When we found out our oldest son had CSID I was panicked that all the hard work we had done to diversify his diet and make food fun would be in vain. Would mealtimes become a drudge? Would all the food be plain and tasteless? Would my son (who loves to eat) become a picky eater?
No. He would not. I was determined to make this new challenge a "food adventure". Every week during the induction diet we talked about what foods we could add and how they made him feel. I also stuck to my guns on our basic toddler "food rules" that have served us well so far:
- I will make you food that is safe, healthy and delicious. I will fill your plate with things that you like and things that you may learn to like.
- You don't have to eat it, but it will sit in view during the meal. (Toddlers apparently have to see something on the table presented as food up 5-6 times before they consent to eat it.)
- If you try it, awesome. If not, no comment. You don't have to like it and you don't have to finish it, but...
- Don't be surprised if I present it again. (Toddlers apparently have to try something 15+ times before a pattern of like or dislike is established. That is for each preparation of the ingredient.)
- We are not short order cooks. If you don't like the meal, oh well, that's too bad. But I won't be popping up to make something new. I like my food hot.
- You will participate as you are able in meal prep. Sometimes that means setting the table, sometimes that means clean up, sometimes that means stirring, and sometimes that means doing something awesome like using cookie cutters to cut your food into fun shapes of your choice. We are all in this together.
- Desert is contingent on good behavior, a willingness to try new things, and availability. Not on clearing your plate.
Kiddo knows that he is on a 'special diet', but, he believes that everyone has their own special diet. And in our family, that is true more often than not. Between allergies, sensitivities, high blood pressure and other health concerns, many people in his life follow their own 'special diet' and for that I am grateful-not because it is fun for them, but because they do follow their diets, and it keeps them healthy.
We have told kiddo that everyone needs to eat food that makes their body healthy, and he enjoys asking people about their diet and what makes their body feel good. He is really proud of his weight gain, his strong arms and his round belly, and the healthy food choices that have made him feel strong, happy and ready to play again. This has minimized the urge to feel jealous of food on someone else's plate. He will ask about the food, then announce whether or not it is a food that is on his diet. This morning he saw my cereal box, (he eats eggs for breakfast, I am allergic) asked me a few questions about it, then announced matter of factly, 'I don't eat that, it has starch.' I told him that he was very responsible and it was nice to see him making good choices for his body.
Responsibility is great, but he is still just three. I believe food should be FUN. Fun food makes making good choices easier. And while that may mean spices and colors and textures to me, to my toddler it is all about shapes. So I try it make some lunches, snacks and breakfast foods into shapes he will enjoy. Here are some photos of his plate from the last few weeks, using foods that he CAN eat:
Orange slice cars with strawberry windows, grape wheels and cheese sun and clouds. Served with milk, yogurt and Sucraid. Oranges are very thinly sliced and are an occasional super special treat.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom cheese plate snack. This was for an upset tummy day, so no fruit. I cut out the shapes from deli cheese using kitchen shears. He had been playing Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and didn't want to stop for a snack, so I made the snack part of the play.
Another 'sad tummy' day. Hot dog, cheese and strawberry robot. Served with poweraid zero and Sucraid. This was apparently terrifying. You have been warned. (I suspect he just could not eat that day.)
Kiwi and hotdog forest. Spinach 'grass', deli cheese sun and clouds. Served with milk, yogurt, and Sucraid.
Cheese and fruit snack plate...deli cheese duck (cookie cutter) and nest with sliced strawberry eggs. Served with milk and Sucraid.
Tree and flower lunch. Hotdog, sautéed kale, cantaloupe, strawberries and grapes. Served with milk and Sucraid.
Another safety meal. Hot dog house, pickle door and windows, grape 'shrubbery', deli cheese cloud, mustard sun. Served with milk (Sucraid optional).
Fruit and cheese boat. Thinly sliced watermelon (this is about his limit per serving) cheese boat, carrot stick mast (one stick-this is his limit for raw carrots) strawberry boat decorations, pepperoni fish. Served with milk, yogurt, Sucraid and second helpings of meat and cheese.
Fruit snack boat, thinly sliced cantaloupe and watermelon, 3 grapes (2 are cut in half) served with yogurt, milk and Sucraid.
Not every meal is decorative, but they still look good! Pizza (pepperoni cooked crispy, topped with 'green stuff' either spinach, sautéed kale or broccoli, and cheese) watermelon and cantaloupe, sautéed kale. Served with milk and Sucraid, plus extra helpings of pizza.
Yogurt, mixed with mashed ripe strawberries and dextrose powder. Adding fruit and sweetener to the plain yogurt really helps break up the monotony.
Almost every morning he asks for 'egg shapes' this is one of his FAVORITE breakfast foods...and he gets to help! We scramble an egg as if for an omlet, cook it in a small non stick pan, and serve it to him flat on a cutting board. Our cookie jar is now filled with cutters, (not cookies) and he gets to pick out shapes to make his egg shapes.
Here are the finished egg shapes. Right now we have the spring/Easter cutters out. Even the 'scraps' are delicious.
Chipmunk cheeks here wants you to remember: Just because your kid is on a special diet does not mean you can't have some fun with your food.
Food is awesome. Enjoy!