“I Like Meat Now”-An Interview with My 6-Year Old

November 4, 2013 in Categories: , , , , , by

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Transitioning my kids to a paleo diet wasn’t easy, especially with my oldest who had just turned 4 years old when we started this journey.  I haven’t written extensively about the challenges we faced, but you can read about part of the transition in Challenge #2: My Kids, Why I Cater To My Kids, Challenge #2 Update: My Still Spirited but Much Healthier Kids, Towing a Harder Line with My Kids, and Celebrating Another Milestone with My Oldest Daughter). 

My daughter was extremely picky with sensory avoidance of mixed textures, strong flavors, and temperature extremes.  She lacked mouth coordination and jaw strength to effectively chew foods so almost everything she ate was very soft.  Her pre-paleo staples were pre-sliced orange medium cheddar cheese on club crackers and granola that has soaked long enough in milk to become mush.  She disliked all meat (except McDonald’s chicken nuggets), and rarely ate vegetables (she like overcooked edemame and peas), and even wasn’t a huge fan of fruit.  I could count on my fingers the number of different foods she would eat (no toes required). And unlike other kids, who will eventually eat something they don’t like because they are hungry enough, my daughter would literally starve.

Let me just talk about this whole kid who would literally die of starvation rather than east something unpalatable to them thing.  I know parents whose children will eventually eat something if they get hungry enough don’t understand that this really is possible.  But, as a mother of one of each kind of child, who has tried dozens of strategies to get the picky one to eat, who was under doctor’s orders to fatten her up asap because she grew so dangerously thin by one year of age, who even did occupational therapy with her to work on eating food, I can tell you this is a real thing.  It’s certainly a minority of kids, but the whole just send them to bed without anything else and they’ll eventually eat _____ doesn’t work for every kid.  And, I know that those of you with kids who would actually die rather than eat something yucky are probably reading this and feeling relieved that it’s not something they’re doing wrong.   You’re not a failure, you’re not alone, and there are gentle, gradual things that you can do to change this.

Our biggest hurdle with my oldest was getting her to eat meat.  As she got better as chewing, she also started to enjoy the flavors of meat, and eating more vegetables and a wider variety of fruit just came along for the ride.  I believe that going paleo actually helped dramatically (from a gut health, nutrient-density to be able to build muscle, and brain health perspective in the sense of learning the coordination to eat, and calming the anxiety that she felt about food).

From my own perspective, we did a mix of firm (but reasonable) rules, encouragement, positive reinforcement, funny little games, peer pressure, yelling out of frustration (I’m not proud of it, but in the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I probably yelled more dinner times than I didn’t in the early days of working on this), bribery (most typically with fruit but sometimes with dessert and sometimes with other rewards), catering (in the sense that we often provided softer meats like ground meat, chicken fingers, and grass-fed hot dog for her to eat), and patience (it took a little over a year between when we decided that we needed to work on this and when mealtimes started to feel easy at least some of the time).  I can’t tell you which of these strategies was actually effective.  It always seemed like a moving target.  What worked to get her to eat her meat one night would fail the next.  So, I thought I would ask my daughter what her perspective was and share that with you.

I didn’t tell my daughter what the “interview” was about before we started.  All of her answers are off-the-cuff (as are most of my questions).  I hope that you can find some insight and ideas in this interview, and at the very least see just how adorable (yet precocious) my daughter is!

Audio Interview

(please ignore the soundtrack to Dumbo in the background… I let my youngest watch a movie so that my oldest and I could do this interview without being interrupted!)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Interview Transcript

Sarah: I want to ask you some questions about meat. And I’m hoping that the answers to your questions might help some other kids to eat healthier foods.

Sarah’s Daughter:  Ok, I’ve got it.

Sarah:  Do you remember when you used to not like meat?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Yes, I do.

Sarah:  What about meat didn’t you like?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Hmm. I guess the flavor. But nowadays, now I think I like the flavor a little more.

Sarah:  What’s your favorite kind of meat?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Chicken fingers.

Sarah:  Chicken fingers. What else do you like?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Hot dog.

Sarah: Hot dog. Anything else?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Hmm. I like all sorts of meats, but those are my favorites.

Sarah:  Those are your favorites?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Uh-huh.

Sarah:  What kinds of meat do you not like?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Liver.

Sarah:  Now, you don’t like liver when it’s plain, but do you like it when I mix it with something else?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Kind of. I don’t really remember.

(Commentary:  I don’t think she realizes how often she eats liver hidden in something like meatloaf.  Also, I think that pork chops are her actual favorite, but she pretty much eats all kinds of meat easily now)

Sarah:  Why do you think you like meat now but you didn’t before?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Because before, back in the days when we ate gluten, I think it was because my tummy was upset and it was making me not that hungry, so I didn’t really eat my meat.

Sarah:  So, do you think you like meat now because your tummy isn’t upset very much anymore?

Sarah’s Daughter: Yes.

Sarah: Do you think that getting bigger and getting better at chewing foods might be part of why you like meat now?

Sarah’s Daughter: Yes.

Sarah:  Do you remember that it used to be hard to chew meat?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Oh yeah. I kept chewing and chewing and chewing for hours.

Sarah:  You remember that?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Uh-huh.

Sarah:  And you had a hard time swallowing after you chewed it; do you remember that?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Yeah. Because I was afraid I might choke on big pieces.

Sarah: Is that why?

Sarah’s Daughter: Uh-huh.

Sarah:  So you would chew and chew and chew and not swallow because you were afraid of choking?

Sarah’s Daughter: Yeah.

Sarah: Are you afraid of that now?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Nuh-uh.

Sarah:  Do you think it’s kind of easy to eat meat now?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Yes, it’s easy.

Sarah:  So, Mommy and Daddy had some pretty firm rules about meat, right?

Sarah’s Daughter: Right.

Sarah: You had to eat the meat on your plate and stuff like that?

Sarah’s Daughter: But I didn’t want to and I didn’t.

Sarah:  But then you did it anyway- Oh, you didn’t want to do it because it was a rule?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Right.

Sarah:  Do you think having that rule helped you like meat or do you think you would have started to like meat anyway?

Sarah’s Daughter: I think I would have started to like meat anyway.

Sarah: Do you think-

Sarah’s Daughter: I gradually got meat because I gradually started to like my meat and also because all of these rules were like, not working, so I gradually ate my meat.

Sarah:  So you just gradually ate your meat?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Uh-huh.

Sarah:  What do you think would be better than those rules if there’s, like, another kid out there that doesn’t want to eat their meat; what do you think their Mommy and Daddy should do?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Hmm, let me think. (long pause) I think they should practice.

Sarah: Practice eating meat?

Sarah’s Daughter: Uh-huh.

Sarah:  Is that the same thing as having rules that you have to eat it or is it a little bit different?

Sarah’s Daughter:  It’s a little bit different.

Sarah:  Ok, can you explain to me how it’s different?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Well, it’s because practicing is being free, and [you are] trying to remember “eat my meat, eat my meat, eat my meat.” Even though you don’t want to just have to eat your meat. And then the flavor will gradually become better. When you have rules, it’s like you have to do something instead of remembering.

Sarah:  So, do you think it should be up to the kid to try to eat meat?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Yes.

Sarah: What do you think a mommy and daddy should do if a kid won’t eat, or even try, their meat? (pause) What do you think the mommy and daddy should say to get the kid to try their meat?

Sarah’s Daughter:  You never know. You might like it. You never know if you don’t try. This could be a favorite meat.

Sarah: And what if a kid tries it and doesn’t like it?

Sarah’s Daughter:  The parents would say, “You still have to eat it anyway.”

Sarah:  And do you think that would work?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Um, maybe. (pause)

Sarah: What advice do you have for kids who don’t like meat? What would you say if you were trying to help them like meat; what would you say to them?

Sarah’s Daughter: Okay, this one’s hard. Hmm. (long pause) I would take lots of chances and keep saying things like, “You might like it if you try. You don’t know if you like it if you don’t try.”

Sarah:  Now, you used to not like meat, and we had the rule that you had to eat it, and you kept eating it and kept eating and then you started to kind of like it. Do you think that might happen to other kids too?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Um, yes.

Sarah:  Do you think that eating more meat has made you healthier?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Yes. It’s made me grow fatter.

(Commentary:  We just finished reading Secret Garden and in that book, the kids getting “fatter” was a mark of health.  It’s not that she means fat in the negative way our society usually uses this term, but I think she means robust or solid.  She’s put on a lot of muscle in the last year and a half and that’s well reflected in her strength, speed and coordination.)

Sarah:  And that’s good, because you’re stronger now, right?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Yes.

Sarah:  And faster—

Sarah’s Daughter:  I used to have had to drag tree branches. Now I can lift them clearly up in the air.

Sarah:  Uh-huh. And you’re getting much faster too.

Sarah’s Daughter:  Yeah! I could probably run from where the hose it to where the big red dirt is, with the fence. I could probably run there in a minute or so.

Sarah:  Do you think you have more energy?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Yes.

Sarah:  Do you think you sleep better?

Sarah’s Daughter:  Yes.

Sarah:  And do you think all of that is because you’re eating more meat?

Sarah’s Daughter: Yes.

Sarah:  Do you think it’s also some of other healthy foods you eat?

Sarah’s Daughter:  More vegetables.

Sarah:  That’s probably true too.

Sarah’s Daughter:  And I’m not eating as much things that are not good for me like back in the days when we ate gluten.

Sarah:  That’s right. So if a kid doesn’t want to eat their meat, and they don’t like it, what do you think the mommy and daddy should let them eat?

Sarah’s Daughter: They should let them eat more tastier kinds of meat that are still healthy for them and they should let them eat more tastier things that are not meat like vegetables, for example. That still help them.

Sarah: That’s a very good idea.

Sarah’s Daughter: Thank you.

Sarah: So that’s all of my questions, did you have anything else that you wanted to say about helping kids learn to like healthy foods?

Sarah’s Daughter: There is one thing I want to say which is a closing sentence.

Sarah:  Alright, let’s hear your closing sentence.

Sarah’s Daughter:  Thank you for letting me…what’s that word again? Thank you for letting me interview for Mommy’s blog. I answered so many questions and Mommy thinks this is a really good idea. I’m sure lots of kids would like to follow both rules that I came up with and get healthy. Thank you. Goodbye.

Sarah: Very good.

Sarah’s daughter: Thank you.

**Special thanks to my assistant’s son Liam for transcribing the interview!** 

Comments

Wow, I’m really impressed with her! Good for her for recognizing that her health has improved with a better diet. And good for you too for helping your whole family to eat better.

Thank you so much for your blog and for writing your books. It makes it so much easier to tackle this crazy diet and try to stop my MS when you and other bloggers are cheering me on and posting recipes and other ideas.

She is adorable! We are struggling to get our 3yo to eat meat. She starts chewing and will then spit it out. Even bacon, which she loves! This article has given me some insight. Thank you.

Thank you, thank you for posting this. It gives me hope for my oldest son. He is also six and a member of the “I’d rather starve than eat meat or veggies” club. He has extreme texture aversions and anxiety over new foods. I can also count on just my fingers the foods he’ll eat. We did OT for a little while but it didn’t help a whole lot. I had kind of given up. But this gives me new hope, and I’m going to start pressing the issue more and working harder on it with him. Thank you again.

hello sarah, this interview touched my heart so much as i know to well that awfull sensation of “chewing and chewing unable to swallow” as it is what happens to me every time i drink red wine: may be you could look into amines intolerance, this is how i solve my enigma.
i beg your indulgence for my poor English
Lucie

It’s not just kids that can’t eat meat or in my case veggies (at 50 years old). I’m going paleo step by step but if I think about it too much I gag. In the past I would have chosen not eating anything than having to eat veggies or fruit. As a child I remember sitting at the dinner table for hours facing peas on my plate. Now that I am learning what is in the other food and how it effects my body plus wanting to have another healthy 50 years of life I am forcing myself to eat fruit and vegetables. But it is a struggle and not simply a choice. Just my 2 cents for what it’s worth.

I assume you’ve tried things like smoothies with blended vegetables and fruits…a great way to get them down as a yummy-tasting liquid with no chewing. Vegetables like carrots and celery are so sweet or mild that you can mix with frozen fruits and only taste the fruit. Throw in a frozen banana and anything tastes good!

Also, there are many powdered supplements that are nothing but dehydrated fruits and veggies. You stir them into water or juice and get nearly all the benefits of eating fresh fruit and veggies. I love fruit and vegetables, but can’t find time to prepare and eat as much as I should, so I nearly always start my day with one of those powdered supplements. Lately I’ve been using this brand and I really like it:

http://amazinggrass.com/category/16/Green-SuperFood.html

The berry flavor is yummy, and if they had the orange or pineapple one at my health food store, I would have tried those, too. This brand seems to be a better value than others I’ve looked at.

Good luck with your lifestyle changes! You’re doing the right thing. =)

We just played the interview to our seven-year-old son as he was eating chicken fingers (your recipe). We don’t know if it will make a difference yet, but it did inspire a good conversation. By the way, how did you get the chicken to come out so brown? Mine didn’t look as good but it tasted great. We will definitely make it again.

Oh, your girl is adorable! I’m so grateful for this article and interview. It seems like you’ve gone down the same path we have with Occupational Therapy, rules, and the like. We have a 6 year old who is as you used to describe your daughter. At age 4 she went over 24 hours of not eating rather than eat something she didn’t want to eat. We finally gave in after 24 hours.
She’s getting better ever since she turned 5. Perhaps because of stronger jaw muscles? Still doesn’t eat meat (not even chicken nuggets) or vegetables and basically subsists on bread, cereals, PB, some fruit and yogurt. I should probably say she lives because of vitamins. We’re still trying to come up with a plan to change this but knowing you went down this path and now have an eater encourages me. Thank you for sharing this!

What your daughter said about choking really resonated with me. When our Bastian was 2yo, he would often refuse meat. Like another poster’s child, he would sometimes chew it but then spit it out. Soon before he turned 3yo, it occurred to me that he might feel like he is going to choke so I started cutting his meat really, really small. Like, most people would feel okay giving these tiny pieces to a child much younger… Anyway, it worked! He eats most meat now. Since we are gluten free – and steering toward Paleo – this was an extra-important step that he needed to take.

I’m curious if your daughter is or has ever been in ketosis? My twins, age 6.5, apparently are according to two day’s of Ketostix testing. I do not want them to be in ketosis! We only just started them on Paleo a week ago. I made lots of snacks from Paleo Parents recipes so they’re getting those but a big challenge is they don’t like bananas peeled or mashed potatoes or carrots! They DO like meat (obviously.) What is your experience? I am going to continue to try and find ways to incorporate starchy foods and carbs but if I can’t get them to bite then gluten free bread may be the pick of the day (they don’t like beans or rice either!)

I am no expert, but I try to keep “fruit salad” in the fridge to tempt my son with a couple of times per day. Sometimes, it’s only comprised of strawberries and cantaloupe while other times there are 4 or 5 fruits in there. He rarely turns it down, regardless. He does have gluten free bread about once a week. He’s lacto-Paleo and loves a good grilled cheese :-)

That’s a good thing to consider–lacto paleo! For now I’ve eliminated dairy just to see what happens with them, mainly because both kids are very emotional/dramatic and I have wondered if diet plays any part in it (or if just having the highly passionate parents did it!)

*lol* Yeah, both of my boys are full of dramaz *eye roll* My 3yo was a c-section baby so we still feed him yogurt w/ live cultures most mornings. Also, he occasionally has cheese. It’s so hard figuring out the right eating plan for kids.

Jodi – Yes! Our 3yo is asthmatic and has eczema. We took him off of gluten almost a year ago – after he had a scary stay in the hospital – and he has only had one asthma attack since. His eczema has also improved, but not gone away. Although we did not rely on processed foods as much as those around us, we decided what we were using had to go. This was a couple of months ago. Since then, our normally wan child has blossomed. In fact, a dear friend who had not seen him in about a year was visiting last week and she commented on how robust and healthy he looked now!

I posted back in Feb about my picky child and wanted to update in hopes it may help others. We found out shortly afterwards at a routine well-visit that our six year old was underweight. We were floored as she seemed normal to us but within a week of that visit we were able to take blinders off and see that she was looking gaunt and indeed underweight. We just hadn’t noticed until the doctor pointed out that her weight was decreasing while her height increased and she was falling off the growth chart..
This gave us courage to address her picky-ness. We no longer offered for her dinner only the handful of food she would eat (bread/pizza, yogurt, cereal, PB and grapes). Instead we gave her smaller portions of our regular meals. Food like salmon, broccoli, yam, and so on. In the past she would go on a hunger strike and we would dismiss her from the table. This time she had to stay there at the table until she ate it or made a very good attempt at eating it. She got dessert only if she finished. Snacks were banned from the house.
Forcing a kid to eat her meal is contrary to all the advice out there about picky eater children so it was not something we would have done if it weren’t for the severity of her pickyness and her weight situation. But it worked and I wanted to share that because it would have made be braver if I had read of it working before we tried it.
Some nights at the dinner table were incredibly hard. My husband and I worried we were doing the wrong thing and breaking her spirit. But what kept us going was she was ALWAYS so proud and happy after the meal that she ate a “real meal” like the rest of us. Often she danced and twirled afterwards. And this would be after 2 hours of crying and saying she wasn’t hungry and what’s more didn’t like the food!
She now has found she likes sweet potatoes and yams, squash, tolerates salmon, likes shrimp, thinks pasta is OK with red sauce, and has discovered other fruits besides grape that she will eat including lychee! In fact, with lychee I was not planning to give it to her but she asked for it.
I could not have done it without my husband’s help. Therefore I know if I were a single mom or if there were two parents like me, it would not have worked. But for those with at least one parent who could stay firm against resistance and who is at the end of their ropes with the stress picky eating is causing the family, I wanted to give tell our story for your consideration.

That’s a great story, and although we have picky eaters in the house we can’t really say we’ve met your level of challenge yet! In fact, thankfully they’re getting better than before (even six months ago there was a lot more drama about food.) So it’s a good word-to-the-wise as far as keeping them at the table. I need to mull on this because I think there’s something to glean either now or in the future for me. I have a very firm hubby and frankly, I’m pretty firm too! I think that’s why we’ve made as much progress as we have. Sweet potatoes and bananas are definitely needful in keeping Paleo kids from being in keto. Can I ask if you have gone full Paleo and was your daughter (or is she) full on Paleo too?
Thank you so much for your kind tone in the story and advice-sharing. I have met some pretty harsh replies implying I’m starving or harming my children. Not hardly! I let them have full on gluten cookies today. I didn’t make them of course but I don’t believe in being a food nazi, just teaching them and doing the best we can while at home.

Thanks for understanding our story. My daughter was so incredibly restricted in what “regular” foods she would eat that we were just trying to get her to expand her palate to include all food groups, not necessarily go Paleo. She still has a long way to go in accepting a variety of foods but she has something she will eat from all food groups now. We are using a technique called “food chaining” to get her to accept new foods. We also stopped the long hours at the table and now limit it so that she has half an hour to eat. And we try to limit or stop snacking throughout the day so there is real hunger at mealtimes. She is a different girl at mealtimes today than she was six months or a year ago but there’s still room for improvement. We’ve accepted now that adding new foods is going to be a slow process. Her repertoire of foods keep expanding so we’re good with that.

This was so sweet, and helpful! I’m going to play those audio files for my 6 year old boy. He’s very well rounded on what he eats, but he does struggle with meat.

Omg! She’s the cutest thing ever! I have a six year old down syndrome son that will eat anything at a restaurant, but will not eat at home. We are trying really hard to follow a Paleo plan. We live in San Diego and I frequent Julian Bakery. I bought Paleo bread to make sandwiches to send to school. Yesterday my son threw up his sandwich. I was told that he ate the ham and humus and this happened when they encouraged him to eat the bread. I was sending albacore with onion, celery, and carrots shredded in my food processor. I was trying to shake things up. He had been taken albacore daily since September. We encourage him to eat his meat. I would love for him to eat veggies too. I’m not so concerned, because he does juice plus and I puree them and he eats them like mashed potatoes. It is harder on a child that was able to eat wheat and other non processed foods for so long. Then to go raw/Paleo, they don’t know what to make of it. Thank goodness for fruit!!

Oh, I do not have words for how precious this interview is! My daughter is close in age and temperament, sensory/eating/texture issues…all of it! When she gets home from school I’m going to have her listen to this. I think hearing it from another kid will be motivating to my ‘tough cookie.’ I am very excited to begin this journey.

Oh Sarah, she is so much like my daughter! But imagine that your sweet 6 year old had continued to have these eating issues for 9 more years. That is where I am. My daughter is just like yours is, but she is now 15 years old. She survives on pasta and dairy and chicken nuggets/tenders. She eats virtually no fruit (cantaloupe, a slice of apple, if forced) and almost no vegetables (broccoli, but just the “branches” of a couple florets; corn– if that counts; a few leaves of romaine lettuce, if they are the correct shade..) Many of her complaints have always been that the texture is wrong, or it is too sour or spicy. She is willing to eat most kinds of junk food, but doesn’t eat things like fruit pies, or cakes with fruit or nuts etc. She has begun to understand that it is important to eat more than she does, but she cries and says she “just can’t make herself.” We tried gluten and dairy free, but she only made it about a week, because she said she didn’t notice any difference. I would love to try Paleo with her, but I don’t think she would actually eat anything! Do you have any advice or suggestions? (PS- she is thin, but not underweight, has chronic headaches and stomach issues that have been diagnosed as constipation. Not surprisingly.)

This is so great! I have a 5yo who is having a hard time eating her meat right now because we used to be a vegetarian family. I grew up eating meat as a child and didn’t have a problem transitioning back, but my little one has been struggling.

We’re using a mixture of a rule based and “kid experimenting” approach. My rule is that she has to at least taste it, but I do try to offer foods that she likes (pork sausages!) and let her come up with some creative solutions to trying meats that she doesn’t like or isn’t familiar with (stuffing a bit of meat into a date is her current approach).

Poor kids being forced onto meat. You can see each of them are resisting since they are inherently plant-eaters until the parents intervene.

I just found this in perfect timing. Ive been so upset that My previous meat loving daughter (3.5 years), suddenly went vegetarian on us just after we started going grain free 6 months ago :( And we just can’t get her to eat meat unless its in something or covered with something which I don’t really have time to be doing. Both kids are back on grains for now as I was getting so stressed about what to feed them (As both will only eat veges at night) and both were allergic to everything I baked for them (With almond and coconut flours) or they didn’t like it. I decided just to keep going myself, and get my addiction over with, then try ease them back into it again, which is happening next week BUT my daughter STILL won’t eat meat ARGHH (I had just started getting my 2 year old son to eat veges when this all started happening, if its not one thing it the other lol ;) ) Thankfully she has decided she LOVES egg sammies, so as long as I can find a bread recipe she will eat then we are all good for protein (Chicken and almonds use to be our way of getting protein in her) and I sneak in spinach into smoothies for iron

She use to hate veges, so we use to make her eat those first before she had any meat lol! Now we might have to swap it around lol! ;)

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