Every so often in my journey as a picky eater, it is important for me to step back and appreciate just how far I have come.
To that end, I ate huevos rancheros for lunch the other day: Homemade corn tortillas; cooked salsa of organic crushed tomatoes, green chiles, and black beans; leftover grilled organic onions and bell peppers from fajitas; fried slices of nitrite-free ham; pastured eggs cooked in grassfed butter; grassfed raw organic Cheddar cheese; cultured Kalona sour cream. (We were out of avocado or there would have been some on this plate as well.) Served with a glass of local raw grassfed milk and an organic Valencia orange.
The photo doesn’t do the meal any justice. It was delicious, but the real victory here is that, a decade ago, I would have rejected literally 75% of the foods on that plate, and the quality of the rest of them (egg, cheese, and maybe onions and peppers if I was feeling adventurous) would have been far lower, all conventional products. In fact,Â I would have avoided the whole concept of the meal because I disliked the entire category of Mexican food.
- I disliked corn tortillas and would have chosen flour.
- I despised tomatoes, and would have eaten only a token bite. I would find the chiles too spicy, and I would have eaten around the beans.
- I would never have touched the ham, which has a texture I disliked.
- I hated sour cream, and wouldn’t eat anything it touched on my plate. (I also hated the squishy texture and grassy flavor of avocados and anything made from them, like guacamole.)
- I disliked whole milk at the time because I was so used to the taste of 1%; raw milk has a flavor with much more character than even whole pasteurized milk, and the unhomogenized cream would have freaked me out.
- Eating the whole orange (and not a clementine, at that!) is a particularly recent victory for me, because oranges pose so many textural challenges.Â
(This photo is amazing because Nolan almost never plays on equipment without prompting.)
And while I am celebrating victories in picky eating, I have to mention Nolan’s recent progress in this area as well! We have been fighting back from extreme picky eating habits that developed while he was sick and would only eat chocolate-hazelnut Zing bars or noodles with nutritional yeast and olive oil. Since his diet was already so limited and he was having bowel irregularities from a round of strong antibiotics, I went ahead and moved him back onto a gluten-free diet. He does not like any of the gluten-free noodles as well as their durum relatives, but he was eating far too much pasta anyway.
After several weeks on the gluten-free diet, we have not yet seen improvements in his bowel movements, but his appetite has recently picked up significantly, as has his willingness to eat a few more foods, most notably meats, but a few other items as well. Some of Nolan’s recent food victories include:
- Eating chicken, turkey, steak, meatloaf, pork, chicken-apple sausages, lamb, buffalo, ham, and even mahi mahi willingly: By this I mean that he didn’t run away or otherwise avoid it when offered, took bites every time I held it up to his mouth, and didn’t spit it out afterwards. This is huge!
- Eating Epic bars in addition to Zing bars: These are paleo protein bars made from high quality meats and fruit, with a texture like soft jerky. Nolan has successfully tried the buffalo, lamb, and turkey bars.
- Eating vegetable chips and other non-potato root veggies willingly. This started with Terra exotic vegetable chips: Before his sickness, Nolan would eat these but pick out only the ones that most resembled white potato chips, avoiding the sweet potatoes and beets especially. Now he will eat any color chip from that brand, and also likes my homemade sweet potato skinnies (whenever I peel organic sweet potatoes for a mash, I fry up the long skinny peelings in bacon grease for a snack!). Last night, he graduated to eating chunks of roasted Japanese sweet potato (pictured above in all its violet glory!).
- Using incentives: I can sometimes get Nolan to eatÂ non-preferred foods of his own volition using a first/then model with a highly preferred food. Right now bites of Zing bar, chocolate chips, potato or other veggie chips, and gluten-free cheese crackers (from Outside the Breadbox, a local GF bakery) are his most highly preferred items; I have gotten him to independently take bites of apples, carrots, and Epic bars with this method, although sometimes he tries to cheat and take tiny bites or else shove the whole thing in his mouth and then try to spit it out after I hand him the reward.
- I saved the best for last. Last weekend we were out of town until just before dinnertime, so Jeremy offered to get Indian food for dinner. I sat down with my plate while I was trying to work out what to make for Nolan, and he came over and started stealing bites of rice around the edges. I shared bites of plain rice, then started offering bites with a little korma sauce on them, and he ate it. Then he ate rice with saag (which is green–this is impressive all by itself!), then he ate rice with sauce and chicken, then rice with sauce and lamb. He ended up eating half of the food on my plate, and I made him up his own little plate afterwards too. This was such an unexpected miracle that I could not stop talking about it, and it still amazes me to this day. I would never have touched Indian food at his age (and for nearly 30 years after his age, come to that!).
The baby, who is now nearly 11 months old, is still an excellent eater who gobbles down everything I offer him. However, he is beginning to assert preferences in terms of how the food gets into his mouth: he wants to feed himself everything with his own little hands. I have had to be creative about finger foods for him because he only just cut his second tooth this morning, but here are a few ideas that have worked for us recently:
- Pastured egg yolk, cooked like a little pancake over low heat until just set, and cut into “noodles”
- Kelp noodles, cut in bite-sized pieces
- Jello made from grassfed gelatin and freshly extracted juices, or reduced bone broth (if you reduce it enough, it basically turns to meat jello upon refrigeration)
- Stewed dried fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces (this works well with prunes, apricots, raisins, and other fruits that are not in season or are hard to find frozen; make sure they are organic and preservative-free)
- Salmon roe (make sure it is free of coloring and preservatives)
- Olives cut into bite-size pieces (make sure they are high quality, free of chemical additives and omega-6 oils)
- Bits of gently cooked chicken liver, braised meat, and fish
- Peas or diced well-cooked veggies (cooked in bone broth or sauted in grassfed butter, marrow, or coconut oil is great; I just introduced golden beets cooked in lamb stock)
- Shredded/spiralized cooked veggies
- Bits of fermented veggies and fruits (like sauerkraut)