Mom Talk: Kids and Food

Today, I’m linking up with my friends Julia from Lemon Stripes, Danielle from Danielle Moss, Liz from Hello Adams Family, Emily from Isn’t That Charming, Liz from Pure Joy Home, and Eva from Happily Eva After for our monthly series we call “Mom Talk.” ☺️ Last time, we talked about kids and sleep, and before that, we chatted all things screen time. And today, we’re obviously talking about food. Don’t forget to check my girlfriends’ amazing blogs to read about their experiences, strategies and perspectives, too! I admire these mothers so much.

I should start this post out with a disclaimer. It took us a long, long time to get Emma to eat solid food. The struggle was real; she only wanted to drink milk. And much like her mother, she was a stubborn little thing. We literally never got her to consume a single spoonful of jarred baby food… and just when we were starting to freak out and Google all the terms and browse all the parenting forums, my mom (a former NICU nurse) said something incredibly calming: “Never have I met an adult who survives solely on bottles of milk. It’ll happen!”

And then, two months later, Emma decided to start eating solids. The first thing she went for? Spicy chicken wings. I kid you not. 🙄😂

Personally, I’ve found it difficult not to worry about stuff like this; while I’m a fairly laid-back mom, she’s my child, you know? But I’ve kept this little sentiment from Mom in the back of my mind throughout my parenting journey, and I recall it often. Not to say that if Emma were still only consuming bottles of milk at age two and a half that I wouldn’t have her seeing a specialist. ;) Gotta be honest there. But reminding myself that children develop, transition and embrace new stages at different times has been incredibly helpful for me as a parent, and I think it’s made me a better one, too.

All of this is to reinforce the idea that most parents struggle with getting their kids to eat healthy (or eat at all!) at one point or another. Children, by nature, are finicky and picky. So if you’re currently in the thick of it, know that you’re not alone, and think about that 35-year-old man who only drinks milk. Because he doesn’t exist! (Actually, just found this article and now I’m cracking up. At least he’s not drinking out of a bottle, though. 😜)

Anyway, this post will explore:

  • Our approach to eating and what’s currently working for us
  • What we’re currently struggling with
  • Emma’s favorite foods right now
  • The gear we’ve relied on

Let’s get to it!

Emma and Zain. Yes, that's Emma slapping Zain's hand away from her snacks.

Emma and Zain. Yes, that’s Emma slapping Zain’s hand away from her snacks.

What’s currently working for us

“Everything in moderation.” This was the mantra my parents brought me up on, and Mitch and I have fully embraced it, too. We try to not make much completely off-limits, that way Emma doesn’t become fixated on non-healthy foods. At the same time, though, we don’t let her go wild with anything, either. I do think that this has helped to build healthy eating habits.

We continue to offer her new foods, remembering that children sometimes need to try something 10 times before coming around to it! This has been the most effective method in expanding her horizons. Toddlers tend to go with the familiar, but after seeing something over and over again, they start to become curious. It took us months to get her to try watermelon, for example, but now it’s one of her favorite foods!

We involve Emma in the kitchen. First, Emma LOVES cooking. Second, it makes her invested in the meal, and she’s more likely to eat what she’s made because she’s proud of it. Though yes, the messes are real. (More on this below.)

We use seasoning. Even just a little salt and pepper will make otherwise “yucky” foods taste great!

We use sauces, dressing and peanut butter. Mostly because it’s like a little activity for her at the table. She loves dipping, and is more likely to eat her fruits and veggies when she can dip them in something.

We sometimes dehydrate fruits and veggies, too. Just slice them thin and bake at 375 degrees for a half hour or so. Sometimes we salt or put cinnamon on. They taste like chips which is an easy sell!

We have set mealtimes and really try to stick to them (as well as mealtime procedures). We sit down at the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, and we have a no electronics or television rule. This helps with distractions and making sure we actually eat our meals! (Which, in turn, helps to minimize snacking throughout the day, which destroys Emma’s appetite.) In terms of procedures, we simply do the same thing every. meal. Emma plays for roughly five minutes while we prep the kitchen and the dining room table for the meal, and then we say, “Emma! Time to cook!” She then joins us in the kitchen, and we give her simple jobs. She loves it. When everything’s ready, we carry it to the table, and we all sit down together and eat.

Before we started doing this, it was very hard to pull her away from her toys, and often, we experienced tantrums. Once we started involving her in the process, though, the tantrums stopped! When the meal is over, we either head straight out the door to peewee, straight into the nursery for nap, or straight into the bathroom for bath time (depending on the time of day). It’s almost never a problem because it’s such a routine!

We include foods that Emma already likes in family meals, but we don’t cater to her and cook her new meals if she’s not “feeling it” that day. This is something we adopted from our parents. We don’t send Emma to bed hungry, but we squashed the idea early that she could have anything her little heart desires at any meal. While it did result in a few meltdowns in the beginning, she’s now far more willing to eat what we’re eating because she knows she doesn’t have other options. We also often ask her in the morning what we should make, and try to include some of her ideas in the meals. She talks about it all day and is usually excited about eating when the meals roll around!

We use cookie cutters, food coloring and Pinterest, and make art out of our food! SO MANY FUN IDEAS. Toast and pancakes are the easiest, but seriously: just go to Pinterest for inspiration.

Our current struggles

Constipation. Oh, guys. It’s can get so bad so quickly! Our doctors say that she’s not lactose intolerant, but when we limit dairy, the situation usually becomes better. Of course, fiber and water are super important here, too. Sometimes kids fill up on milk and therefore don’t eat foods rich in fiber, so that’s another reason we try to limit dairy… but oy. I’m just hoping this is a stage, because we usually experience it every couple of weeks (even when we’re limiting dairy)… and it’s heartbreaking and scary!

We can’t get her to eat berries or avocados. WILL. NOT. TOUCH. THEM. But continue to offer them every day. Saw this recently; definitely trying it because Emma’s so into hair right now!

She’s stopped eating oranges. I mean, I go through phases of loving certain foods and then being “off them.” But what happened?! We used to eat so many cuties and now NO MORE.

Yogurt is disgusting to her. Much like baby food was. I think it’s a texture thing. I also think it’s never going to happen, which I suppose is okay since dairy is tough for us right now. But oh, do I yearn to be able to give her one of those yogurt squirt packs when we’re on the go! Would be so easy.

She hates tomatoes. Which is strange because she LOVES tomato sauce.

She loves butter as much as she loves life. Which I get, because I love it that much, too. But at the moment, we’re just trying not to have it out on the table so she doesn’t ask for more and more. Seems to be working!

Sweets: Building off “everything in moderation,” Girlfriend (understandably) would live on cookies, ice cream and candy if left to her own devices. Luckily, she’s never left to her own devices! In all seriousness, though, we limit it and try to keep it out of sight for the most part… but we also don’t deprive her of it entirely. We usually let her have a little treat after she’s finished her lunch or dinner, and we’ll occasionally get her a cookie when we’re out and about. She also knows that if she throws a fit over it, she’s not getting anything. That said, there are still fits.

Ah, yes. The cookie obsession.

Ah, yes. The cookie obsession.

Emma’s favorite foods at age 2.5

Right now, the foods that are on constant rotation for us are:

  • Carrots with hummus or soy sauce (Gross, I know.)
  • Apples with peanut butter
  • Bananas, though not her first choice
  • Watermelon
  • Celery
  • Grapes
  • Broccoli, though it’s a day-to-day thing
  • Cheese sticks
  • Corn on the cob
  • Crackers with peanut butter
  • Steak
  • Sausage
  • Sushi (California rolls are her favorite. This cracks me up because not too long ago, she wouldn’t even eat solids! Ha.)
  • Pasta with tomato sauce
  • Whole grain breads, bagels and other carbs
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Peanuts and raisins
  • Cheerios
  • Quesadillas or pizza, which are the same thing in Emma’s mind! ;)
  • Sweets, such as ice cream and cookies, although we try to limit them

(I know I’m missing some, but this is what first comes to mind!)

The gear we’ve relied on

Munchkin Miracle 360 Sippy Cup:

We love these things! I forget who recommended them to us, but we love that they’re truly no-spill, and that they taught Emma how to drink out of a “big girl cup” for when we’re in a pinch as well as for the future when it becomes socially unacceptable for her to be using a sippy cup. ;) Note: We used to use the Nuby Easy Grip Cup, but became super annoyed that the tops don’t always go with the bottoms and therefore the cups would often leak. I’d stay away from them. Boooo.

OXO Transitions Straw Cup with Removable Handles:

I credit this cup to teaching Emma how to drink using a straw. We don’t have this anymore–lost it somewhere–but it was instrumental in her learning.

Nalgene Water Bottle:

This is what we send her to peewee with. It does NOT leak, and the thing is indestructible. She loves it, too.

Munchkin No-Slip Divided Plates and Bowls:

While Emma now mostly uses our normal plates, we used these for a long time because they didn’t slide off the table. Love the divided plates; they kept all the different components of her meal separate, and encouraged her to eat everything–not just the carbs!

Silicone Plates and Placemats:

We relied on these for a long time, when food was flying everywhere. ;) They basically suction themselves to the table, minimizing messes. A lot of the plates look like animals or little scenes, too, so that made mealtime way more fun for Emma. This is the one we used the most because of the little food catchall.

Munchkin Forks and Spoons:

I’ll admit that Emma only used toddler silverware for a month or two, and then demanded that she use the real stuff, haha. But we had these toddler forks and spoons for a while, and I think they helped her learn how to grip and use silverware.

Munchkin Snack Packs:

We’d die without these things. There are lots of different companies that make different versions of the snack pack, but these are our go-to. Without them, the snacks are EVERYWHERE. With them, no mess. Though I did just add this one from OXO to my cart because it looks awesome!

The Lobster Seat:

City Dwellers, this is for you! This was recommended by Emily, and it was a godsend for us since we don’t have a ton of space for a high chair. We simply clipped it onto the end of our kitchen table, and Emma sat happily in it. It’s tiny, so we could also bring it with us when we traveled, or even to restaurants! Huge fan of this thing, and will definitely be using it with Baby #2.

Vineyard Vines bibs:

They’re not better or anything. 😂 The little whale just made me happy and reminded me of summer. But yes: bibs in dark colors are way better than lighter ones that are prone to staining. Also, these “catch all” bibs with pockets are fantastic when tots are first learning how to eat and are dropping most of what they attempt to put in their mouths. ;) And when eating particularly messy foods, I recommend stripping your kid down and having them eat in their diaper. For the laundry’s sake.

Thanks for reading! And remember to check out my girlfriends’ posts, too!

Julia from Lemon Stripes
Liz from Pure Joy Home
Danielle from Danielle Moss