Since Thursday night, when Mark and Nikki arrived, we’ve had lots going on – local concerts, family holiday parties, settling them in, etc. – so dinners have been not their usual balanced selves.

I made pizza the first night, to make them more comfortable (that’s my trick – what kid doesn’t like pizza?)  Next night was, unfortunately, hot dogs and green beans.  Next night was a party with mostly meat and various kinds of dip.  But even the miniscule amount of vegetables they’ve been asked to eat so far has sent them both into fits of refusal and near-choking.

I’m serious.  They’ve both told me they don’t like vegetables, they don’t eat vegetables and their family never serves them vegetables.  Luke has almost thrown up while swallowing the few bites that’ve made it into his mouth – I think because he’s trying to swallow them whole.  He says chewing makes the vegetable juice go in his mouth.  The rest of the time, he sits there with his fork in his hand, staring at it like it’s a forkful of fish heads.  He just can’t bring himself to put it in his mouth!

Last night’s dinner made it crystal-clear the magnitude of the problem.  I made chicken pot-pie, with generous amounts of cut-up carrots and peas in the pie.  I figured those two are the most benign of the real veggies (I’m not counting potatoes or corn, but Mark said he doesn’t eat potatoes anyway, unless they’re potato chips.)  Plus, they’re covered in cream of chicken soup.  But no, they were too recognizable.  Both kids refused to eat any.  They wouldn’t even eat the biscuit part!

So I think the problem is recognizing the food.  It seems to be most severe with veggies, but other foods that look strange too are rejected.  I asked Mark what his family gave them, and here’s the list: chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, hamburgers, lasagna.  Nikki added mostaciolli and pizza.  I think I’m going to cry.

Actually, those foods are not that bad.  I make all of them (except for mac and cheese) for dinner a lot.  But I make them with veggie sides, and if Mark and Nikki don’t eat those, I’m doing them a disservice.  Nikki is already at the 90th percentile in weight-for-age charts, and Mark is at 75th.  They are both around 40th for height.  You can print CDC growth charts to use – we were tracking Daughter’s height for a while and I find the charts sometimes handy – although I don’t need a chart to tell me Nikki and Mark are overweight.  They’re not really flabby (yet) but their eating habits plus their body size leave me very concerned. (Although they are okay with fruit – Mark at a whole apple the other night after refusing to eat a bowl of steamed peas.)

So I’m desperate enough to get out the cookbook I swore I’d never use – Deceptively Delicious, the one by Jerry Seinfeld’s wife.  First, I really don’t like the concept.  Hiding vegetables so kids don’t learn to actually enjoy them for what they are? Please.  (Although to be fair, she really emphasizes serving vegetables normally mostly.)   BUT I’ve never had kids who refused every single non-fatty meat I’ve set in front of them.  Second, I’ve only ever tried one recipe from it (mozzarella sticks with cauliflower) and it sucked, so I just put it away.

Anyway, I’m thinking of using it now.  Most of the time, our kids get served a little of everything, and they have to eat all of it before they get more of any one thing.  I tell them they don’t have to eat it, but they can’t have more otherwise.  I’ve tried that with Mark and Nikki; Nikki just shrugs it off and doesn’t eat anything, but Mark really gets upset.  Last night, he was even crying.  I REALLY don’t want that to happen.  I DON’T want to turn meals/food into a battleground.  I treasure mealtime as a family time, and I don’t want to ruin that for Mark.  I don’t want him to view healthy foods as the enemy, as something that causes him pain.

But I also don’t want to let him eat only what he wants.

I feel really stuck.

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