Friday, May 6, 2011

Foods For Toddlers

Again, props to Mrs. J. for keeping my mind off of things that I havent yet found the words to write about, by giving me a project!  She asked that I write some ideas on feeding toddlers.

I'm not a good person for this.  Just putting that up there up front.  My kids eat and they eat a variety of things, but we are rebels amongst the toddler parents we know.

1) Offer them everything.  We offer our kids some of everything on the table.  Does some of it get thrown away?  Yes.  But they are exposed to it and are able to try it.  As a result, these kids love salmon (and almost any other seafood we've thrown at them), caviar (that was Peter- not me), and Greek yogurt.

2) If you wouldn't eat it, then don't try to force them to.  This doesnt mean that if you dont like it, dont offer it, rather, if it looks and smells like crap and you wouldnt try it, why do you think they want to?  Open a can of baby food and eat it.  Yeah.  It's that nasty.  It's no wonder kids dont want some of that stuff!  Now, peel a mango and make your own paste for your infant, or give a slice to your toddler.  Mango baby food- not so great.  Real mango- delicious.

3) If you dont want them to have it, then reevaluate why you're having it.  Now, dont get me wrong, I love my Guinness and white wine.  Do I give the kids that?  Of course not (although Maya does her damnedest to get into my Guinness whenever she can!).  Some things you dont give them because they arent old enough (like booze).  Other things we dont give them because we know it's bad.  Like soda.  High Fructose Corn Syrup is not a vegetable, even though the word "corn" is in it.  If you wouldnt give it to your kids, think about that as they watch you eat/drink it.  They know you want it... which means they want it...  Childhood obesity is no joke.  Stop it while you are still in control of their dietary choices.

4)  Eat well.  Let your kids know where their food comes from.  Prepare it with them (or at least while they watch).  Talk to them about it.  Let them know that it is good and good for them.  I know this sounds nuts, when it comes to toddlers.  But I swear, our kids love to hang out in the kitchen and "help" me cook.

5) Eat together.  We eat our meals together.  We have breakfast and dinner together as a family and try, monthly, to visit Peter at work and have lunch together.  The kids and I have lunch together while he is at work otherwise.  They do have snacks (although I tend to have a small snack with them).  Eating is a family activity.  It's a shared activity.  It shows them variety.  I have whole grain cheerios for breakfast; they have a bowl with me, then have some fruit and yogurt.  Morning snack is rice cakes of some sort, with a soft goat cheese.  The kids love it.  How many toddlers do you know who go nuts over goat cheese and hummus (another favorite additive to rice cakes)?

6) Find your mojo.  When we first started feeding the kids what we eat, some folks were pretty torn up about it.  What?  No chicken fingers or mac-n-cheese?  No pizza (although we do eat pizza- it just has feta and fresh mozzarella and spinach on whole wheat crust!  we eat regular pizza stuff too, but that's a favorite!)? No hotdogs?  What will they do when they are around other kids!  I guess they'll eat... And eat food that I'd like to eat too!  A common thing was "You dont want to give them good food; then it will be too expensive when you go out to eat and they dont want to order off the kid menu."  Then, I suppose, we wont be able to go out to eat.  Why would we relegate them to food that they (let's be honest) shouldnt be eating in quantity, that is over processed and is so far from being "real" it's ridiculous, when they could have fresh seafood or organic meat or steamed veggies?  One of their first restaurants was Pure Food & Wine in NYC.  They were just starting to eat solids.  One of their first meals when they were eating solids was at Le Gourmet in North Wales, where they dug into a salmon eggs benedict.  Food is something to be shared with them!  We want them to enjoy those experiences, as we do!  If it means we go out to eat every 6 months because they are ordering off the "real" menu, then so be it.  I'd rather do that than have them think that McDonald's-style food is what they should be eating.

So, that's kind of our take on things.  We feed them what we eat.  It works.  They love food.  And that's an awesome thing.  But you have to do what works for your family.  This is just our experience.


Hope's Mama said...

Very, very smart post. I wish more mums thought like this. We have a very similar approach here. We rarely cook Angus separate things for dinner. He eats what we do, or at least a modified version. We want him to eat like we eat - whole foods cooked from scratch with the only things on offer to drink, milk or water. He doesn't have juice. We were told at Easter we were "being mean" by not letting him have any chocolate, but he's 18 months old! He doesn't need it. He's never had it, we don't eat it in front of him, so it is not like he knows what he's missing. And as for kids menus, don't get me started. There is no way I'd eat any of that crap, so why would I feed that to my kid? From what I've seen, our country is a bit better at some of this stuff than yours, but I think we all still have a long way to go.
You're doing the very best for you kids in this regard and don't let anyone tell you any different.

St Elsewhere said...

I am SOOOOO in agreement with you.

It is a good practice to expose the kid to different tastes. I didn't say it, but I had this thing against somebody who whined that her kid only had sweet things. Well, with raisins, cake slices, sweetened curd only being served to the child, nothing else could be expected. I wondered if the child liked the sweet things because she got only them, or was she given the sweet things only because that was the only thing she was eating without bawling.

And fresh food? Thumbs Up to that!

Love it!

Angela said...

I agree with everything you said here! My husband's coworkers who have children the same age as our son (almost 3)are amazed by the things he eats. They can't believe he doesn't eat hot dogs and mac and cheese every day like their kids do. Well, that's because we don't either so we don't give it to him. Duh. I made his "baby foods" and then he ate what we eat. He has tried hot dogs a handful of times and was less than impressed, but give that boy some fresh salmon and he's all over it! As you said, lifetime habits are established now. And I believe family dinner time is very important. I know that schedules do not allow it for all families but it should be done whenever possible. Great post as always. Have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

Yep. Yesyesyesyesyes. Already, Henry's showing a preference for food he watches us eat, which is both a reminder to watch WHAT he's watching me eat, as well as a good opportunity to teach him the good things about food. It's good to see other people giving 'chicken fingers' (eeeeuuuuchhhh, what a name!) a pass!

Queenie. . . said...

That's what we do, too. The only challenge is that our daughter is really thin, and I constantly worry about whether she's eating enough calories. But I still only give her healthy food.

I read something that said that if you can get your kids to eat well through age 3, they'll start to self-moderate from there, because they recognize that poor eating makes them feel bad. I thought that was interesting, and there's certainly no harm in having her eat healthy! I also find that because we give her a wide array of healthy foods, she eats a wide array of foods. Maybe she'll become pickier as she gets older, but I'm going with it for now.

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

So bizarre that people give you a hard time about the healthy diet. I've gotten nothing but "good for you" in response to feeding my twins a (mostly) organic, (all) handmade, (all) vegetarian diet -- well, a few people have objected to the vegetarian part, but everyone has been very complimentary of the organic and handmade part.

One of our OTs said that in her whole career she's never seen a toddler eat foods like cauliflower or quinoa which ours eat regularly! It's shocking what most kids eat. Maybe you and I will eat our words (haha) later when our kids become picky junk food addicts, or maybe they will always be open-minded healthy eaters.

I have the same issue as Queenie with one of my twins being naturally quite skinny, so I try do a lot of healthy high-calorie foods like avocados, olives, and cheese, but mostly I just try to focus on nutrients and trust that the caloric intake is sufficient as long as he eats varied foods.

Hope's Mama said...

Re-visiting this post to say last night the aired the first episode of Jamie's Food Revolution here in Australia, the series where he takes on LA. I'm just astounded and disgusted. Here in Australia, we don't provide food for kids in schools like you do, and the food that can kids buy, at least from my limited understanding, is mostly very fresh and healthy. I can't believe your government lets schools get away with feeding kids that crap. I think by starting young and doing what you're doing, you're giving Bobby and Maya the best possible chance.
Keep it up. (And sorry I have been so slack with comments of late. I also want to say how great you're looking and how much of an inspiration you are. I'll have to shelve those plans til this pregnancy is over with I think!)

Barb said...

GREAT post!!! And we follow most of this advice as well.

MrsSpock said...

Our son used to eat everything under the sun until he hit a "picky" phase as a 2 year old. Now, I struggle to get veggies in him, but he will eat fruit of every kind. And all kinds of nut butters.

Because he has a dairy allergy, most processed foods are dangerous to him, and we've ended up becoming more vegan in our main meals because of that. It's actually improved our own diets as a side effect.

one-hit_wonder said...

You're preaching to the choir here! I do not order off the kids' menu for Ninja. She either eats from our dishes or I order a regular meal for her. She's as picky as all get-out but at least she loves Greek lemon potatoes, fresh grilled salmon, scallops, Chinese steamed broccoli, breakfast tacos, butter chicken and naan, etc. REAL food!