I distinctly remember my grade school lunches.  Mom would give me money to buy hot lunch, I would pocket the money, and choose cash over food.  In middle school I switched to a private school and along with the regular hot lunch, they also served an àla carte style lunch.  What started as a pretzel and string cheese a day, quickly morphed into a 2 or 3 pretzel a day lunch, where I brought my own money to supplement the money my mom gave me.

Turns out it wasn’t the cash I wanted so much as the ability to eat what I wanted.  Once the opportunity to eat something I really liked arrived and I didn’t have a mom around to monitor my actions, I jumped on it and quickly did so to excess.

Mazie is a child much like I was.  She will forgo a meal without a second thought if she deems it not to her liking, and she will eat like a large adult male if there is something that she loves up for grabs.

I’d really like to keep her from trekking down my same food path as I don’t think it’s a very good one, but figuring out how to transform her into a person that likes lots of stuff and knows how to stop eating when she’s full, seems a daunting task.

My latest plan involves candy.  I know, I know, it doesn’t sound good, but so far it’s working and the trade-off seems worth it.  I have high hopes that in a year or two she might genuinely like more foods and if not, well at least she’ll have better nutrition in the meantime.

I think a lot of the battle with kids like Mazie who are really picky, but don’t have a true food aversion, is getting them to eat stuff that they don’t like more than once.  It’s been shown that if a person eats a food they don’t like, many times after eating that food 10-15 times they will either develop a taste for it or at least find it okay.  Since I can’t open Mazie’s mouth and shove the food in, and simple tactics that might work with less picky children don’t work with her, I’m sticking with the candy.

She got a bottle of assorted fruit-shaped candy for her birthday.  Each piece of candy is small and the candy is reserved only for ’earning for eating’.  When a meal is served I tell her how many bites of something (usually 3 or 4) she doesn’t like she needs to eat to earn a piece of candy.  Once she earns a piece of candy she gets it right then and there.  There is no candy offered for foods that I know she doesn’t have a problem eating.

A couple of nights ago she had a child-sized portion of salad and ate it all.  The salad wasn’t just some lettuce thrown into a bowl; it was chock-full of nutritious stuff.  This type of thing has never happened before.  The best we’ve done up to this point is getting her to eat a bite or two of something she doesn’t like.  Now she is eating 10-20 decent sized bites of stuff she wouldn’t have touched before.

It’s made dinner fun instead of something she dreads, and watching her eat things willingly, without complaint, is a magical thing for me.  You can call me a bad mother and I won’t even mind.  I’ll be watching my six-year-old eat salad.