.

  3. Think about all the money you would save too by eating out less. We did some budgeting and kept track of every penny we spent for a few months--we were appalled we spent so much money eating out!

    Good luck with Luke and new foods!

  4. Good luck! (and good savings! I can't imagine how much it must cost to eat out that often!!)

    FWIW, the method my folks used was that if we didn't finish _everything_ on our plate (carefully portioned), we didn't get dessert or any snacks until the next regularly scheduled meal - because "obviously we weren't hungry." It worked extremely well on Patrick and me, anyway.


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