If you’re anything like me, you think about it all of the time. I wouldn’t consider myself a foodie, but a fan of all things donuts, pasta, and crab rangoons.
So carbs. I’m a fan of carbs.
However, I have been known to dabble with the occasional salad or smoothie. Regardless, I love food, and when Sloan was ready to start on solid foods, I was stoked.
What I’ve Learned
+ It isn’t my job to decide what Sloan will like and not like, it is my job to offer her enough variety to make that decision herself.
+ Exposure is key. If your little one denies a specific food once, don’t give up. It can take children up to 10 different times of exposure to be comfortable with some food. Keep trying.
+ Trust your child’s gut. Children have a great sense of when enough is enough, so avoid using phrases like “just one more bite,” which teaches them to ignore their body’s signs.
I remember Reid and I recorded her first couple bites of rice cereal mixed with breast milk. As excited as we were, it was a little anti-climactic because, as some of you may know, it takes a while for humans to perfect the act of chewing.
Nonetheless, she was as excited as we were and we began buying one of each kind of baby food from plain peas to fruit medleys, eager to find out what her favorite foods would be so I could start adding it to my (not-so-monthly) updates on Facebook and Instagram.
Having worked at a daycare, I knew that we needed to offer her vegetables before fruit because of their little palates. She was enthusiastic about the Carrot-Sweet Potato-Pea combo, as well as the Pear- Zucchini-Corn medley. We quickly learned that anything green was not her cup of tea, especially the plain Green Beans. And honestly, after smelling them, I didn’t blame her.
Once we started introducing actual solid foods, like Cheerios and blueberries, things got interesting. Homegirl likes to eat. Like, a lot.
Which is something I can appreciate, and I thought this was the perfect scenario for getting her to try a whole plethora of foods. My vivacity for this was quickly dampened when we realized she was finding her core four foods and eating them like it was her job. While I was happy she was eating, I was frustrated she wasn’t trying (and liking) more foods.
I was feeling discouraged when I remembered the few things I actually read to prepare for being a parent. Children need time to learn. With everything. No exceptions. And us, as parents, need time to teach.
So Reid and I did some research and realized there were plenty of factors that could be influencing her appetite. Things like texture, temperature, size, and presentation were all elements that we had the power to control and change in an effort to accommodate to her needs.
Start With This
6+ months: Start with veggies and then introduce fruits.
12+ months: Hard-boiled eggs, sweet potatoes, and bananas are great (and healthy) finger foods.
We began offering warm oatmeal instead of cold cereal, cutting the bananas into disks instead of spears, and once she had more teeth we figured out that she liked eating a whole apple more than slices.
As far as accommodations were concerned, they stopped there. In the same way we can’t determine her personal taste in food, we also can’t stifle what she has the opportunity to try. And that meant making the same foods for Sloan as we made for ourselves-which was, and still isn’t, easy.
Having to make food for the three of us meant Reid and I had to start eating balanced meals, and our meals had to consist of more than spaghetti and baked chicken with rice.
We figured out a solid list of meals we liked and wanted to try, and started the process of familiarizing Sloan with foods like chicken, mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and beets. Knowing she was going to chow down any and all fruit, we made it a rule to give her the fruit last.
There were a lot of “nos.” So many nos. It didn’t take long for us to realize we needed a quick and easy backup plan for the meals she would spit out like an angry alpaca.
Enter: ravioli. If Sloan was made up of her favorite food, she would be a walking ravioli with blueberries for hands and feet.
When the cooked zucchini was too slimy and the chicken was taking too long to chew, we would offer her what we call “safe foods.” These are foods we know she likes, foods she feels comfortable eating, and ones we know won’t go to waste.
Having one or two safe options available at the same time as new food may ease any reluctance, which is common when children are trying new things.
There are still days when all she will eat are Goldfish and dried cranberries, which are the days that leave me feeling disheartened. Until I recognize the need for comfort food every now and then.
This doesn’t make Sloan an unhealthy child and it doesn’t make me a lackluster parent, it just makes us human.
Give yourself grace when starting solid foods with your little one, and remember that the key to raising a willing and confident eater is variety, patience, and blueberries.