What’s up with food [lately]

Remember that I was going to make pizza with green peppers on it?  Did I remember to follow-up on how well that went?

If not, that’s probably because it did NOT go well.  When Caleb (the problem feeder) saw the green peppers, he rocketed into ultra-anxious zone.  I had desecrated his favorite food, and it was as if we had reverted back into time.  It was a side of him we don’t see much of lately (which is great).

I was disappointed.  I had hoped that the whole thing would go much better.  In many respects, his attitude about food has improved.

Last week we skyped with his therapist about food.  I was all geared up for a precise plan about how to really step it up and get somewhere.  I don’t know why.  I should have known better…

It’s not that I disagree with the information I got.  Not at all.  It all resonates with me.  It’s just not a fast fix, and requires patience I have to dig deep for.

We talked about working from the familiar, and I realized that I’ve been doing that, and that I have bigger-picture plans in how I was going to keep progressing, and was glad to hear that those plans were exactly what we should be doing.

For instance, he LOVES pancakes.  I had saved a recipe for “fabulous flaxjacks” and had been meaning to make them, and finally did a couple weeks ago.  The kids were all curious about what I was making, and I’d had the recipe taped to the wall for a while, so I pointed to it and called them by name, but was low key if they asked questions.  “Yes, they are sort of like pancakes”, I’d say.  

What are they?  Diced apples with cinnamon and some flaxseed meal, cooked on a coconut-oil greased skillet.  They do look a bit like dark pancakes, but they don’t taste exactly the same.

So, Caleb took a few bites willingly and commented that he didn’t really like them, but he didn’t fly off the handle.  He looked concerned.  I suggested spreading on a nut butter, and he didn’t care for that idea.  I had suggested that his siblings sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar (which they did), so then I offered that he could sprinkle on cinnamon stevia, which he did, and ended up eating his baby brother’s that way, too!  He got so much omega from that meal.  It was awesome!

Shortly after I did that, I was scrounging at another meal and found a gluten-free pancake mix that needed to get used up.  I didn’t have much left and wanted to stretch it, so I added some cinnamon and pureed sweet potato to it.  He noticed the color difference and smelled the cinnamon, so at first I just calmly mentioned that I added some cinnamon to it.  As he gobbled them up, I told him things like “I’m glad you like your cinnamon sweet potato pancakes”, and he didn’t get thrown by it.  However, a few days later I was making a big batch of pancakes to freeze for his breakfasts and gave him the choice of regular buttermilk or cinnamon sweet potato, and he chose buttermilk.

That’s ok.  I’m going to make the sweet potato ones again sometime soon anyway, and he’ll eat them.  

Big-picture, I plan to build on his love for cinnamon and his tolerance thus far of sweet potato by baking up a sweet potato casserole with cinnamon on top.  Erin, his therapist, reminded me that it will probably take 10 times of seeing the casserole before he might even feel accustomed enough to taste it.  She reminded me that the big hurdle for him are his texture issues that go along with his heightened senses.  We can’t magically obliterate that hurdle, and we need to be respectful of it.  As much as we want him to not be held captive by fear of food, it ties in with the sensory issues, and there’s no separating it.  Pushing him beyond what he’s prepared for will only cause him to have setbacks in other ways.  Building on trust is what will help us truly move forward.  

So, we need to continue promoting food exploration.  So he likes apricot applesauce now?  How about getting some dried apricots and making food pictures out of them (plus some other ingredients)?  We made food pictures years ago and he loved it, and while he hasn’t asked to do that for some time, he would periodically, in the past.  

The goal is to find time on the weekends for additional food exploration.  We are not to expect that he will want to help prepare everything initially (which was a sigh of relief, because he tends to get stressed out about helping me in the kitchen, which I know I’ve mentioned, and realize is a sensory thing)…so this past weekend I “planted seeds” about strawberry applesauce.  He likes it, we’ve been buying it for years, and I pointed out how one batch looked so different in color than another batch.  We talked about how applesauce is made, and that when it’s strawberry applesauce they just cook the strawberries, too.  I told them that I had bought some strawberries and that I was going to make just plain strawberry sauce to see what we thought of it.  So, I did that while the kids were out playing in the snow, and after it cooled I dishes some up.  I had sweetened it with some stevia.  Without any coercion, he took a few bites and realized that he didn’t really like it, but there was no fuss or stress.  The next day I ended up putting half of the strawberry sauce in with a jar of applesauce, so it won’t go to waste.  I can continue offering the strawberry sauce, but if I make ultimatums (“you have to taste this/take however many bites before you can have [   ]”) it will be like taking steps backward, or at least standing in front and stalling his traffic.  Why would I want to do that?

The big thing is to remember to stay positive and encourage TALK and exploration.  If he can touch a food and smell it, and knows how it grows or what it looks like on the inside, it will become that much more familiar to him.  It will start to put his mind at ease, and a time will come when HE chooses to taste it.  

No, the waiting isn’t easy, and there is the matter of that age-old question, “What other important facets of life will he think that he should also control at this young age?”  But, he’s not controlling it.  Yes, his responses influence the moves that I make, but I grocery shop (or my husband does), and we are in control.  We just have to not let ourselves feel beaten down, and having a plan and seeing the road before us (well-lit, not dark and dreary) helps.

Will I make pizza with green peppers ever again?  Yes.  Next time I might put them under the cheese, though.  I think he’ll see them and he might still get upset, but last time he flew off the handle before he could even take a bite.  I’ll just remind him that he eats applesauce with green pepper juice, and various spaghetti/pizza sauces with it, too.  I probably will calmly mention this as I’m serving his pizza, and as he eats the first bite he’ll inevitably notice the green peppers.  There’s no way to know if he’ll fly off the handle, but I’m thinking that he’ll get annoyed and might not want to eat the rest, but the old “out of sight” may help it to be slightly less on his mind that when it’s above the cheese (and in plain sight).  

I finally had the ingredients yesterday to make his g-free gingerbread.  He patiently (really!) waited all last week, and the weather combined with a feeling-off baby brother kept me home, but yesterday I got the dough mixed up and chilling, to I hope to roll it, shape it, and bake it today so that he can assemble and decorate with his sugar-free fixings.  That will be a fun project!

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