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Mealtime Melee

By SAMANTHA DELLINGER

Smart Mama

Do you know what it’s like living in a house full of picky eaters?

If you can answer yes, then you’ll understand. If not, consider yourself lucky.

I actually dread mealtime, or hope that my husband, William, just decides to throw a pizza in the oven, a staple of the Dellinger household.

Take my stepdaughter, Britni. She is a veggie hater. And William is not much better.

Before he met me, his meals consisted of pizza, chicken patties, pizza and occasional steak. And did I mention pizza?

But the pickiest eater of all is my 5-year-old son, Vincent.

I can count all the foods he likes on one hand.

And some of them are very strange. For example, his favorite food is a peanut-butter and-cheese sandwich. (I get grossed out just thinking about it.) But at least he gets his dairy and protein.

My neighbor suggested the other day that I should just force-feed my son.

I thought about that.

I envisioned strapping him in a chair and robotically shoving a fork in his mouth. Then poof! Reality sets in, and I know that no amount of forcing can be good.

William was forced to eat certain foods as a child. Now, he can’t stand the sight of mayonnaise, which is just one of his food phobias.

My parents never forced me to eat or even clean my plate. As a grown-up, I will eat or try something at least once before banishing it from my plate.

My love for a variety of foods comes from my ethnic background.

My mother, who is Korean, would often make two different meals at dinner: a meat-and-potato meal for my dad and a Korean dish for me.

My grandmother’s Pennsylvania Dutch cooking is the best I ever had.

Having a variety of foods available to me, without pressure to eat any of it, helped me grow up to be a well-rounded eater. I enjoy potpie to Bi Bim Bop (Korean one-dish meal made with bulgogi-style meat and marinated vegetables).

Surprisingly, Vincent eats some Korean food, but not much.

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Vincent immediately rejects new foods all the time, but he’s very nice about it.

I will say, “Hey, Vincent, do you want to try a hamburger?” His response will be a polite “No, thank you, Mom.”

But there are moments when he surprises me.

He recently announced to us that he likes chicken patties.

The funny thing is, he has eaten chicken nuggets since he was able to eat solid food. And although chicken patties are essentially the same things, they don’t look the same.

You see, “new” food includes food that looks different, too.

So, how do I change this seemingly bad habit? I don’t — or at least I don’t force it.

Vincent’s habits will change in time, and this fall he will start kindergarten. Being around other children and seeing what they eat will help. (I hope.)

His doctor says he is at a healthy weight, so for now I don’t worry about his picky tendencies.

I continue to ask Vincent to try new foods, and he still politely refuses.

But there are those rare days when he decides to try new food and actually likes it.

And that’s progress.

Samantha Dellinger is the graphic designer for Smart. To read more Smart Mama columns, click here.

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