Enter the child with autism who not only despises vegetables but also has a heightened sensitivity to textures. Oh joy. Now you’re talking the Battle of Dinner.
I love the parents who say, “Let them go hungry. After a little while, self-preservation will take over and he’ll eat.” Oh, you are so cute when you’re condescending. Let me pinch your cheeks, you adorable naive creature.
Let me clear up something right off the top here: my kid will starve to death before putting a food he doesn’t readily identify and like in his mouth. I am not exaggerating (for once). Animal instinct will not overpower his incredible sensitivity to taste and texture.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of foods I can get the little fiend to unclamp his jaws for are nowhere to be found in the nutritional column. If given the opportunity, Kiddo would live on hot dogs, corn dogs, cheeseburgers, Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese, and PBJ sandwiches. This is his menu, along with anything that contains a pound of sugar.
This calls for a little ingenuity on my part. Thank goodness, because a little ingenuity is about all I have. I have learned to hide nutritional items in the most non-nutritional creations posing as food. I smuggle in vegetables like a James Bond villain making off with plutonium to destroy the planet.
Some things are easy to get away with. Gummi vitamins, for instance. What sugar-dependent kid can resist? Shoring up my son’s main diet of mystery meat and high-fructose corn syrup is the multivitamin that, yes, is also half candy.
My second simple trick is V-8 Fusion juice. A serving of fruit AND vegetables in each cup? Oh yes, indeed. Sure it’s got mystery chemicals galore in there, but he’s already a walking scientific experiment after inhaling all those hot dogs. It can’t get any worse. Maybe he’ll even mutate into a cool superhero one day, and I’ll get free passes to Comic Con.
From that point, it’s time to get crafty. I’ve convinced the child that white flour is a bizarre legend, and that such a creation is evil if it does indeed exist. All those gazillions of PBJ’s are made on whole-grain bread. He picks all the seeds and grains out, but I know some slip past. Bwa-ha-ha-ha. I win.
My other big go-to is baby food. No, he won’t eat it...knowingly. However, I’ve discovered that the sweet potato ooze has little flavor. Mix it in with the other funky ooze of packaged mac ‘n cheese, and Kiddo doesn’t know the difference. He doesn’t have a clue! I win again.
Every time I figure out how to get a veggie past Mr. Pre-Packaged Nitrates is a reason to celebrate. If I had the time and energy, I could probably take over the world. It takes Evil Mastermind levels to stir pureed plant matter into concoctions without being caught by that kid. It’s like he’s got some kind of anti-healthy food alert that starts pinging the moment I add something good for him into his meals. He appears at my elbow, staring suspiciously at the food I’ve doctored only seconds before. It’s an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse. It’s reached the point that I often have visions of him strapped to a table while I approach with plate and fork.
“So Mother, do you expect me to talk?”
“No my child. I expect you to dine.”