Avocados, tomatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, zucchini, green beans, carrots, spinach. Those are all foods that my toddler USED to eat. You know, before I became a *gasp* chicken nugget mom. I know, I know, shame on me. Throw me in parenting jail because my toddler will only eat beige foods. Heavy, HEAVY sarcasm there.
I can’t count the number of times that I have seen the words “I don’t want to be a chicken nugget mom…” or “Help! How do I not become a chicken nugget mom?” written on a parenting forum or in a mom group. While feeding your children super healthy foods is an amazing goal, it can also be detrimental to your confidence if things don’t turn out the way you want them to.
For me, it all started when I got pregnant for the second time. Willow was 10 months old and on a diet of table foods and breastmilk. She ate more than me, I swear. She LOVED food. ALL food. Unfortunately my worst enemy came knocking on my door when I was 6 weeks pregnant: morning sickness. AKA all day nausea plus vomiting every day at least once. Surprise surprise! I didn’t feel like sautéing zucchini as an afternoon snack anymore. The only thing that I could handle making her to eat without passing out or puking was a good old PB&J. And that’s okay. I was feeding her. She was happy, full, and I was surviving. That was the best that I could do for her at the current moment.
Once I regained my love for food in the second trimester, I started to beat myself up about letting her love of all kinds of different foods die. I would try every method in the books to get her to try new foods, or at least the foods that she used to eat.
Some things that I tried were:
- Bribing her to try something new with dessert or a fun game to play together after dinner.
- Hiding the food I wanted her to try in food that I knew she liked (sweet potato fries, broccoli cheese tots, veggies in rice, etc).
- Taking bites of her food or “feeding” it to her stuffed animal to show her that it’s good.
- Not giving her any alternatives. “You eat dinner or you go to bed hungry”.
- The “1, 2, 3” method. Sit down at the table with them. You each have the same plate or bowl of food. Pick out one item, and encourage them to do the same. Then, count to 3 and eat it together.
Why those methods didn’t work for us:
- No bribe was good enough for her to try a new food. She just wouldn’t.
- She’s too smart for me. I could never successfully hide vegetables anywhere without her knowing that something was different.
- She would either get furious with me for eating her food and still refuse to try it herself or she would just let me eat it and still not be interested in eating it.
- Not giving alternatives was a terrible idea. She would go to bed hungry. She would not come back in an hour or two and try the food that I offered her. She would absolutely starve herself before trying a new food. She would literally wake up at midnight screaming because she was hungry. After a few midnight pb&j’s to get her back to sleep I was done with this method.
- This one kind of worked! It’s just tedious because I had to eat my food one tiny bite at a time right along with her.
If one of those methods work for you then that’s awesome! However, they didn’t work for us. The only one that kind of worked for us with chicken noodle soup was number 5! I tried the same method with a few other meals and it wasn’t very successful. So, when all of those methods came crashing down, I was left feeling like a failure. I didn’t need to do that to myself, and neither do you. Babies are WEIRD. We’re all just doing our best to give them our best. Right now our best is a countless number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And it’s okay. I’m going to say it again for those of you in the back of the room afraid to mention to the “perfect moms” in your life that your toddler lives off of chicken nuggets. It’s. Okay. And, side note, there aren’t any perfect moms or perfect children. Everyone is struggling with something on this crazy journey of growing little humans.
If anyone has any ideas that I didn’t mention above, please, comment them below! This desperate momma is still trying hard to get her toddler to eat different foods! She is just done setting her expectations too high and beating herself up over it.