Let me start out by saying that I am a foodie. I love food. I love to cook food and I love to watch TV shows where people make food. So it should not come as a shock that when the time came to start solids with my now toddler, I was pretty excited. After research and a discussion with my son’s pediatrician, I decided on avocado as his first food. Tempted as I may have been to add lemon juice or salt and pepper, I kept the avocado in its purest form and spooned it into my son’s mouth. Magic. A bond between boy and guacamole was born.
From that point, I was determined to have a good eater. My very picky will-not-eat-anything-but-tacos stepson put me on somewhat of a mission with my own child. I dreaded dinner time (my husband too) on weeks with my stepson. Every night, nay, every bite, was a chore. By the time it came to feeding our baby foods, we both felt, “this ends here.” Now we are proud to say that our toddler is a great eater. He eats most things and tries everything. In fact, those around him are astonished at how well he eats, especially when he digs into a California sushi roll like he was born in 1998.
Before I go into my own personal tips for raising a good eater, let me say I am not a doctor, dietitian, or anyone with any real training. Just a mom who loves food, believes herself to be a more than mediocre cook and wants my children to enjoy cuisine outside of chicken nuggets and pizza on a regular basis. Here are some tricks I have picked up along the way:
Baby-led weaning was exploding onto the scene and after researching the concept, it made sense to me. Why feed babies pureed bland foods when you can introduce not only flavor but textures from the get-go? Now, to be perfectly transparent, I did not do full-fledged baby-led weaning. I love the idea, but frankly, I was too nervous to give my six-month-old an entire piece of steamed broccoli. Our idea was to have him eat what we eat (after the pediatrician gave us the green light at around six months).
We started out with typical first foods: oatmeal, avocado, and banana. Once it became apparent that he was interested in eating and had good mouth control, we began giving him very small, soft pieces of our food. Not only did this expose my son to new foods, but it shows him that he and I eat the same things. Dinner not only included him by pushing his high chair to the table, but he was eating and tasting the same foods we ate as a family. This leads me to my next point.
No Kids Menus
We don’t “do” kids menus. If we decide to eat at a Mexican or Italian restaurant, my children are not going to order anything that comes with a side of smiley fries. Now, that’s not to say they can’t order a child-sized enchilada or spaghetti and meatballs off the menu. However, I would just find it odd if someone ordered a grilled cheese at Taco Bell.
Get them in the Kitchen
I am a big believer in kids helping in the kitchen. Not only is it fun and introduces them to chemistry (hello baking!), but it exposes them to ingredients, colors, and smells that they may not experience through a plated meal alone. My toddler loves to cook. He loves to taste and smell as we go along, and uses a toddler appropriate knife to help me prep fruits and veggies along the way. I also find that he is always, always, excited to eat whatever we prepare together. Cooking with your kids may potentially give them a new outlook on food altogether; food is fun, not a foe.
To me, these are the tips I most credit myself for when creating a good eater. As a society, I feel like we have slightly set ourselves up for failure by not only having food but “kid” food as well. For me, it has been so much easier to eat as a family when we prepare and share the same meals. Like I said previously, I am no professional, but I am the mother of a young toddler who does not pick the toppings off his pizza when we do order out. I hope some of these tips work for other mamas. Happy eating!