My sister, a strict vegetarian, took a personal interest in my pregnancy when I carried my first child. She shocked me at the start. “Of course, you’re going to eat organic, right? There’s no question (pause, pause). Marty, right?” I hadn’t really thought about it. I didn’t want to think about food at all since I was still having morning sickness. She plowed on. “Stay away from all of that genetically modified crap and the pesticides and the growth hormones and god-knows-what-else. I mean, think about it! We want our baby as healthy as possible, right?” Yes, of course, yes. But that didn’t stop me from eyeing Hershey bars. Still, she had a point. And as I started feeling better later in pregnancy — entering the “salad days” period of glorious eating — I started reading up on it. My big sister really knew her stuff.
PREGNANCY — GET STARTED
There was this picture I saw of an attractive pregnant woman, face flushed and happy as she bit into a golden delicious apple. That’s who I wanted to be. Eating well is a choice you have to make and it’s not easy. There are so many temptations out there, not to mention all of the convenience packaging, that my pantry could be filled with boxes of carbs to keep me gut-loaded for days. Was I going to do that to my child? No. So I made every effort to eat whole foods rather than packaged. And I dove into organic produce. I loved knowing that I was giving my baby the best — fruits and veggies without the use of pesticides, sewage sludge, irradiation treatments, antibiotics and more. Once I started learning about organic versus non, there was no stopping me. And now, with my sweet boy Henry with me every day, we explore fruits and veggies together — organically. I try to make it fun, and I definitely have to be consistent: a banana with breakfast ... or strawberries or blueberries. Instead of whipping out potato chips or crackers when he wants a snack, I go to baby carrots, or I make one of those rainbow plates of fruits and veggies. The key, I have found, is to include variety and to always keep your child guessing.
BABY — FIGHT FOR VARIETY
When Henry was a baby, I made his own food. I think by having control over what I was giving him I was able to bring sugar into his life in a slow, not-too-alarming rate. One of the biggest things to kill off a baby’s interest in wholesome vegetables is when they start tasting sweet foods. You have to introduce it slowly because it’s so darn good. So, with the book my sister gave me, Organic Superfoods Cookbook for Baby and Toddler by Shazi Visram and Cricket Azima (Weldon Owen; 2016), I pureed banana, beet and blueberry. Avocado, kiwi and kale. Veggie medleys, fruit medleys and every combination I could think of. I always tasted first to see if it was good; that way, if he wrinkled his nose I could understand what he liked and why or why not. And I’d keep it coming. I made mealtimes an adventure of fruit purees, roasted vegetable purees, all kinds of mashes and all kinds of yummy goodness. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but I love being a mom more than any other thing I’ve done in life. And my smart older sister insists it will all be past me before I know it, so this is how I choose to spend my time. I prioritize my child’s eating and help him appreciate a love of good tasting healthy food that will keep him strong as he grows and fill him with powerful immunities.
TODDLER — DON’T FORCE IT
First of all, don’t worry when your toddler starts refusing your carefully prepared foods. You aren’t doing anything wrong, he’s just becoming a big boy! It’s time to shift, but not time to cave (i.e. cookies, chips). All toddlers start getting picky, and that’s OK. Don’t start fighting with them because you will lose. Keep a sense of humor and keep things light. Meanwhile, keep on exploring your adventure with food. You will be wise to let your toddler decide how much food he wants to eat. Keep offering him healthy and tasty fruits and veggies (along with your main course), and don’t ever punish him for refusing. Make sure your child's good and hungry when it’s meal time, too. Sometimes (especially if he’s had a play date or been at day care), he may have been given the very snacks you’ve tried so hard to keep at bay. It will happen. This is the time when you really have to keep on keeping on in the battle for his healthy body. Take him with you when you pick up your CSA share, too. Allow him to have a voice in deciding meals so lunch and dinner aren’t just sprung on him. Be consistent with meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple of healthy snacks in between. I let Henry work with me in the kitchen and try to keep our time together fun because it’s so much more productive when it’s eating time. I show him pictures in cookbooks and talk about yummy things we can make. When he opens the refrigerator, I try to always make sure that he sees colorful fruits and veggies (organic, washed and ready) within reach. Have I worn you out? I hope not. This little man is worth it to me, and we’re having a good time together. We’re also excited that a little girl is on the way — and we’re talking about all of the yummy things she’ll be eating with us soon!
FRUIT- & VEGGIE-EATING TIPS
- Offer them daily and make sure they are washed, colorful and nicely displayed.
- Eat veggies together, and be a good role model for enjoying fruits and veggies.
- Maintain a one-bite rule for what you offer ... and do not force your child to eat more.
- Enjoy veggie smoothies and juices together.
- Add veggies to meals and soups you prepare.