Thursday, July 10, 2014
How to Get Your Kids Eat Healthy (Just Kidding!)
We reached that stage when my newly one year old won't eat anything. Anything healthy, that is. I love all the advice out there about how to turn your children into little gourmets who devour arugula salad with figs, blue cheese and sherry vinaigrette, and politely chit chat about the nutritional value and the symphony of flavors, while sitting still, with endearing smiles on their innocent faces. I mostly see this advice shared by people who either don't have kids, or their kids are old enough to be AARP members, or they are the lucky parents of those three kids in this world who prefer kale to cheese sticks.
I used to think the same. I mean - it's logical, isn't it? You breastfeed them exclusively for the first 6 months, then you introduce rice cereal (to avoid allergy reactions), vegetables (to avoid spoiling their palate and setting them up for a lifetime of chocolate cravings) and fruits (to offer them the perfect snack, just like Mother Nature intended). Then my son came along. I did everything I was supposed to. Admittedly, I was so overwhelmed by the whole motherhood deal (say what?!) that I fed him jar food. From supermarkets. Sometimes not even organic. (I know. I am a terrible mother.) And he ate it. At first. Until he didn't. Today, if we let him, he would happily live on carb and cheese diet for the rest of his life.
When my daughter was born, I was not going to make the same mistake. I knew everything there was to know. I was on it! I could push the vacuum cleaner around with my right hand, while rocking her in my left. I could deal with a diaper blow out in the middle of the shopping mall and not bat an eyelid. Jar food? Not for this little one! And so I stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies, bought a new Ninja blender, made room in our freezer and got to it. She loved all the food! Sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, squash - you name it! It took a little bit longer to get her to eat fruit, but I would make fruit and veggies medleys and she would pound it down like I pound down Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Therapy. It worked!
Until she turned one. What changed, you might ask? I'll tell you what changed. She did. She wants to do everything on her own. But she can't aim, so even if she managed to dip the spoon in her bowl (and who are we kidding, that bowl goes flying across the room before any dipping has a chance of happening), she would either poke her eye out, or stick it in her ear, or smear it all over her head, or find a million other uses for it, from which not one equals actually swallowing the food.
She can eat finger foods, and for about five minutes she ate her veggies and fruit cooked and cubed. Then she stopped. She would not eat it. She shudders, spits it out and starts to wave her hands in the air like she just don't care. And she doesn't care. I know, I know, I can hear you all the way here - "just let her go hungry until she eats what's in front of her". Seriously? Have you ever met a hungry baby? Do you know what happens? They completely lose their shit. There is screaming, crying, flailing, hitting, biting (of anything but food). There are tears. There is snot pouring out of their noses and into their mouth, which gives them just enough energy to keep going. Once you cross that line, you won't be able to calm them down even with a bag of cookies and a pound of premium Swiss chocolate. Game over, man. Game over.
This would maybe not be the end of the world, but here is the hitch - you have other things to do. In real world, chances are you can't stay in your cave until your baby figures it out. You probably have to get out every once in a while. Would you go out with a raving rabid crazy maniac? Of course you wouldn't. Especially since you know what is wrong with her - she is hungry!
So there. That's how it happens. That's how you slowly cave in and pull out bread and cheese, Goldfish crackers, graham crackers and waffles. At least those are whole wheat, right? It's not that you give up. Well, not completely. You keep trying. On good days, they might eat a piece of apple. On a bad day, that same apple will make them gag. Should you keep pushing them when they are gagging? I thought maybe that's a perfect payoff for those 9 months of nausea and vomiting they both put me through, until I remembered I am still the one who would have to clean up the mess. This is when you start googling "how do I sneak in vegetables into mac and cheese" and "will they notice it's not pizza, it's cauliflower?"
My son is four now and while he prefers fried cheese and fresh baked bread, he eats some vegetables and he eats them regularly, and he loves fruit. His diet is not perfect, but it is also not horrible. My daughter...well, we will get there. I hope.