Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Tortellini Paradox

New Rule: Child who refuses to eat anything but milk, peanut butter sandwiches, fruit and Morning Star Chik Nuggets is too young to be starting nursery school in September.

Corollary: Child who is 7 months old and eats everything she can get her hands on, including crayons and grass, is also too young to go to school, despite her well developed palate.

Tonight was a dinner of all our leftover summer salads. From the Swiss Chard Quinoa Concoction to Tonya's Potato Salad to the Summer Solstice Salad (heartily expanded by our spinach) we found a menu. We added in a tortellini salad, for the sake of some dairy and for using up our scallions and broccoli. As far as this past week's CSA goes, I have one head of bok choy left, but we're actually heading into tomorrow's share in decent shape.

Back to my picky eater of a 3 year old. Nomi has acid reflux and asthma, either one of which is enough to give a little one hang ups about eating. She spent much of her younger years not gaining weight (18 lbs at 1 year, 19 lbs at 18 months), which means that we put no restrictions on her eating up until recently. She has always been able to eat essentially whatever she wants when she wants it.

Now that she's back on the charts for weight, thank God, we're starting to institute rules. It is a rough road to go from, "Yes, you may have ice cream for dinner, please just take one more bite" to "You may not have ice cream until you finish your dinner." When your child does not eat, when she is not even close to the charts for her age group, you look at ice cream as protein, fat and calcium. Hell, if it's strawberry, you can even get in a fruit food group. You thank God she ate something, ANYTHING that day. I cannot stress what a difference acid reflux medication and maintenance medications for asthma have made in our lives.

David made Tortellini Salad for dinner. Nomi had a banana when she woke up from nap at 4:30. When dinner came at 6:00, she was given several tortellini on her plate, along with broccoli, potato salad, and the oranges and spinach from the Solstice Salad. She was also given a cup of 1% milk. She drank her milk and refused to eat anything else. She then asked for a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat late in the evening, which she ate willingly. I feel like we're starting from scratch with her eating habits, but take comfort in knowing we're at least offering her healthy options.

What rules do you have in your household for meals and snacks? Any suggestions for getting a soon to be preschooler (say it ain't so!) to eat?

David's Tortellini Salad
1 bag frozen cheese tortellini
2 heads broccoli, cut into bit sized pieces
1 red onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup Brining liquid from bread and butter pickles (we used the brine from the Sweet Fire Pickles from Kristy's)
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin

1. Begin your water boiling. Add tortellini and cook according to package directions. One minute before they are cooked, add in your broccoli. When cooking is complete, drain pasta and broccoli and rinse until cool to stop the cooking.

2. Meanwhile, mix together brine, pepper flakes, oil and balsamic vinegar. Add pepper flakes and salt to taste. Soak red onion in brine while tortellini and broccoli are cooking.

3. Toss all ingredients together, including scallions. Season to taste. Chill or serve at room temperature. Share and enjoy with your 7 month old. If your 3 year old will eat it, count your blessings.


  1. We had a book from the library recently called "The Peanut Free Cafe" in which the main character eats only PB sandwiches, green grapes, purple lollipops and one other food I can't recall. Until he can't sit in the fun peanut-free zone at school, where his new, peanut-allergic friend sits. It's a cute story about broadening your horizons with respect to food. You all might get a kick out of it.

  2. I am wondering what we're going to do with her eating habits once we hit the peanut free stage of things with friends at school with allergies. There's a book called "Bread and Jam for Frances" that we read when I was young and in what my mom calls the White Foods Stage of milk, pasta, bread and cheese. We shall have to make picky eater specific library run.

  3. preschool....how is your daughter old enough to go to preschool????

  4. She turned 3 this May. She's Jacob's year :)

  5. Maybe I'm too much of a hard-ass (plus low weight has never been an issue), but...if one of my kids passed on dinner, the next meal would be breakfast.

    I try to get them into the grocery store or to the farmer's market whenever possible to develop an interest in food. I also try to get them each to pick one dinner a week.

  6. I love the picking dinner idea, but I have this hunch I know what the answer would be if I asked. We've been including her in picking up and putting away the vegetables from our CSA. Maybe we'll play off of that and see what comes.

    I've thought about the 'next meal breakfast' rule, but up until now she's just been too young to remember one meal to the next. We'll see where we end up.

  7. I love Bread and Jam for Frances! Such a good story.
    My brother went through a phase in which he would only eat hot dogs. Sometimes my mom ran out of hot dogs and she would have to fry bologna and roll it up.
    I would take a bet that the elementary schools in your district are completely peanut free. Maybe you can at least expand horizons into other nut butters. Variety is the spice of life ;)

  8. Hi! I linked here from the CSA facebook page. What we do for our pre-preschooler is provide a six section muffin tin of healthy snacks that he grazes on throughout the day. An example would include cashews, cheerios, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, cucumber sticks, and bell pepper strips. If the tin is emptied, we fill it back up again.

  9. @Beth, we tried almond butter, and it was an absolute refusal. We tried tuna fish to the same refusal. Hopefully, we will be past the PB no J stage by kindergarten (sandwiches with jelly are also refused).

    @iamsam, I tried that when she was small with an egg carton, but it ended up upside down on the floor. I love the idea of having healthy snacks ready to go for a grazing toddler, though.