One of my fears about raising a kid is that she will only eat chicken nuggets or hot dogs. Every time I see an ad for those convenient foods, I wince because they are have so many things that are not that great for you (MSG, sugar, ‘preservatives’). I’m not a crazy person about it, I know she will have chicken nuggets or hot dogs at a barbecue or a sleep over because, let’s face it, they are easy to make and kids usually love them. However, I do think processed, frozen, or canned foods on a regular basis can ruin your kids’ good health. It won’t look like it at first, and of course they will probably be fine short term, but the continued use of crappy food leads to crappy health (you are what you eat).
On the other hand, I wonder why we aren’t striving to feed our kids good, wholesome food? While as a nation, we are getting better, there is still a long ways to go when our schools allow junk food into elementary schools. Money continues to be an issue with many of the schools as well as the convenience of the extra profit from vending machines that often fund extracurricular activities. Times are a changing though, you can definetely tell with all the great blogs out there and vocal parents in the school districts.
My neighbor, Barbara, recommended the book, Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. I absolutely loved it. There are so many wonderful things, common sense really, that we could learn from the French. One of the key concepts that I took away from the book is about eating and exposing our kids to new foods. My goal is to introduce Annabelle to new foods so that (hopefully) she will learn to like trying new foods and won’t be afraid of good food.
Try new foods, as much as you can
So far, I’ve let Annabelle her try brie (okay), gouda (yes!), feta (no!), yogurt spiced with cinnamon (OMG), squash spiced with cumin and paprika (took a few times), and carrots mixed with a little ginger (yes!). She also likes cucumber and hummus, but dislikes avocados. Now that I’ve given the baby spices, she rarely likes bland things. Sometimes I wonder if this is a curse rather than a blessing! Just kidding, of course. It’s easy to be a bit adventurous in her food. I made all of her food from scratch (which was much easier than I anticipated), and am still making her food but now with things that she can pick up and eat, like rice and beans, carrots, cucumbers, different types of meat. All of these choices are lightly seasoned. If you are worried about expense, just start with spicing your kid’s food up a little bit at a time to expand their taste buds beyond blah. I’m beginning to try out new things and expand her palate with things like caprese salad, deconstructed California Rolls, and whatever else might pop up.
Be more persistant than your kid, with subtlety
Ahh, I wish it were that easy. There is a moment in every parents life when they read some great advice, and it sounds so awesome! Then, when they try it the kid has a total melt down. I wish I could say that trying new foods is easy. It’s not. One of the things I learned from my husband was to differentiate between ‘willfull’ and finding out if they really like, let’s say tomatoes. He plays a keep away game with her, where he holds the food up to her and if she rejects it, he ignores her and says, “Nope, you don’t get any!”. After doing this a few times, reverse psycology kicks in. If she doesn’t like it at that point, then she probably doesn’t like it. That shouldn’t stop you from trying again in a few months. Be persistant. Kids taste buds aren’t cemented yet, they are always changing.
Make it easy on yourself. Preparation and no separate meals.
I don’t like to work that hard. I’d rather work smarter. I think by getting Annabelle ramped up with eating spices, that will save me headaches in the future at restaurants. Already, we can go to Indian or a Mexican restaurant and I can just feed her part of my meal. It’s nice. In addition to that feature, at home, I am not making Annabelle separate meals. We typically eat a lean protien and vegetables for dinner. Annabelle’s dinner consist of the same protien (spiced the same as ours now since she’s been aclimated) and vegetables. I supplement it with a little bit of rice, beans, and a slice of cheese. It makes for a great all around meal for her and is easier on us. She hasn’t made it to the picky stage yet, but I am thinking about it already.
Sometimes it’s you (or me)
One of the first things I had to combat in my quest to introduce Annabelle to new foods is my own picky palate. I hate avocados by themselves. However, I am in heaven if the avocado is in a bacon, lettuce sandwich, an omelet, or soup, or the best way yet is mashed up in guacamole with some hot and salty chips (with a margarita of course!). The point being here is that sometimes, my own pickiness extends to my daughter. I don’t like avocados and so I didn’t expect my daughter to like them either. I probably make a face when I give her the food and I try not too. Annabelle used to love avocados, but now she won’t touch them. I don’t know if its because I made faces when giving them to her (lesson learned), or if she just decided that she didn’t like them. In addition, I am working to make sure my diet is cleaner with a new cookbook, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.
Restaurants are making the $hange
Some restaurants in larger cities are no longer offering the standard fare of chicken nuggets and instead are offering a childs size portion of regular menu fare. I’m a little jealous, usually there is so much food on my plate, I’d almost rather order from the kiddie menu, but that is another story for another day. I’m actually happy that restaurants are heeding the call of parents who care and introduce thier kids to regular food. I’m beginning to hear the problem in some parental circles is the snobbery associated with foodies is beginning to spew out of the mouths of babes. Should your kid be standing up for his/her food rights and demand foie gras or should they be respectful of adults. This is a difficult dilema for adults because we want to teach our kids to be independant thinkers but we also do not want them to be rude to other adults. Kids will make faux paux because they are kids and there is not always a right answer in these cases. Anyways, restaurants are beginning to pay respects to the changing landscapes of kiddie food.
There are so many great ways to get your baby eating wholesome and good foods! Another easy way to find out about great food for baby is on the web, of course. Here are some great websites for you to check out!
Wholesome Baby Food: I used this site to help me to decide which foods to choose when I first started feeding baby.
Your Child’s Food: There is a great 1 year challenge that helps make it incredibly easy to incorporate healthy choices.
Bites for Babies: So many awesome recipes that are both parent and child friendly. Often I’ll make the recipe for myself and share with Annabelle!