Growing boy

Adam took the day off from work today to take Marcus to his pediatrician for his 4-year check up today.  We’ve been worried about Marcus’ picky eating and extreme aversion to most veggies and fruits.

I guess we should try to relax a little.  His doctor said that Marcus is doing fine.  He’s in the 95th percentile for height and the 90th percentile for weight.  I still don’t like how he refuses fruits/veggies either on principle or on the mistaken belief that I’m trying to kill him.  But I guess we’ll keep moving forward with our general strategies: (1) don’t force food on him; (2) involve him in cooking; (3) make trying new foods fun and adventurous; and (4) keep our fingers crossed.  We’re totally guilty of tying dessert to mealtimes.  I know you’re not supposed to do it, but how am I expected to say, “Sure, have a cookie even though you’ve eaten only two bites of your dinner”?  Well, at least his eating habits haven’t stunted his growth.  Yet.

Oh, and poor kid had to get a flu shot.  Ouch!

Ice cream (fro yo) makes everything better though.


Miso happy!

Picky eating triumph tonight for our family dinner!  Marcus helped me make miso salmon, and he gobbled it up.  He also ate some zucchini that we broiled along with the salmon (without gagging!) and a plain brown rice onigiri.  Easy and fun to cook, and healthy to boot.  Booyah!

Cutting up some “zucchini moons.”

Painting the miso glaze on salmon and zucchini.

“Me so love miso salmon! And zucchini! And onigiri!”
(“And me so needs a haircut!”)

Sadly, Gavin was not as impressed.
(“Me so needs a haircut too…”)

Recipe below, with kid-friendly steps, based on a Cooking Light recipe that we’ve made for years now.

Miso Salmon


1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 pound salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick, skin-on is fine)
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch thick rounds or half-moons
Aluminum foil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives


1. Preheat broiler. Cover a shallow pan with aluminum foil.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl and have child stir well with a whisk.

3. Arrange salmon skin-side down in center of pan, then allow child to arrange zucchini around it. Have child “paint” the salmon and zucchini moons with the miso glaze.

4. Broil the salmon and zucchini for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork, basting the fish and veggies twice more with the miso glaze.

5. Because you don’t use cooking spray, the salmon skin will stick to the aluminum. I use a thin spatula to slide the salmon right off of its skin and onto a platter. Sprinkle with chives and serve!

Crispity crunchity delicious!

Ok, so I apparently missed the bandwagon on crispy roasted chickpeas.  Everyone was doing it ages ago.  This isn’t surprising given that I often am behind the 8 ball.  I missed the kale chip bandwagon too, which was just as well since no one in our family ended up liking them.  Marcus ate some, but I think he only did it for the salt.  But I digress.

I somehow stumbled across crispy chickpeas on Steamy Kitchen and immediately decided to try them out on Marcus.  Marcus is a picky little fella, but he does love crunchy food.  Chips, croutons, nuts, pretzels, etc.  So long as the crunchy item is not a fruit or a vegetable, Marcus will eat it.  It’s too bad that most crunchy foods that fit that description (aside from nuts) just aren’t that good for you.  Then along come crispy chickpeas.  They’re crunchy, brown (why do kids love brown foods?), tasty, healthy, and easy to make!  The ingredients are ultra-simple: chickpeas, olive oil, salt, and spices.  You can get as creative as you want with the flavorings (see links above for suggestions), and you can go savory or sweet.  I decided to go simple savory for this first go-round.

Knowing that Marcus is more likely to eat things that he’s had a hand in making, I enlisted his help to make his after-school snack.  I have to say that it was a resounding success.  I thought the chickpeas were great.  More importantly, Marcus loved them.  I asked him how much he liked the “gobble gobble garbanzo beans,” and he said: “As big as a humongous truck because they’re so yummy and because I like them so much, Mama!”  He proceeded to eat three quarters of the batch, murmuring happily to himself as he crunched along.  After he finished the last one and licked his fingers clean, he announced, “I need to tell you one more thing about these.  I like spices.  I like salt.  And I like garbanzo beans.”  Hooray!

Mixing in the spices.

Cooling off the first chickpea to be eaten.  (Someone needs a haircut!)

Finishing up the last few bites.  (Can I please have those lashes?!)

So here’s the basic recipe, with kid-friendly steps noted.

Crispity Crunchity Chickpeas

One can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Set up baking sheet in front of child and let him line it with paper towels.
  2. Pour chickpeas into a strainer and rinse them thoroughly.  Remove any of the thin skins that fall off.  Tap the strainer to get rid of as much water as you can.  Then let child pour the chickpeas onto the paper towel and spread them out with his hands.  Get another paper towel and let him use it to roll the beans around to thoroughly dry them.  Remove and discard any additional skins that fall off of the beans.
  3. Measure out a small amount of olive oil (we only needed about a teaspoon or so) and let the child pour it onto the chickpeas.  Let him roll the chickpeas around in the oil with his hands until they are thoroughly coated.  Then it’s hand-washing time after you pop the baking sheet into the oven.
  4. Roast the chickpeas for 30-40 minutes until they are golden brown and crunchy all the way through.  We had to roast ours for a good 45 minutes to get them all crunchy (but be careful not to burn them!).
  5. Pour the chickpeas into a big bowl (to help avoid burns) and let the child put in the spices.  We used salt, pepper, and Magic salt free seasoning.  Let the child mix the spices in, then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.  Enjoy!

Picky eater extraordinaire

Marcus once was a chubby little bubby.  At his 15-month appointment, he weighed in at over 29 lbs (Gavin was about 2 lbs less at the same age, and he’s no skinny mini).  Marcus’ adorable little fat rolls were due in large part to his very healthy appetite. The boy would scarf everything from chicken parmigiana to bibimbap.  If we ate it, he would too.  In fact, he’d get downright ornery if we didn’t share.  It was so awesome to be parents of one of those kids that just eats and enjoys everything.  At least for a little while.

When Marcus hit the 18-month mark, he morphed into Mr. Independent Toddler.  He tried to exert his will with regard to just about everything although with varying degrees of success (given that we were bigger than him).  But food was one of the few areas where he was in the captain’s seat.  If he didn’t want to eat something, there was nothing we could do.  It was a rookie parenting mistake on our part to let him see how much that bothered us.  Marcus wielded his new found power of refusal like a light saber, cutting us to the quick and trimming off his delicious baby fat.  He refused new foods, he refused foods he’d eaten before, then he refused what once were favorite foods.  At one point, Marcus wouldn’t even eat macaroni and cheese (which I thought was the standby of picky eaters across America) and actually gagged on watermelon.  I mean, seriously.  Who gags on watermelon?  It got to the point where Marcus would only eat chicken, bananas, yogurt, string cheese, and sometimes rice.  He refused pasta, potatoes, all fruits other than bananas and sometimes the random kiwi, and all vegetables.  I started drinking heavily the day he refused to eat a banana.  (Well, I should’ve anyway.)

Supposedly picky eating is pretty common, but it certainly didn’t seem like it.  One friend claimed, as I watched her son happily gnawing on tomato wedges and other vitamin-filled vegetables, “Oh, my son is picky too!  He won’t eat . . . chicken.”  Um, chicken is just about the only thing my son will eat.  Around another friend’s son we had to spell out fruit names during mealtimes.  If we forgot and mentioned “blueberries” in conversation, he’d stop eating and demand instant fruit gratification.  “Please.  Shoot.  Me.” I would think.  And then there were the countless books, cookbooks, and blogs that I’d read whose authors all had kids that seemed naturally more open to trying and eating different foods.  I bet their kids never gagged on watermelon or thought that their mom was trying to poison them with macaroni and cheese.

Picky eating is like childbirth.  You have to go through it to understand it.  You can’t explain the pain of having a picky eater to someone who has never had one.  You can’t express the feelings of frustration, anger, depression, helplessness, and guilt that pummel you as you watch your child time and time again refuse to eat food that you’ve lovingly prepared for him, food that you know he would like if he would just try it, food that he needs for his body and mind to grow strong.  All you can do is give him a good multivitamin, try your best to expand his palate without treading on his precious independence or creating psychological problems for him down the road, and grit your teeth when faced with non-picky eaters and their lucky parents.

All that being said, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  With Marcus turning 4 this November, it has been an incredibly long and dark tunnel, but I think we finally are nearing the other side.  After much trial and error (and we’ve tried just about everything under the sun), Marcus is trying and eating more foods, including veggies and fruits.  He gradually is expanding his palate at a rate that he’s comfortable with.  I think our success in helping Marcus overcome his food phobia is due in large part to two things:

  1. Having Marcus attend a preschool where he eats a school-provided breakfast and lunch with his peers.  It’s nice to be able to control what goes into your kid’s lunchbox, but that’s useless if your kid doesn’t ever eat it.  Marcus is more likely to try a new food if all of his friends are eating the exact same thing.
  2. Cooking “family dinners” with Marcus.  We recently moved to the ‘burbs and now have a spacious kitchen that is more conducive to cooking with kids.  Marcus loves to cut vegetables, taste and add ingredients, stir the pot, etc.  He’s inordinately proud of the meals he cooks and usually eats a good portion too.

We also found this 5-part series on picky eating from Raise Healthy Eaters very helpful.  It’s the most comprehensive guidance that I’ve seen that takes into account the fact that kids have different eating personalities.  Some kids are naturally enthusiastic eaters, some are more cautious, and then there are others who are ultra-cautious.  Eating strategies that work for one kid may not necessarily work for another.  (I’ve got my fingers crossed that Gavin continues to be an Enthusiastic Eater, but I know not to count my chickens before they hatch.  He’s only 16 months old, so we’re still happily in the I-will-scream-if-I-can’t-shovel-that-into-my-face phase.)