Monthly Archives: April 2012

Review: The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution

So how does The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution stack up against my champion picky eater?  I think Elizabeth Pantley herself would say it’s far too early to tell, but overall I really like this book.

I think a great strength of this book is that Pantley acknowledges just how frustrated, concerned, and hopeless parents of picky eaters can feel, and then, rather than offering a flashy quick-fix, counsels patience above all else.  She manages to provide sympathy while at the same time reminding readers that you can’t change picky eating overnight, and more importantly, it’s not urgent that you do so.

Don’t get me wrong, she lays out great information about how important it is to get kids eating lower sugar, lower sodium, and more whole grains and produce.  But she also emphasizes that it doesn’t need to be instantaneous, and it’s more important to work on developing good habits for the long haul, rather than getting broccoli into your kid tonight.

I also like that the book addresses a wide array of kid pickiness.  Extreme kids like mine who will only eat beige foods and no vegetables are specifically mentioned, as are kids who don’t seem to eat enough, or who never eat whole grains, as well as kids who don’t seem compatible with the “always eat breakfast” rule or those who can’t seem to sit at a table with the family.

Pantley manages to address all these concerns by laying out a general structure that covers most situations: Attitude, Environment, Amounts, and Rule, and then offering a tips and Q&A section for specific scenarios, like how to picky-proof your young toddler, or how to reverse if you’ve already established a routine of being a short-order cook.  I really liked the Amount section, which actually tells you what a “serving” is for a little kid.  So many books, web sites, and info sheets from the pediatrician have instructed me to give my kids X servings of milk a day, without any guidance on what that means in ounces.  If you’ve ever been confused about this, it’s worth getting this book just for the serving size tables.

The Q&A section reinforced for me some things I already knew – serving a family dinner is hugely beneficial, kids need to have new foods on their plates 10-15 times before they’ll even take a taste, and consistency is key.  But it also alerted me to something I’ve been doing to undermine my own efforts – not making sure my kids are hungry when I serve them nutritious foods.  I especially love the idea of serving fruits or vegetables as an “appetizer,” so that the kids have only the healthiest option in front of them when they are hungriest.  I’ll also be more strategic about pre-dinner snacking and even about when I serve milk with a meal, in an effort to capitalize on hunger as a tool.

The one part of the book I found lacking was the recipe section.  It’s billed as “Recipes Even Your Picky Eater Will Love,” but to say that’s optimistic is an understatement.  There’s no way that my picky kid will be seduced by fried rice, black bean and sweet potato stew, or broccoli-asparagus-mushroom pancakes.  I certainly hope someday she’ll be up for stuff like this, but in my mind these recipes are decidedly in the “Advanced” category for a picky eater.  Much more helpful were the earlier tips Pantley gave about “food-chaining,” gradually morphing unhealthy favorites into more nutritious versions of themselves, using tiny baby steps like replacing one slice of bread in a peanut butter sandwich with a whole-grain blend, or adding a spoonful of healthful cereal to your kids favorite sugary cereal, then slowly increasing the ratio over time.

So on the whole, I found this book very useful.  Not only does it have some good information on nutrition and an array of ideas about getting a picky eater to eat better, but it offers support to frustrated parents, and reminders of why it is important to keep up our efforts day in and day out, even when we feel frustrated.

Extreme rice!!!

That’s an MST3K reference there, in case you wondered.  And I use it because my kid has taken picky eating to the level of an extreme sport.  Chloe is naturally a fairly high-anxiety, control-enthusiast type personality (wonder where she gets that?), and when she was 2, she got a dreadful stomach virus that caused continual vomiting for days.  It was bad enough that I actually stopped nursing her for 24 hours, because her stomach seemed unable to digest anything.  We wound up giving her 10mL of water a few times an hour to keep her hydrated, and had to give her Phenergan suppositories to even let her keep that down.  It was horrible and traumatic.  And ever since then she’s had almost a phobia of any new food, and tends to stick with bland, uniformly-textured, familiar foods.  She would quite happily eat nothing but refined baked goods and dairy products if I let her.

Let me tell you, I’ve grown to hate advice about picky eaters.  Making food into fun shapes, smiley faces, or forests of broccoli standing up in mashed potatoes is totally ineffectual.  Might work on amateur picky eaters, but not on my champ.  I bought The Sneaky Chef in hopes of getting some nutrition into her, but so many of the recipes are about sneaking vegetables into things like meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, and macaroni and cheese, none of which my kid will eat in the first place.  The other problem is she may be a supertaster.  Despite Missy Chase Lapine’s assurances that all her recipe shenanigans were undetectable to test audiences of real children, Chloe immediately called out my attempt to include a smidgeon of orange puree in a cheddar quesadilla.  My best friend says the truly epic level of Chloe’s sensitivity to flavors came home to her when she made macaroni sprinkled with cheddar cheese for her kids, and saved out a bowl of plain macaroni for my kid.  Much like a gustatory Princess and the Pea, Chloe politely declined the pasta, saying it tasted funny, and my friend found one lonely shred of cheese at the bottom of the bowl.

We tried therapy for Chloe, and the therapist suggested we use Ye Olde Sticker Charte as a motivational tool.  Chloe chose a toy she reallyreallyreally wanted as her goal, and agreed to the plan.  But even when she was 100% invested in eating new foods to earn stickers, she would choke and gag.  I honestly think that for her, swallowing a pea or a bite of chicken feels as scary and gross as it would feel for the average American to eat ant eggs or maggot cheese.  Soon, she decided that it wasn’t worth enacting her own personal Fear Factor to earn a measly sticker, no matter how cool the toy at the end of the chart.  (Due in part to this total misread of Chloe’s personality and the fact that the therapist advocated meridian tapping, we fired her.)

Here is what has worked (however slowly and gradually): her pediatrician talked to her about nutrition, and asked her to agree to two rules.  She won’t have second helpings of starch – one serving only.  And she needs to try a bite of one unfavored food at dinner each day.  Chloe agreed, and she seems to take her personal integrity much more seriously than a sticker chart.  When she’s reluctant to try a bite of something, I remind her that she won’t feel very good when she goes for her checkup and has to tell the doctor she didn’t stick to their agreement.  She still doesn’t like trying new foods, but she’s becoming much more inured to it.  Each time she survives having a bad taste or weird texture in her mouth, it helps her move away from her dread.  It’s very slow going.  Last week she opined that if Italian sausage was the last food on Earth, she would probably eat it, and her dad and I did a celebratory dance once we were out of her sight line.  The important thing to us is there’s progress, even if it’s extremely gradual.

The other thing that has helped is giving her control.  I taught her how to make scrambled eggs (using the only correct method – Alton Brown’s).  No kid can resist the allure of being allowed to crack eggs.  She will now make eggs for the whole family, all by herself, and she will eat them.  For a child whose sole sources of protein were peanut butter and cheese, that is HUGE.  I’m letting her help plan meals and cook more and more, and the kids are also helping us plant and tend a garden.  Perhaps a zucchini or blackberry that she observed forming from a flower, and which she tended herself will be less scary than an anonymous vegetable plunked on her plate.

Next week, I’ll post my review of The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution, as well  as a couple other tips that have helped us get our kids eating better.

The Catholic Church – now with more evil!

Really, Catholic Church?  The Crusades and the Nazi sympathizing and the RICO-worthy facilitation of pedophilia weren’t enough?  Now there is emerging evidence that priests and nuns in Spain stole babies from “unsuitable” mothers and sold them to other people.  The definition of “unsuitable” apparently started with enemies of Franco, but motivation morphed over the decades to include keeping babies out of the hands of their unwed mothers, or perhaps just pure profit.

The primary source for this information is a BBC documentary, This World: Spain’s Stolen Babies.  I haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet, but if this summary is at all accurate, I’ll have to restrain myself from throwing things at the TV.  The stunning facts just keep coming: the number of babies stolen may be as high as 300,000.  And at first I thought, “Oh well, it happened during the Spanish Civil War – terrible, but not surprising.”  But no, this started in 1939 and continued through the 1980s.

If that didn’t push enough of my buttons, many of the mothers doubted that their babies had really died, and some protested and demanded answers.  They of course were labelled “hysterical,” the catchall defense of so many authority figures who abuse laboring women.

You may have noticed a lot of “may”s and “apparently”s here, and the reason is that there has not been an official investigation.  The documentary sparked a lot of interest and emotion, but it seems amnesty laws may prevent criminal investigation.  So mothers who were dismissed as hysterical and robbed of their children, or adults who discover that their parents traded cash to a priest for them, are investigating on their own, and getting DNA tests when they can piece enough together to identify a possible lost baby.

Meanwhile, this has inspired me to finally defect from the Catholic Church.  I’ve got to polish up my letter, and have my husband witness my Declaration of Defection, but hopefully I can get it out by next week.  Maybe it’s silly and ultimately unimportant, but I don’t want my name associated with this corrupt organization.  I have no doubt that many Catholics are good and honest people, but the Church, as an entity, is utterly without morals.  Any moral organization would have leapt to root out pedophiles and baby-traffickers at the first whiff of these scandals, but of course we know how the Church has chosen to deal with pedophile priests, and I don’t see any evidence of them even issuing a statement about this debacle.  They’re evil.  And I’m going to make it official that they don’t speak for me and can’t count me as a member.