Before having kids, I did countless TV and radio interviews stressing the importance of establishing healthy eating habits in childhood, and ways to get picky eaters to eat veggies, fruits, and even vegetarian freak foods like tofu and tempeh. And then i had kids of my own. My first child (a girl) was actually a breeze. Right from the start she loved broccoli, avocados, Boca burgers, tofu, and would show up empty-handed and red-mustached when asked to go pick the tomatoes from the garden. So I was right all along! Offer them only healthy things and they’ll eat only healthy things. I can’t believe CNN even bothered to cover this. It was a no-brainer!
Then my son came along. Before even introducing him to solid food, I knew I’d be in trouble. So when he refused to eat food #1–avocado–I realized I’d have to reach into my bag of tricks right away. Thankfully, he ate other fruits and vegetables, but if you tried to feed him anything he didn’t like (like pasta), he’d channel his inner gag, and that was the end of that meal. For the whole family. “Keep trying the foods they don’t seem to enjoy. One day, things might change. Don’t give up!” Did I really say that? Exactly how many times did i recommend people do this? 7 times?
The good news is, thanks to creativity, dessert bribery, and the elimination of snacks, at the age of 2 1/2, boychild is a pretty good eater even by dietitian standards. And as for the “keep trying” part—despite the consequences—I do. We had a major breakthrough last week. After 2 years of gagging, crying, and spitting out tofu, it finally made it down the esophagus. He even said “i like that toe food!” That, my friends, is some bitchin’ determination payoff! (I haven’t gotten the nerve to try him on tofu since, but i remain optimistic!)
I suspect our 3rd babe (also a boy) will bring yet another personality to the kitchen. He’s only just now starting on solid food and seems to prefer spitting things out and wiping them in his eyelashes. So obviously this is a personal work in progress. But, over the next 3 days I’ll share tips that have gotten us through thus far. Here is Tip #1:
Start the day with a green smoothie. The kids are hungry, and thirsty. Get them started on the right foot. The green part is pre-washed raw baby spinach, which is tasteless in a smoothie. The rest is up to you… fruit (banana makes it creamy, but be warned that dark-colored fruits will make the smoothie brown), something frozen (fruit or ice), and then enough liquid (ideally fortified non-dairy milk and/or water) to reach the height of the solid foods in the blender. Blend until it’s a beautiful ogre-green color. Here’s one that totally rocks:
3/4 cup frozen chopped mango
1/2 cup frozen chopped pineapple
1/2 cup green grapes
2 tablespoons calcium-fortified orange juice concentrate
1 1/2 cups (2 large handfuls) raw baby spinach
1 tablespoon spirulina-type green powder (e.g. “Very Green” from Trader Joe’s)
8 ounces unsweetened calcium-fortified almond milk
ice cubes for a thicker smoothie/ chilled water for a thinner smoothie
Per serving: 78 calories, 1 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 17.8 g carbohydrate (2.2 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 1.2 g protein, 70 mg calcium, 42% of your daily vitamin C, 29% of your daily vitamin A.
Comment with your own tips and tricks over the next 3 days… I often deplete even my own arsenal!