I’ve got a lot of emails these past few years asking me how I went about food related things when my son was still a baby/toddler. Nothing special, really. I guess pretty much like any other mom out there does it: I just gave him brownies, fries and pizza.
Just kidding! No, really!
Actually, from the moment my little man turned 6 months old and was allowed to eat solids, I cooked for him. As a result he blatantly refused to eat anything coming from a jar, leaving me without a quick ‘nuke it for 30 seconds and off you go’ meal option. Unfortunately. As a work-at-home mom I didn’t mind, but I can definitely see how that could be challenging for a mom and/or dad who are not working from their own home. You can always cook once a week and freeze separate portions, though!
Food is also what helped us through the horrendous teething phase. He hated biting rings with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns, but loved to nibble on cold pieces of bell pepper and cucumber. It’s what really worked for us.
Initially I used my immersion blender to homogenize his food, but quickly switched to the special baby-bowl that came with my food processor. I wore the thing out, so it’s a good thing I don’t have anymore babies. Cooking myself saved me so much money! Over the coarse of 8 weeks I was able to mash his food with a fork and he was completely okay with the coarse texture. I still think letting him nibble on pieces of vegetable and fruit helped speed this up.
From day one I introduced every single vegetable you can think of, and then some. Of course I was cautious with gas-forming vegetables such as onion, garlic and cabbage, but I did add them in small amounts to let him get used to them. I was and still am a big fan of mixing loads of vegetables. By the time he was one year old, he ate it all. Anywhere from leeks and Brussels sprouts to fennel, turnips, olives and sauerkraut. He didn’t just eat it, he devoured it. The kid loved to eat. Especially meat and poultry.
Oh, when you want your kiddo to eat a lot of vegetables and ask for seconds, a frittata is the way! I’ve yet to see a child that doesn’t like it. I also used a lot of fresh herbs when I cooked for him—you can’t use salt, but that doesn’t mean their food has to taste bland. You can spice things up using fresh herbs and spices. I especially thought introducing strong-tasting herbs, like basil and rosemary, was important to us.
Then he turned two and everything changed. The angel had fallen and chosen the dark side. It seemed like overnight I had to trick him into eating healthy foods and everything he used to love, he suddenly wouldn’t have touched with a 10 foot pole. Highly annoying. He’d scream bloody murder and would gag like there was no tomorrow from just looking at a potato! I knew it was only a phase—something yikes about control and developing a personality—so I didn’t turn it into a power struggle because I knew upfront I would lose the battle. But man, it was ever annoying. However, you cannot force someone to eat and you shouldn’t want to.
I just focused on all the things I could do with the money I’d otherwise have to spend on years of therapy for the kid, merely because I made him clean his plate every night. I saw the image of a brand new high-level Nikon camera in front of me and spontaneously decided that parenting is all about picking your battles. I also knew I had given him a good foundation and eventually he’d come around. And so he did, but that took more than a full year! And of course, as a parent, you worry when your child steadfastly refuses dinner or anything that even looks remotely healthy.
Picking my battles didn’t mean he was offered any other kind of food than whatever it was we were eating for dinner that night. If he wouldn’t eat along with us, fine. He’d still have to sit at the table and I did not feel the need to offer him anything else. I was very stubborn about that. I saw to it every meal contained something I knew he’d like, and if he choose not to eat, well, that was his call. He was the one going hungry. I would put his plate in the fridge, and if he’d go hungry later on I’d offer him the meal he refused earlier, but that was about as far along as I went in this power struggle thing of him.
In the mean time, I didn’t mind stooping to sneaky things. You’d be amazed at the sheer amount of vegetables you can hide in your kids pancakes, Mac & cheese and even hamburgers. We ate something he really liked several times a week and I would tweak it like crazy. Add loads of hidden vegetables or vegetable purees. Suffice to say I laughed out loud when I received a copy of Jessica Seinfeld’s “Deceptively Delicious” late last year, because I had done it like that for a loooong time. But she stunned me when I found out she even spikes hot cocoa with sweet potato puree. I bow to her greatness! Please Jessica, adopt me!
Nowadays he’s back to eating, but is much pickier than he used to be and that’s okay. He is his own person. I decide what he eats and he decides how much. Dinners are far more relaxed now and that’s all that matters. Eating should be fun, not stressful, for no one.
Now if only he wasn’t such a cookie monster. He didn’t get it from me, I swear!
What was or is your tactic when it comes to getting your little one to eat?