Monday, January 09, 2006

Toddler Food Likes and Dislikes

By Christina VanGinkel

Our two-year-old grandson visited us over the weekend, and my daughter asked if we would try to get him to eat, as he seems to be going through one of what we all have come to call his non-eating periods. This basically means that he eats nothing. He will drink his sippy cup of milk, but that is it.

On Saturday evening when we picked him up, we stopped at a friend's cabin. They were up for the weekend, and though my husband had seen them the week before, I had not seen them in several months, and with our grandson in tow, we thought it would be a good time to stop by. Even though it was after the regular dinnertime, we managed to catch them right in the middle of their dinner. They invited us in and after a brief discussion; she fixed a bowl of plain noodles for our grandson. They were having chili, but as she pointed out, kids who are going through a stage of not wanting to eat anything are sometimes more apt to eat something plain than something fussy. He ended up not touching the pasta, but he did devour several saltine crackers.

The next morning, he still was not ready to eat for us, but mid morning, he asked if he could have a banana. He ate that, and then ended up having a good-sized bowl of fruit cocktail. A few bites of lunch later in the afternoon, followed up by a healthy dinner, and his appetite seemed back to normal.

Kid's appetites seem to come and go, at least in our family. It was quite common for my daughter to go days without consuming anything but milk and maybe a peanut butter sandwich or a piece of cheese. My youngest son would get into a groove where he would only eat certain foods. String cheese, crackers, and milk would be his only sustenance for days at a time. When my grandson picked up this habit, I was able to reassure my daughter that as long as he did not keep it up over long periods, that his non-eating was only lasting for a day or two at a time, and that he continued to drink his milk during these brief protests of anything food related, that it was normal. Why my kids took part in this when they were young, and now my grandson too, I have no idea. I recall asking our pediatrician about it when my daughter was about a week into eating only peanut butter, her milk, and a couple of apples, and he responded that as long as they were healthy, and continued to drink their milk and take a bite here and there, they were normal in every respect. Kids just do this sometimes. Maybe they are teething, or they just do not like what is being offered. Even foods they liked a week ago, may suddenly not appeal to them. As they grow, so do their likes and dislikes of foods. Textures suddenly are noticeable, flavors may seem more intense, or a smell associated with a food may be noticed where it was not before.

My youngest son use to love mushrooms and broccoli, for real. He would ask for them at dinner, and would choose a bowl of broccoli soup over a cheeseburger if given the choice. He is now thirteen years old, and when we were discussing our grandson's eating habits this past weekend, we brought this up. He looked at us as if we had lost our minds. In his memory, he has never liked broccoli or mushrooms. We must have imagined it was his final reply on the subject. That was until I pulled out old snapshots of him helping me cook a pot of broccoli and cheese soup when he was about four, and a picture of him at the table eating the same soup he had just helped me make. He suddenly got a big grin on his face and replied that he did remember. When I asked him, why he does not eat those foods now, his response was just as simple. He said his taste buds must have been different back then. Maybe they were!

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