I recently got a few emails asking for suggestions for toddler and baby friendly meals for picky eaters, so I thought that I would post on our eating philosophy. I would like to preface this post by saying this is my opinion only. It is not to be construed as advice or judgement on others. I do what feels good to me, so please continue to do what feels good for you
Tyler and I both grew up in traditional families. Both of our Moms are good cooks and prepared family meals every night. In my house, our meals were always a meat, a starch and at least one vegetable. Sundays were always a big dinner, usually a roast. I will always remember my Dad in a red Coca Cola apron, peeling massive amounts of carrots and potatoes onto newspaper and setting them in pots of water ahead of time. In fact, any time I pick up a veggie peeler I think of my family dinners. I wouldn’t say I cook like my Mom, but I definitely take cues from her.
Ty and I ate most of our meals on the couch until Abrielle was born. The day we brought her home we started eating at the table and continue to do so every night. Thus, our family dinner was born and continues to be an important aspect to our lives. I believe it is imperative to teach our children good table manners and an appreciation for the food they eat. Abby asks to be excused and thanks us for the meal before leaving the table, and is expected clear her plates.
Ty and I follow different diets. I am vegan and he eats everything. So, when it came time to start feeding our children, we had a lot of discussion and compromise. With Abby, we avoided meat for almost a year but introduced dairy, including milk, around 10 months. She weaned to whole milk at almost a year. Gracelyn nursed exclusively until almost 13 months and weaned to coconut milk, and we waited a year before introducing small amounts of dairy and meat.
I am still not very comfortable with the girls having dairy, but Tyler is for it and he gets a say too ;-). Our compromise here is that dairy is limited to 1 cup a day to drink and a small amount of yogurt and cheese. The rest is made up with almond or coconut milk. They both get small amounts of meat, although the type is limited (i.e, no high nitrate meats like hot dogs and lunch meats…although recently we have started giving Abby the “natural” deli meats).
I am very lucky to have been blessed with two incredibly good eaters with varied palates, and I have capitalized on that! Before they voice an opinion, I fed them a plant based diet high in legumes. Now that Abby is older, she has a say in what she eats. At dinner if we have a meat option, she can choose what type of protein she has or both (she usually goes with both!). At lunch, she decides vegetable she has and chooses her fruit with breakfast. Gracelyn will literally eat whatever is placed in front of her!
Most of our baked goods are homemade and whole grain or alternate grain flours, as well as vegan. I use to make our bread, but I don’t anymore, mainly because I hate the mess that cutting it makes! I involve Abrielle in a lot of the baking and cooking, and I want the girls to understand what goes into food preparation. Our kids do get dessert most nights, but it is applesauce or yogurt 99% of the time.
I would love to say that I don’t buy any packaged foods, but I definitely do. Crackers, rice cakes, pretzels, yogurt raisins, snap pea crisps and garlic peas, etc. I try to balance carb snacks with fruit, nuts and sometimes cheese and use them sparingly, but it gets hard because my kids eat almost every waking moment they are awake.
We incorporate a lot of produce into our meals, and I feel very fortunate that I dont have to hide or mask it. My kids will eat all veggies for the most part, although Abby doesn’t like squash or peppers. I usually bulk up pasta sauces, soups and rice with extra veggies. If I make bunny noodles, I boil broccoli or cauliflower in the same water or add peas. I don’t mind the girls having condiments like ketchup, but try to ensure they will eat foods naked too.
It is so important to me that my kids understand not only what healthy choices are, but also why they are important. Treats are definitely allowed, but they need to be identified as such. I don’t give my kids chocolate milk, and they also don’t ask for it, even though other people have given it to Abby. I don’t buy juice, but Abby is allowed to have it (once a day) elsewhere, like restaurants. Gracie doesn’t get juice at this point, and I am shocked that she doesn’t ask for it yet!
Some foods that are on my personal “blacklist” for the girls include Kraft dinner, pop, drinks with artificial sweeteners or added sugar, and hot dogs. Abby has had a few hotdogs in her life, and while she does like them, actually can’t figure out the mechanics of how to eat them!
Long story short (ha ha) we try our best to feed our kids clean and healthy meals while also incorporating treats in moderation. I don’t want the girls grow up feeling so deprived that they go crazy any chance they get. I just hope they develop a healthy relationship with the food they eat and understand how to best fuel their bodies.