Mealtimes have proven to be rather challenging for the last few months. Ever since PK started daycare, we went from having a kid who would eat almost anything, to one who has gotten really really picky, ESPECIALLY at dinner and on weekends. We were so desperate to try to get her to eat, that we resorted to letting her run around the kitchen while we followed her around with a bowl of food. That was a REALLY bad idea, because then she got the notion that mealtimes were actually playtime. We quickly put a stop to that, but not without quite a bit of protest from PK.
As part of her I-don't-want-to-sit-in-this-stupid-highchair protest, she resorted to throwing food that she didn't want to eat onto the floor. We had to put on our parenting hats for that one and let her know that this was inappropriate behavior by both telling her so and taking food away from her tray so that she got the hint. She will still try to test us by throwing the occasional bit of food on the floor, but she has been pretty good about keeping the food on her tray. When she doesn't want food on her tray anymore, she leans over to the kitchen table and puts unwanted food on a plate in front of her high chair.
So PK was finally sitting through meals on her high chair and not throwing food on the floor, but she was still not eating all that well. Then I had a revelation (thanks to some conversations with other moms): kids don't have to eat really well for every single meal. As long as during the course of the week, they get their nutrients, then it's all good. I don't know if I fully embrace this school of thought, but it keeps me from getting really bummed out over PK's at-home eating.
I am also told that PK eats really really really well at daycare, so I guess that even if she doesn't eat all that well at dinner, I am comforted by the fact that she has a healthy appetite at daycare. I also think that she eats poorly at dinner because she has a snack at daycare just before I pick her up, and by the time we get home for dinner, she's often too tired to sit in a high chair and eat. Still, we do make the effort to serve her dinner, and while she won't eat a whole ton of food, she does eat some of it. I guess I should consider that to be a little win.
We have discovered in recent weeks that lunch seems to be PK's best meal, so when we have her all day on weekends, we make sure that she has a good, healthy lunch. Also, since PK is rather picky about what she eats (veggies aren't super-high on her list of favorites), I have taken mixing puréed veggies into some of the food we eat. I got the idea from a book that I bought called Deceptively Delicious. It has a number of pretty standard breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipes, but with a twist: the author usually adds puréed veggies into the recipes. For example, there's a banana bread recipe where you add cauliflower. I've made that recipe for PK, and she can't even taste the cauliflower. I've tried the banana bread myself, and it is freaking good stuff. I totally recommend buying this book. I've basically taken the book's basic idea and have adapted it to some of my own recipes. For example, when I make corn soufflé, I add broccoli, cauliflower, carrot purée, and ground up flax seeds. PK loves it, and she gets some additional nutritional value out of it. I do the same sort of thing when I make black beans.
While mealtimes aren't quite as easy as they were when PK was at home with me, eating only puréed food, it's at least a hell of a lot more manageable. I'm sure our mealtime struggles won't be over just yet, but for now, at least I won't have a coronary during dinner time.