It probably has nothing to do with anything I’ve done, but all 3 of my kids will eat almost anything. Yes, it might be a fluke, but in case it’s not, here are a few of the things that have worked for me in avoiding raising picky eaters. (Obviously, every child is different and check with your pediatrician before making any big changes to your kid’s diet.)
1. I don’t avoid any foods while nursing. Yep, onions, spicy foods, coffee. All of it. My rationale is, they’re going to taste these flavors sometime, so why not now?
2. I make my own baby food. Let’s be honest, the main reason I do this because I’m cheap. Also, I’m no doctor, but I tend to think that when you steam and purée the food yourself, it’s more likely to get the baby used to different tastes and textures that more closely resemble real food. (That being said, I don’t make my own baby food as much as I used to anymore. Now that I’m on baby number 3, I just don’t have the time, and that’s totally okay. I do what I can.)
3. I put lots of spices in our baby food. Maybe it’s because I’m cool. Maybe it’s because I’m bored of feeding my kid plain broccoli purée. But, whenever I’m heating up a batch of baby food, I throw in some spices. Some of my favorite combos are: sage with puréed carrots, cumin with puréed zucchini and thyme and basil with puréed corn. I once read an article that said spices are fine for babies. For example, in many Middle-Eastern cultures, babies are eating spicy foods from a very early age. Good enough for me.
4. I try to teach nutritional intelligence. I first heard about this concept from Dr. Alan Greene, who just launched a series of short, informative videos along with Plum Organics. Nutritional intelligence is basically the idea that, during the window of time between when your baby sits up and starts walking, it’s critical to introduce them to new foods, over and over. In fact, Dr. Greene says that if you let a baby taste a food 6 to 10 times before they learn to walk, there’s a higher likelihood that they will learn to love it. I’ve done this with all 3 of my kids, and it’s awesome. (I’ve shared a 2-minute video where Dr. Greene talks about this at the end of this post, so scroll down if you’d like to watch it.)
5. I feed my babies what I’m eating as soon as I can. Like, yesterday, I gave my 9-month-old some of my green smoothie in a sippy cup. Yes, it had protein powder in it, and yes that might not be exactly what my great aunt would recommend, but my pediatrician says it’s fine and I’m going with it.
6. I stop offering snacks after naps and dinner. This seems obvious, but I used to let my older kids snack all afternoon, and then (wow, how shocking!), they didn’t want the wonderful dinner I’d made. Now, after 4pm, the pantry is closed (literally, locked), for the rest of the day.
7. I let my kids get hungry. Yep, you read that right. This may not work for all, but it works for me. I figure, if my kids are hungry enough, they will eat it. Eventually. I know the food’s not something disgusting, so eventually, once I wait long enough, they come back to the plate and end up eating it.
8. If my kids don’t finish lunch or dinner, I keep the plate out on the counter, as opposed to throwing the food away and washing the dish. This way, if they come back and ask for a snack 30 minutes later, it’s really convenient to hold them accountable. So, I can say, “Well, you didn’t finish your lunch, and here it is. When you’re finished, I’ll give you the snack you want.” And, they almost always eat up.
9. I don’t make my kids eat anything, but I do ask them to try everything once. And, I let my kids help me make stuff. I can’t do this all the time, because I don’t have 35 minutes to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But when I can, I let them come into the kitchen with their stepstools and help me spread butter onto bread, or peel a banana, or take grapes off the vine. When they’re more involved in making it, they’re more likely to want to eat it.
10. I don’t make food a big deal. If there’s something new on the plate, I’m not all like, “OMG! This broccoli is soooooo amazing! You just have to try it!” I just let them take a look at it and ask about it. While they’re eating, I let them breathe and we talk about other things. This seems to encourage a natural curiosity about food, so that it seems like my kids almost feel like they’re exploring and doing something exciting when they put a new food in their mouth. All 3 of them love trying new foods, and aren’t scared of them. I don’t really know why, but this might be part of it.
What are your best tried-and-true kid food tricks? Share them in the comments section below.
Thanks to Plum Organics for sponsoring this post! Plum is known for leading the conversation on kid palate development and healthy eating habits, and I’m helping them launch this video series, which features Dr. Greene, and answers their most popular questions from new parents, including how to wean off breastmilk and when to introduce new foods to baby. I’ve watched the videos, and they’re really concise and easy-to-understand. Let me know what you think!