Thursday, June 16, 2011

Raising a Savvy Eater

Broccoli from our garden

When I was a kid, we were a meat and potatoes family. We also had a garden with fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer. That we loaded down with butter, sour cream and other yummy stuff. Then when I was 14, my dad had his first heart attack. Our diet changed dramatically. So much so that it literally divides my childhood in half in my memories. We started eating chicken and fish, very little red meat. And no more butter or salt. Everything was plain.

I was a bit of a picky eater and not a big fan of condiments, so plain was ok with me. And since 14 was around the time I started to really learn how to cook for myself, that’s how I learned to make meals. So for the next 15 years, I mostly ate bland, repetitive food, rarely venturing outside my comfort zone. And since I was single, I ate A LOT of frozen, processed foods.

Then I got married. And my poor husband was not loving my cooking. But his solution was to go to the opposite extreme – Hamburger Helper was a staple. I started trying new recipes to meet him in the middle. I looked for quick and easy things that wouldn’t be excessively fattening. It wasn’t until we had our first child that I really started thinking about WHAT we were eating. I realized most of what we ate wasn’t really good for us. It may have been low-fat or low-cal, but it was full of additives, chemicals and who knows what else.

I decided to make our baby food from scratch. It was so easy! And I wanted our daughter to get to try as many different foods as possible, so I bought things for her that I never bought for us before, like mango and avocado. Because of that, she’s been very good about eating a variety of food.

Now that she’s 3.5 and has an opinion that she likes to share with everyone (just like her mama!), she will sometimes say she doesn’t want something. I don’t force her to eat anything, but I do ask her to try everything on her plate each time. I tell her that her taste buds change every day, so something she may not have liked yesterday, she could like today. And I remind her of her favorite foods and what she would be missing if she had never tried them. Most of the time, she tries something and she likes it. And that encourages her to try more new things.

Of course, now that she’s been introduced to sugar, she often wants candy. I don’t oppose it, though I try to limit the kinds that have excessive dyes. I don’t want her to think that she can’t have it, I just want her to understand that it’s important to eat mostly fruits and vegetables, and teach her to make smart choices about treats. 
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