Mealtime Woes

He’s happy until you give him some meat.

My sons have become de facto vegetarians, but they’re the kind that doesn’t eat vegetables. I can’t blame them for passing on the peas and carrots, but their refusal to consume meat makes balanced meal planning difficult.

Sammy, 3, used to be a great eater. Before his first birthday, he’d house three slices of pizza then suck down a pint of whole milk. He had the belly and thigh rolls to prove it. Then, slowly, he started disliking items. Red meat was first. Oatmeal, a former favorite, became repulsive (though there was a puke incident that may have contributed to that one). Then salmon. Chicken nuggets were hurled, not eaten (I managed to co-create the only kid in America that doesn’t like chicken nuggets). Then things with tomato sauce. Pretty soon we were left with Crazy Bread, mini muffins, cereal bars, Uncrustables and strawberries as the only things he’d eat.

James, 1, has become similarly finicky. He never quite had Sammy’s appetite, but he used to eat some of whatever we’d put in front of him. Not any more. Now, he’ll strip his rigatoni of its meat sauce, pushing the ground beef to the outskirts of his tray, then overboard. Chicken is separated from rice, then rubbed on his head, stuffed down his shirt or spiked to the ground, but not chewed and swallowed. I tried to give him some guacamole and he made the same face I do when I have to chance his diapers that contain a similar looking product. His one exception to the no protein policy is seared sea scallops. He loves them. I’m sure he’d also enjoy foie gras and Beluga caviar.

The other night, I grilled burgers. Sammy outright refused to try one, demanding a slice of cheese on a bun instead. James carefully ate the bun off his, leaving the burger bare. It was a typical meal, but afterwards I was surprised by a request Sammy made as we were driving to the grocery store and passed a Wendy’s. He asked to stop for a cheeseburger. I explained to him that I just made cheeseburgers that he refused to eat. At this point, he cut right to the chase.

“The problem is, I don’t like your cooking,” he told me. “That’s what the problem is.”