I've gone back and forth with the direction I wanted to take this post. I have so many ideas running through my mind but none of them seemed worthy enough for an entire post, so I've decided to separate my ideas into 2 posts; Building a Foundation and Get Cookin'.
I also want to preface this post by saying that these are my opinions and examples of what has worked for me. I'm not here to judge your parenting styles and don't mean to step on any toes, should I differ in the way I approach my children's eating habits.
Eating healthy has been important to me for a while but I think it was magnified once I brought another life into the world. As a parent, I want to do everything in my power to make sure I provide a solid foundation for my children. Not only am I trying to be a good role model for his character building skills, I'm also trying to teach him healthy eating habits that will carry him the rest of his life.
There are some things mothers do without really thinking about why or how. Breastfeeding was one of those things. I never really gave a second thought about not doing it. As Colin's d-date drew closer, I began to hear tales of inability to produce enough milk, milk not coming in, nursing making you crazy, and several other discouraging stories. I am the type of person who likes to prove people wrong. Just tell me I can't do something and then watch what happens. Thankfully, I was able to nurse both of my boys for over a year. Yes the bonding was wonderful but knowing what I was putting in my child's body was even more rewarding to me.
I've heard of recent studies that indicate mothers who eat a variety of foods while nursing have children who are more willing to try new foods. That certainly makes sense that if the child was exposed to a variety of flavors in the milk that they would perhaps recognize and be familiar with them when they're presented later.
While it does make sense, I'm by no means a doctor or research analyst. It seems to be true in my case but I know others who have not found it to be true. But there are more variables here than just milk consumption. What about the way the foods are introduced? How often, how much? These, along with several other factors, also play a part in steering clear of the dreaded "picky eater." This is a good chance for me to remind you that I was a very picky eater so I do know a little about this behavior first hand.
Whether your child was breastfed or bottle fed, that is neither here nor there. What is important now is making sure they are properly nourished and are being exposed to a variety of foods. Let's start from the beginning (a very good place to start). The first step before we even delve into the list is for you to make the decision you want this to work and commit to making it happen. Once you have a positive attitude and that determination, you'll be off on the right foot.
Here are a few steps that should help if you start from the get-go.
1) Expose your child to a variety of baby food. Whether you make your own (very easy by the way) or buy it, there are many varieties available. Try them all! Just because you don't like sweet potatoes doesn't mean your child won't.
2) Try flavors more than once! It's easy to call it quits after one time of being sprayed with peas but everyone has an off day and babies are constantly developing new taste buds. Wait a few days and try it again. Maybe their stomach hurt the first time you gave it to them, or maybe they weren't hungry. There are too many factors to rule out a food after just one taste.
3) Once you move on to finger foods (solids), give them samples off of your plate. Kids want to eat what you're eating. This will force you to eat better as well. If you're having grilled chicken, peas, and carrots, give them small bites of each. Chances are the first time they'll spit it out because of the texture and it being something new. If they don't like it, go back to baby food and try again tomorrow. Another option is to give them a bite of baby food, followed by a finger food. I've also put the solid food on top of the baby food and fed it to them that way. Colin preferred to pick the items up himself and try them for the first time, while Sawyer fared better if I was the one putting them in his mouth. The point is, just keep trying.
5) Eat as a family. This is important on so many levels but in this instance, it puts you all on level playing ground. They'll learn dinnertime is not a time for playing around, it's a time to eat what's put in front of you and enjoy time with the family. Even if it's not feasible for you to do this every night, the more the better!
6) Prepare meals that everyone can enjoy! This, in my opinion, is key to getting your kids to eat a variety of foods. This is where your meal planning really comes into play. It's a great time to try new vegetables (maybe even for you) and talk about them. We always tell Colin that he has to try at least one bite and if he doesn't like it that's fine but you don't know until you try it. He has repeated that sentence so many times and most of the time he's found out he actually likes it. By providing a nutritious meal for your child, you are benefiting yourself as well.
7) Don't make them a special meal or they will grow to expect it. Once you start, it's hard to turn things around. I have a friend who can attest to this firsthand. Your kids won't starve. When they get hungry enough, they will eat what's in front of them. I would encourage you to try to have at least one item that they like or sort of like so they don't feel like you're plotting against them. If you are trying to get back on track, start gradual. Start by introducing one new thing and make them eat a bite of that before they get the item that you know they already like. The next week, make it 2 things they have to try, and so on.
9) Don't assume your kids won't eat it. I try very hard to never say, "Oh he won't eat that" or "He doesn't like that." You are putting words in his/her mouth that aren't necessarily true. This goes back to the fact that kids' taste buds are constantly changing; just because they didn't like something last week doesn't mean they won't love it today.
I realize some of these ideas may not be feasible for everyone. I've tried to provide several different ideas in hopes that you could find one or two that would help you in your situation. I hope I've helped some and I'd be more than happy to offer further suggestions, should anyone need them. Just keep your eye on the prize and keep telling yourself, "My child will eat healthy!"