Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book Review - The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution

Powell's Books · Barnes & Noble
Elizabeth Pantley - © 2012

I Read This Book Because:
I couldn't wait for my first baby, Danielle, to start trying food. As advised by Your Baby’s First Year, I started Danielle on vegetable purees: peas, sweet potatoes, green beans—she loved it all. The fruits were also well received. Soon, I started making baby foods and she ate it up, broccoli, carrots, yum yum! Then she turned one. Suddenly her head started to turn when I’d present a food that she ate with gusto only yesterday. OK, we’ll try something else. Oh OK, she likes this one. I’d try the refused food again the next day, having saved it in the refrigerator, nope, no-go. Humph. That’s all right we have plenty of other foods and new delights opening up every day. Right? Wrong. Every developmental milestone included wondrous new abilities and new food rejections. The only food she hasn't outright rejected, you ask? Excellent question.  That would be foods in the salty, cheesy, refined grains food group. What!? That's not a real food group? Uh oh. I’m in trouble.

Danielle is spirited; meaning she has all the same thoughts and feeling as other five-year-olds except that her emotional dial hovers somewhere around 7-10. So foods that she doesn't like aren't just kind of yucky, they’re super gross! disgusting! makes me barf! Just like she’s sure that tag in her jammie pants is digging a bloody hole through her back. CUT IT OUT—PLEASE! Any new foods I introduce are met with trepidation, and all foods she has rejected in the past are on a permanent mental gross list.

Then I discovered the No Cry Picky Eater solution by one of my favorite parenting book authors, Elizabeth Pantley. I snapped it up and read it through. This book is easy to read, trim with only the most pertinent and highly usable information. This book shines by giving the reader an understanding and empathy for what our children are going through and comfort that their behavior is normal, (our children aren't trying to drive us nuts).  I no longer feel guilty about my daughter's food preferences and can focus that misspent energy on tactics that are guiding her towards making healthy choices.

How This Book Works
This book is divided into four sections:

What You Really Need To Know About Picky Eaters
This section defines what a picky eater is and gives you some reassurance that picky eating is not only normal behavior for kids is part of our biological wiring. For example, kids crave energy dense foods that are easy to break down, (i.e. carbs) to power their rapidly growing brains and bodies as well as their constant motion. Also, bitter flavors can be an indicator of a toxic substance and kids' natural aversion to bitter is a evolutionary protector against ingesting toxic plants. Perhaps this could be used to our advantage, I’m thinking kale flavored crayons and Play-Doh...

This section also contains Food Facts that delineates some of the common problems in our modern diets and offers gentle solutions for rectifying those issues.

The Fundamental Four: Attitude, Environment, Amounts and Rules
Attitude reminds us to keep our eye on long term goals by not waging war on our children each mealtime. Environment reminds us that if we want our children to eat healthy, then our pantries and refrigerators need to be filled with healthy foods and they need to see us enjoying those foods too. Amounts has easy-to-read charts that show daily calorie and nutrition requirements and how to meet them through your child's meals and snacks. The Rules section covers many of the contemporary food rules and whether or not following each is a good idea. Some of them are surprising, such as “Rule: Make your child's diet nutritionally balanced at each meal.” (Something I've always strived to do.) Verdict: Break it! Upon reading the logic and research as to why, I think to myself... OhHHhhh...

Tips, Tricks and Tactics: Solving Picky Eater Problems
Now that we the parents are properly educated on the topic of feeding our brood, it's time for the fun stuff! The next 70 pages are filled with fun, gentle ideas for improving your child's overall diet while saving us some grey hair. I've been battling this issue for quite some time so I was doubtful that I'd find anything new. There were perhaps a dozen ideas that had never occurred to me and the ones I had already tried, I found I gave up too soon or could have tried it in a slightly different way. One surprise was learning that a child may need to be exposed to a new food 10 to 15 times before they'll even want to taste it. My daughter was lucky if I'd let her get away without trying a new food on the first day! No wonder she's worried whenever I set down an unfamiliar meal, she's sure I'm going to be pressuring her into eating some. That anxiety and pressure from me is going to ensure she rejects it out of hand. Another ah-ha moment for me. Play it cool... and hamm up the mmmMMMmmm—soo good.

The Experts' Favorites: Recipes Even Your Picky Eater Will Love
This section provides recipes from the authors of seven different kid friendly cookbooks! I plan to try them all except the two by the author whose book I already own. I have picked up the Sneaky Chef cookbook by Missy LaPine no less than a dozen times, during trips to the bookstore, only to put it back on the shelf. Now I can try out a sampling of her recipes before I invest in another would-be doorstop. Thanks Elizabeth!

Prior to reading this book I was frustrated and unwittingly making mealtimes a time for Danielle to feel bad about the choices her biological composition is driving her to towards, by laying on pressure and guilt. I don’t think pressure and guilt ever wrought positive changes in anyone, but what else could I do?  Lots apparently.

After reading this book I'm easier going about her food choices. I don't make food choices a power struggle anymore, so she's not losing because she's not giving in to me. I'm more conscientious about modeling good eating habits, I'm eating like a grown-up again, instead of eating what I know they’ll eat. When she sees us enjoying these foods, she wants to like them and I've noticed that she keeps trying it (yay!) knowing she's missing out on something good. I'm trying to make mealtimes more fun and playful. I make the most out of snacks nutritionally, by giving my girls choices based on what they've been missing that day. For example if they're light on fruits and veggies I say, “You can have raisins, apple slices, carrot slices or applesauce.” Or if they’re light on protein, “You can have a hard boiled egg or mixed nuts.” These changes plus a dozen or so others have us back on the right road. It's a long road, but in the interim I’m much more relaxed, Danielle is much happier and my two-year-old benefits from these techniques at a much earlier age. Just as my venerated pediatrician reminds me, “We have 18 years to help her become a good eater.” Thanks to this book, I'm confident we'll get there in a positive, gentle way.

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