Thursday, September 22, 2011

Healthy Eating: Kids in the Kitchen; Building a Foundation

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.

4)  Don't give up and resort to bread or sweets!  Once they get the taste of delicious carbs and/or sweets, it's over.  My best advice is to put off introducing sugar as long as you can.  Let fruit be their dessert.  They'll think it's great and will never know the difference.

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.

8)  It's okay if you don't like something but don't assume your children have the same taste buds.  I think this is what affected me most as a child.  My dad was a picky eater and we didn't have a huge variety because of it.  My mom did the best she could but after a while I was tired of green beans and corn.  Variety is the spice of life!  It's okay for your children to see you try something for the first time.  It's also okay for them to see that you don't like it.  But if you want them to keep trying new things, it's only fair that they see you keep trying.  Our adult taste buds change too, so don't assume that if you didn't like something 5 years ago that you won't like it now.  Try it, you might be surprised!

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!"


  1. Loved this! I will be needing to heed your advice in the very near future =) being a very NON-picky eater myself, I would be mystified as to what I'm supposed to do with a picky eater if Houston turns out to be one. Keep the advice coming!!

  2. Oh how true these statements are! I was a very picky eater. Growing up with a mom who worked 10 hour days frequently, we didn't have a lot of home cooked meals. I think I survived off of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. It wasn't until I was pregnant with Bailey that I got serious about eating healthier and eating new things. I still surprise myself to this day with what I actually like. Bailey also repeats "You don't know if you like it until you try it!" because we've told her that so many times! She may not always like what's on her plate and she may pick at dinner some nights, but she knows there are no other she eats. Like you said, they won't starve! Great post!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this!! We won't be starting "solids" with Anna for a bit, but I hope to make most of her baby food and am sooooo glad to hear you were able to do so, as well as b'feed for 1+ years.

  4. I'm gonna need you to repost this in a few months when we start introducing solids!! And maybe come to my house and cook...

  5. Great tips! Your kids are lucky to have you preparing healthy meals for them and exposing them too all things healthy. By the way, you are a winner of the Vita Spelt Pasta Giveaway - congrats! Please send me your mailing information.

  6. Trying every flavor of baby food they made was a no-brainer for us. We made a rule that whatever we fed Sam we had to try. We actually enjoyed trying all of the different ones with him. And I think seeing us take the first bite might have paved the way for him a bit too.

    The homemade eggplant baby food was a huge flop, though. Yuck. If we are blessed with another one, I probably won't subject him or her to the same torture.

  7. This was definitely well-written! When the time comes, we definitely want to expose our children to a wide variety of foods, mainly a variety of fruits and vegetables - we'll definitely be a no-fast food household too!

  8. Such great advice, Danielle! Good ideas for moms with kids of all ages!

  9. Very good advice. My husband and I are adventurous eaters & hoping we can raise our boy that way too, so we usually feed him whatever we're having vs. making special meals.

    I do find that I'm eating a more balanced diet now that I have a little pair of eyes trained on my every bite. Some sugar sneaks in there, but on the whole we're all doing better as a result of knowing we're setting an example.