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I started with the best of intentions. Armed with books and recipes to start my daughter’s eating habits on the right foot, I pureed and chopped superfoods like broccoli, sweet potatoes, and blueberries. I baked fresh wild caught sockeye salmon, and I stewed tomatoes only to saute them skinless with unsalted organic butter. Then it happened – we fell into the beige diet rut.
Not long after she started walking she began to only want (or only eat) foods like toasted O’s cereal, pasta, bread, and cheese. It only took a couple weeks (and a half gallon of 100% prune juice) to realize I had to shake things up in the meal department. There are countless articles online for incentivizing children to eat healthy, but as with any expert opinion I needed to consider the individuality of my child. Sure, I could offer her avocado fifteen times and perhaps by the sixteenth attempt she may give it a go, but I figured I’d have better luck if I considered what she enjoys before putting something she doesn’t like on her plate day after day.
The first key to my success was mixing things up. I know she loves lemon, so when she turned her nose up at my ‘salmon surprise‘ I started dousing her baked salmon in fresh lemon juice. Not a fan of the texture of whole beans, I began offering hummus and white bean dip (coincidentally, both recipes contain lemon juice) for her to dunk cubes of cooked tofu or whole wheat pretzel sticks. She loves soup, so when she refused to eat vegetables I added them to some low sodium chicken broth with star shaped pasta.
Second, I decided to make mealtime more fun and figured food presentation could go a long way (who doesn’t love a good sauce drizzle?). Nut butter sandwiches cut into a star and sweet potato purees formed into a heart have become a hit. I also changed the way we talk about food: “pink fish” for salmon, “tiny trees” for broccoli, “counting stars” soup, and “magic beans” for edamame.
I may have initially knocked the strategy of offering the same food repeatedly, but it turns out there is some merit to that method. After watching a webinar called “Feeding the Picky Eater” where the presenter suggests trying the same food in varying ways, I tried broccoli with butter, broccoli with applesauce dunking sauce, and broccoli with cheese. At first, she didnt want it on her plate, then she started eating the dunking sauce, then she ate the cheese off the broccoli (while it was on her plate!), and then, success, she ate the actual broccoli floret!
We still have days where I offer a medley of superfoods and she’ll only eat the chicken nuggets or the side of whole wheat pasta, but when I look at her overall diet she now has a broader variety of healthy foods to nourish her growing body.
I’d love to hear about your recipes or suggestions for incorporating superfoods into your child’s diet!