Wednesday, May 12, 2010
How to Get Your Kid to Eat Vegetables
But alas, this is about the one thing we have totally, infallibly, unquestionably done right with our kid--we have raised her to be a good eater. Not only does she like to eat, but she likes to eat things like asparagus and broccoli. She likes to eat blackberries and strawberries and blueberries. She LOVES to eat chicken. She'll eat almost any kind of fish if it's cooked well--which is more than I can say for myself. Like any health-conscious omnivore, she merely tolerates beef. No matter what you scramble with her eggs, she will eat it: mushrooms (if they're chopped up small enough), feta cheese, turkey, peas, carrots, spinach, tomatoes.
So, how did we do it? Much as I would like to take credit, I have to give it all to Annabel Karmel. Actually, first I have to give credit to our good friends, Vince and Lara, who recommended we read Karmel's Top 100 Baby Purees when we were contemplating starting our daughter on solid foods.
At this point, I should probably mention that our daughter was exclusively breastfed for the first six months of her life. While I know this isn't possible for everyone, I strongly believe in the power of the breastfeeding relationship. I'll wax poetic on that sometime in the future. Because I was nursing, a well-worn copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding had a permanent place on my nightstand. Even if you choose not to or are physically unable to nurse, the chapter on introducing solid foods has some great alternatives to the standard rice cereal as the first option. And I can't recommend this book enough for any woman who does want to breastfeed--despite the arcane and somewhat embarrassing title (breastfeeding, at least for me, might be more aptly called "a struggle" and I'm sorry, but there is nothing womanly about being hooked up to an electric pump 3-4 times a day when you go back to work).
But, I digress. Maybe. When it came time to introduce solid foods to my baby, I felt just as strongly about giving her whole, mostly organic, fresh foods as I had felt about breastfeeding. I knew I didn't want to feed my kid anything out of a jar, no matter how cute the Gerber baby is or how organic Earth's Best claims to be--bottom line, if I thought it looked/smelled/tasted yucky, then why would my kid want to eat it? And if it tasted good...how much sugar/salt/artificial ingredients had to be added to make it good? So, I bought some freezing trays, dug out the Cuisinart Mini-Prep, bought a new blender, and started pureeing.
I think the key is introducing a variety of tastes early--we started with avocado, banana, apple; then quickly moved on to plantains, beans, tomatoes. We added spices like cinnamon to her pureed fruits. We were a bit reckless with the introductions at times--which I obviously wouldn't recommend--but it worked out well for us. Spinach gave her a slight rash around her mouth and bottom...but I read this was rather normal, so we held off for a month and then tried again. The key was--we kept introducing anything and everything that was age-appropriate. Karmel's book has some recipes for babies under a year that include ground up nuts and fish, which some pediatricians recommend waiting on--we went for it with some things, and if I wasn't sure, I waited. By the time this kid was a year old, she had eaten more strange and interesting foods than some of the rest of our extended family had eaten in twenty years.
As our daughter got older, we obviously needed to move on from purees. Karmel has a multitude of other books--and honestly, I found some of them a bit redundant. I did purchase a copy of her New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner, and we inherited a copy of the Complete Family Meal Planner. What I like about them: the recipes are relatively simple, but include multiple vegetables in almost all. As our daughter grew, we simply went from blending to mashing to chopping and mixing up foods. What you should know about me: I don't cook. Or rather, I didn't cook, not until I started cooking for our daughter. Somehow, strangely, making baby food inspired me to make food for our family. Karmel's concoctions helped me figure out what foods taste good together, learn how to season vegetables and meats, and experiment with new combinations. So, thankfully, I'm no longer relegated to macaroni and cheese (yes, from a box, although now I buy Annie's instead of Kraft) when it's my night to cook.
article by David Edelberg my mother sent me, which warns of the link between women, carbohydrates, and heart disease, I do want her to enjoy balanced meals. Broccoli? Probably not, no matter how tasty it was (roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper). (Asparagus is the only green vegetable she will not only eat plain, but also beg for more of.) But because I chopped up the broccoli, crumbled the bacon, and mixed everything together on her plate with a little cheddar cheese, she ate it with gusto.
In fact, I smugly watched as she picked around the potato to get to the broccoli.