Hello again! Today I’m sharing what we have done for our little to girl to help her to enjoy eating meats and vegetables. This is what has worked for us. If you haven’t done this or feel like a failure because your kid will eat nothing but hot dogs – this post is not meant to condemn or to say, “Look at us!” God has given us a little girl with a hearty appetite and a pretty easy-going personality. She is 18 months old, so we don’t know if she will launch food battles with us as she realizes that she has the ability to assert her will and make choices. But so far this is what has worked. I want you to come away encouraged with some ideas that could possibly help your picky eater – if that’s where you are at. If instead you have a child like ours who will eat just about anything, then yay!
I did lots of research after Prima was born. We knew that we wanted to do all we could to raise children who loved trying new foods, ate just about everything, and weren’t afraid of foreign cuisines. I had heard of the book French Kids Eat Everything before getting married and knew that I wanted to find out that secret. The book I ended up reading was Bringing Up Bébé which did discuss how children in Paris (and more generally, France) are introduced to many different foods starting from about six months old. I asked our pediatrician, and he said nothing was off limits except honey and shellfish before the age of one. Other key things we picked up from this book: don’t force foods, keep reintroducing a new food until the child tries it or likes it, don’t use food as punishment or reward, only one snack a day, and don’t be afraid to give sweets every once in awhile. Overall, cultivate in your child a positive relationship with food, defined as seeing food as fuel and something to be enjoyed, but always in moderation.
As I researched making baby food safely from home, I ran into Baby Led Weaning (BLW.) This theory is that babies can be introduced to foods at six months, straight from the table, no puree involved. (Weaning here is the British definition, which means to introduce foods in addition to formula or breastmilk.) Being a bit on the lazy side, I really liked the idea of not having to prep baby food on the regular. So we did a combo of BLW with some spoon foods like yogurt, soup, mushed up veggies or fruit, etc. Prima loved it (especially her first tastes of blueberries!) The key for us was to introduce as many different flavors and textures as possible, hoping to avoid future issues with taste/texture. *Note: we aren’t talking about sensory disorders here. At the end of this post, I’ll list some websites/blogs that have great creative ideas for introducing foods in a fun and delicious way.
Out of this we developed the family rule, “Try it until you like it.” This is modified for Prima right now. We offer the food in a small sample, but don’t force her to taste it. We do ask her to try it, but don’t discipline her if she refuses. As she gets older and better able to obey and understand reason, she will be required to take a bite or taste before being allowed from the table. Adults are not exempt from this rule! Hopefully as she sees us try even what we think looks unappetizing or a food that is not a favorite, she will realize that no one is exempt.
A few other things that we have read about various places, and use to help encourage a positive relationship with food.
- We let Prima stand in a chair or sit on the counter and “help” with food prep. This typically involves her swiping pieces of veggies or stirring the pot. French children learn to bake very young. Prima has been enjoying playing with flour and dough when I bake bread and desserts, so I think we will very soon be teaching her how to make her own cake, French child style. It is called Yogurt cake, because the yogurt container is used as a measuring cup.
- If she refuses to eat, her plate is saved for the next meal. But, I heat it up, and typically add something to make it more substantial. If she is refusing food, it is normally because it is too bland, she was tired, or she is not feeling well. Example: sometimes she will eat the yogurt and refuse her eggs for breakfast. I save the eggs for lunch, heating them and mixing them with cheese or tomatoes/salsa. If she still won’t eat the eggs, but eats the rest of her lunch, I will eat them. This is not a regular thing, and since we eat eggs so often, my guess is she just gets tired of them from time to time. It happens to adults, too. Can we blame her?
- Snack time is limited to the afternoon, and is bread, veggies, or fruit. If she asks for food at other times, we’ve started to ignore her. Usually she is asking for the sweets that she knows are hiding in the cabinet. If she seems truly hungry, we take that as a cue to give bigger meals the rest of the day.
- I introduce new or not recent flavors as regularly as possible. I stick to our budget, and to reality. I’ve seen what those French feed their children, and it’s no wonder they aren’t too picky! But we can’t afford to have a different cheese after every meal, or to eat some of the more exotic foods that have to be imported or are not in season. However, we do try to have non-standard foods once a week, at least. This might mean curry, an authentic Chinese dish, Nordic-style fish burgers, etc.
- Last, we relax. Sometimes children just don’t want to eat, or don’t want anything but milk and bread. She could be sick, tired, or just not want anything else. (I have those days, too!) As long as it’s not a regular habit, I don’t think it is a cause for too much concern.
- This one is for when Prima is older – but we plan to include her and any siblings in choosing the weekly menu. I learned this one from French Kids Eat Everything.
Here is a list of the resources for this post. I’ve included a few that I have on the back burner for if/when defiance starts to surface around eating. Prima is only 18 months old, so those struggles could still be coming for us! I don’t necessarily agree with everything in every article, but these help form a framework for us when deciding the best way forward.
French Children & Food
- French School Lunch Project
- Get Your Kids to Eat Everything (excerpt from French Kids Eat Everything)
- French Foodie Baby (blog by a French mom in Canada)
Baby Led Weaning and Baby Finger Foods
- The official site
- Healthy Little Foodies (formerly called Feeding Finn) – lots of recipes and creative food ideas
- Nourished Kitchen – one family’s perspective on BLW
- Baby Led Weaning First Foods – this site is great especially for making safe baby food
Picky Eaters and Toddlers
- The Montessori Method of Eating and How it Helps Get Your Kids to Yum
- Picky Eater: Proven Ways to Get Your Child to Eat
- Giving Children Choices
- Guiding Toddlers – Questions About Autonomy and Self-Control
- Toddler-Sized Choices – Focus on the Family
- Dealing With a Picky Eater – Focus on the Family
- Behaviors and Strategies for 4-7 Year Olds – Focus on the Family
- From Grocer to Grace: Reforming the Picky Eater – great for older kids!