My goal in feeding Audrey has always been straightforward: raise my little one into someone who is open to trying new foods, enjoys real food, appreciates good food, and eats whole foods. It takes effort. And work. But just like sleep-training, potty-training, bottle-weaning, etc…I make it a priority. It certainly doesn’t hurt that this is also my profession and what I love to do. But culinary experience aside, in 2 years of feeding Audrey, talking to friends with kids, reading books, researching and more, here is what I’ve figured out. It’s not always the easiest or quickest route, but it’s a route that I have found works. And works well.
*The tips and ideas here are based solely on my own experience and personal opinion – they are by no means right or wrong.
- I always keep foods in the house that allow me to make a quick homemade meal. Chicken breasts, eggs, green leafys, bread, tomatoes, cheese, beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, whole grains, pasta…. Every night doesn’t have to be a big elaborate meal. Even if it’s just scrambled eggs, Audrey sees me cooking and is learning that real food is a priority for our family.
- Everyone eats the same meal – with the appropriate texture, dietary, or spice variations needed for younger kids/babies. No exception.
- I always have fresh fruit and vegetables in the house. I try to keep it seasonal, apples and pears in winter, berries and stone fruit in summer, bananas always. Fresh real fruit, not pouches or store-bought purees where the sugar content is higher and the fiber content less. I serve fresh cut veggies as a first course. Little hand salads are a favorite, but anything you can serve raw that you might be preparing is always good.
- I don’t sneak foods in. That doesn’t mean I don’t add beets to brownies and spinach to smoothies, I just give Audrey full disclosure when I do. I always tell her what’s in the food we’re eating.
- Dessert isn’t a reward. I don’t want to instill an idea in Audrey’s head that dessert is the good tasting stuff we get after we finish all the bad tasting stuff. If she wants something after dinner she can have it. It’s usually fruit. It might be a cookie. I don’t make a big deal about it. For more on this, check out Dina Rose’s theory here.
- Make dinner as enjoyable as you can. We talk about the texture, smell, taste, etc…of the food we’re eating. I want Audrey to associate mealtime with pleasure. That also means no distractions during meals…phones, toys, books, tv, nothing. For her or us.
- If she’s eating well-balanced foods on a daily basis I don’t worry if she eats a meal lacking veggies. Having a broad diet allows us a lot of freedom. There’s no pressure to finish her broccoli at dinner if she had spinach in her eggs at breakfast.
- Be diverse. If you serve the same thing all the time it will be that much harder to get kids to try new things.
- Let them be involved. Put out the food family style and allow kids to take as much and as little as they want. Let them tell you when they want more or when they’re full. Let them get in touch with what they like and how they feel. Let them be involved in the process, whether helping with the shopping or prepping the meal.
- Have a schedule. Audrey eats 3 meals a day and 1 mid-afternoon snack. Sometimes a mid-morning snack if we were really active or she woke earlier than usual. Constant snacking and irregular eating leads to meltdowns, unhealthy eating habits, filling up before a meal, and all those other annoying habits we are trying to avoid.