As a toddler my son was the poster boy for very picky eaters world-wide. His was a very stereotypical case, the kind of picky-ness that launched popular best-sellers like Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious (of which I had a copy). Before we switched to a whole-foods, plant-based diet (WFPB) I was the stereotypical mother who tore her hair out trying to get her son to eat. Samuel did not like eggs, fish or meat except for chicken nuggets. Of course this came in very handy a few months later when we switched to a vegan diet but at the time it wasn’t much help as we had no idea we were even going to make such a change. Dairy was off the menu because it gave him really bad red rashes on his bottom after each bowel movement, the kind that no diaper cream could rectify. The rash made his skin so sore he would scream whenever we had to wipe him. When we cut the dairy out, the rashes stopped. For a period of time I resorted to making Sammy those commercialized powdered meal-replacement shakes with soy milk and peanut butter because I was so concerned he wasn’t getting enough protein. Other than peanut butter I never thought about other plant-based sources of protein. Then, a few months before we made the jump to a WFPB diet, we were staying at a hotel out of town that had a large play area for children. I met a woman who was looking after her 5 grandchildren and as we were talking the conversation turned to food. What she told me changed how I approached food with my son. She said that four of her grandchildren were siblings and they all ate whatever was put on the table. The parents of these four children did not have time to be catering to the dietary whims of each child. The fifth grandchild however was an only child and was a very picky eater. His parents let him dictate what he would eat. They would make one meal for themselves and a separate meal for their son. I knew my son would be an only child but I decided at that moment that he would not rule the kitchen. As anyone who is a parent knows, translating such a decision into a successful outcome takes hard work and unending perseverance but it does pay off in the long run. That being said, my husband and I enjoy eating “grown-up” meals, dishes that I often can predict will not be to my son’s taste. Instead of cooking a separate meal for Sammy, I take the parts of our dinner that he will eat and create a balanced meal I know he will enjoy. He can still be fussy and whiney (he is only 5 after all), some days more than others, but for the most part, I have a son that eats a fairly wide variety of plant-based foods and is learning (hopefully) the value of tasty, nutritious foods while still enjoying some kid-friendly veganized fare like vegetarian chick’n nuggets and pizza with vegan pepperoni and Daiya cheese.
While thinking of different topics for the blog – especially the thus-far neglected “family” section, I realized that there are tons of recipes and resources for adults who want to investigate and follow a WFPB diet, and there are lots of tips and recipes for children who are fussy eaters but what about sometimes fussy vegan children who live in a non-vegan world. So I have decided to add a companion post to some of my food/recipe posts entitled What Sammy Ate to give an idea of how I tailor grown-up dishes to my son’s tastes without having to create a whole other meal for him. Look for the first What Sammy Ate with my upcoming post Veggie Rice Bowl with Tahini Sauce on October 2nd. I look forward to your comments, suggestions and ideas.