I used to think I knew a lot about food. I have a Ph.D. in Nutrition, for crying out loud. Then I became a mom.
It isn’t just about me anymore. As a mother, I feel the weight of the responsibility of raising a healthy eater. I want BabyC to not only eat well today, but to also enjoy eating and grow up to have a healthy relationship with food. None of my coursework in grad school prepared me for this job.
Over the last year, I have learned a lot about feeding a child. Who has been my most important teacher? The kid herself.
If BabyC could say more than “ack-ack” (cracker) or “ana” (banana), here’s what I think she’d like me to know about feeding her:
Lesson 1. You can’t make me eat anything. You just can’t. You can try, but Mama, that just takes the fun out of it! And how do you think I’ll feel about broccoli in 20 years if you force me to eat it now?
Lesson 2. Relax. It isn’t your job to decide how much or even whether I eat. That’s my job. Your job is to fix good food and put it on the table at regular mealtimes. You can handle that, right?
Lesson 3. Sit down to eat with me. Otherwise, I feel bored and will take the opportunity to repeat my milk pouring experiment for the 248th time. I feel pretty certain about the gravity thing, but now I’m curious to see just how large of a diameter I can make it splatter on the floor.
Lesson 4. And put your phone away. That’s just rude.
Lesson 5. I don’t need a lot of snacks. Who has time to snack all day when there are playgrounds to explore and trees to climb? Let’s just stick with sharing an afternoon snack at the table after my nap. Without a lot of snacking, I might actually feel hungry when we sit down for a meal, and I might actually feel like trying something new.
Lesson 6. I don’t care about nutrients. I care about food. Stop trying to count nutrients, Mama. You’re just driving yourself crazy. Let’s keep it simple. At most meals, try to get a protein, something green, and something yellow/orange/red on my plate. Let me take care of the rest. I’ll be fine.
Lesson 7. Make it fresh. If you want me to eat more vegetables, forget about what’s in the freezer. Let’s go to the farmer’s market and get some super-crisp snow peas and sun-ripened cherry tomatoes. Now we’re talking.
Lesson 8. Give me flavor. If you want me to try kale, how about sprinkling some of that nice sea salt on it? Also, I like my butternut squash with a little butter and just a pinch of brown sugar. Plain veggies are for babies. Oh, and don’t forget about bacon! If all else fails, add a little bacon.
Lesson 9. Back off every once in a while, Mama. It’s fun to eat with other people. Like the other day, when you went out for a run while I hung out at my friends’ house, we tried lots of new foods! And when our friend was unpacking her picnic lunch at the park while you were jabbing on with another mama, I just had to try some of that seaweed and salmon. Sometimes food tastes better when someone more interesting than my mom is eating it.
Lesson 10. Don’t give up. If I seem skeptical of green things, that’s because I just have this sense inside me that I should be careful about eating too many bitter plants. I might have to taste something LOTS of times before I feel OK about it. That might have saved my life if you were raising me to forage in the forest for my food.
Lesson 11. Juice? What’s juice? The only juice I know about is the sticky sweet stuff that drips down my arm when I eat a ripe peach. I like a little milk with meals, but not so much that I don’t have room in my small tummy to try the other delicious food on my plate.
That’s it. Everything you need to know about feeding toddlers, straight from the source. Thanks, BabyC.
What have you learned about feeding toddlers? What would you add to BabyC’s list?