When people find out we are a vegan family, they are always asking what we eat, where we get our protein, etc. They also assume my kids must eat sooooo many vegetables. And, to be fair, LP does love his veggies. He likes going to the farmers market, and he often makes a salad for all of us at dinner time. But his little sister is a different story.
Both of our kids love bread, and I’m sure they get it from me. I’ve been known to devour an entire baguette in one sitting on my own, especially if you throw some roasted garlic in the mix. With both kids we find ourselves admonishing them when they polish off their biscuits before even trying their soup, or when they want more and more cornbread after only one small bite of chili. But our youngest, IP, goes farther than her brother. There have been many dinners where she will only eat whatever bread we have, and then adamantly refuse to eat anything else. If we tell her she has to eat some of her other dinner before she gets her bread, she just doesn’t eat. It was getting pretty absurd, and the G-man and I started to get worried about her getting enough nutrients since she had several days where she started with toast, moved onto a PBJ and finished with a refusal to eat the lentils or tofu scramble we made for dinner.
However, I’m happy to report that things have improved. Given the option IP would, like me, consume a loaf of bread before anything else if it was offered to her, but now at least she eats something besides that throughout the day. So, I thought I would share what helped us make it over this mini “picky eater” hump with your almsot-three-year-old:
How to get your carb-loving kid to eat something besides carbs
1) Offer low-carb snacks:
My kids (like most, I think) are way more enthusiastic eaters at snack time than they are at meal time. While I wish I was one of those parents who always had little cut up vegetables with a delicious dip waiting in the fridge, the reality is I’m more of a “If you’re hungry, go get crackers out of the pantry!” kind of mom. Rather than pretend I was suddenly going to be inspired to cut up carrots, I started telling the kids they could each have a 6 crackers (or 8, or 4, depending on the day) and giving them either peanut butter or hummus to go with them. I figured if they got something with some fat and/or protein it would at least be better than just fistful after fistful of cracker.
2) Carbs mixed in with meals
One other way I tried to capitalize productively on IP’s love of carbs is to work them into dinner rather than on the side. For example, I have taken to making stir fry with udon noodles added in with the veggies and tofu. IP loves her noodles, and she gets some broccoli and carrots on her path to total noodle consumption. This turned out to be far more effective than withholding the rice for stir fry (which she really just wanted doused in butter),
3) Forgo the bread as a side (cornbread, biscuits, etc.)
While it was hard for me to do, I’ve stopped making “breads” to go with our dinners. I love to make biscuits with soup, cornbread with chili, pancakes with tofu scramble, etc, especially in the winter. But it was becoming a battle at dinner, so I had to let it go. We started just serving the actual dinner, without a carb side, and then the kids can choose if they are going to eat that or not eat anything – but I no longer have to negotiate “how many bites do I have to eat before I can get my biscuit?”
4) Chill out
Ultimately, I had to just relax a bit. Just because my toddler loves carbs doesn’t mean she is malnourished. I started thinking about what she ate over the course of a week, rather than the one meal I was usually focused on: dinner. Overall IP eats lots of tofu, peanut butter, carrots, and fruit in addition to her carb intake. She is healthy, active, and a generally happy kid (well, except for naptime). So, I just had give up some cornbread with my chili and relax a bit, and it really is working just fine.