From other posts you know I'm a HUGE advocate for breastfeeding. What you might have also picked up on is that I'm pretty adamant that kids DO NOT have cow's milk until AFTER they're 2 years of age. (If you want details on why, send me a message--or, pick up a copy of The Maker's Diet--it's a great read.) Back to breastfeeding. It's truly the best way to get your kid eating right from the get go. Yes, I know there are many circumstances and situations that make breastfeeding difficult or impossible. However, if you CHOOSE not to breastfeed--you are really limiting your child's health and well being. It's researched & documented. Just google it.
Essential to breastfeeding is what YOU put in your mouth. The same holds true later, after breastfeeding. Like everything with kids, this is the start to a long time habit of your kids imitating you. Your kids are watching you, even when you eat. Your choices directly impact their choices. I don't like broccoli, or peas, or green beans, or cooked spinach, or pretty much most any vegetable (especially the green ones). Sorry to disappoint you. Do I eat them? Yep, and especially when the kids are watching.
We strive for balance. Protein, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and good fats at every meal. We're not perfect. Yesterday the kids ate cereal for breakfast, followed by eggs and pancakes for lunch, and rice and chicken for dinner. I did manage to get them to eat a few bites of my Chicken Asian Salad (with cabbage, carrots, lettuce, and bell peppers). Those days happen, and it's okay. (My kids are currently eating cereal even though it will ruin their dinner.)
I'm also a very mean mom. My kids must eat what I give them. Even if it means they sit at the table for hours. I'll work with them to find a way to choke down those veggies, but it's going to happen. This has been consistent since the beginning. I think they believe at sometime we'll cave. However, when we give them something new we only require one bite. You have to try it, and if you don't like it--okay. We'll try again some other day. That's key--trying something once doesn't work. Giving them ample opportunity to try different foods helps develop a palate for healthy foods.
One exception that we've made for our kids on trying food: potatoes. My kids do not like mashed potatoes. Or baked, or smothered in cheese, or made into a casserole, or anything except fried and roasted. It's something I'll never understand, and I sincerely hope they change their minds. We rarely have potatoes because of this, which is very sad. I miss potatoes. We've had some success with yukon golds and reds, but Russets are out. I think it's a texture thing.
We love treats and sweets just like everybody. Just like most families it's healthy first, then the sweets. We don't have dessert available every day either. This is something to start from the beginning. We didn't allow sweets until each child reached the age of 2. Yes, even on their 1st birthdays they didn't have cake! (Remember, I'm a mean mom.) O was thrilled with a bowl of oatmeal (though I made him a sugar free muffin), and E loved her sweet potato.
I could keep going on about food, but I'll try to keep it to 10 main points:
- Start 'em young.
- Be a good example to them.
- Don't keep junk food in the house. Make it a special occasion.
- Include them in the gardening and the cooking. You'll be shocked how this perks their interest in foods. (Don't give up. O could care less at age 2 about the peas in the garden, but at almost 5 he eats carrots if HE gets to chop them.) When they get older, they'll be part of the menu planning & grocery shopping.
- Make good choices when eating out.
- Avoid fried and processed at all costs.
- When you travel, have them try the local food. (Unless you're in the deep-fried south.) ;)
- Be honest. If it's spicy, tell them. If it's sweet, tell them. Talk about what you're eating--where it came from, how it got to their plates, etc. Make food interesting. Tell them about the vitamins and good things in their food, and how it effects their body. (I also like to tell them how hard candy gets stuck in their teeth and causes tooth decay. This back fires when I get caught eating sweets or junk food.)
- Create a monthly meal plan, seasonally based. Once you have a couple months down, you can just rotate various meals throughout the weeks in the season. Batch cooking & freezing will save you from last minute take out.
- Don't beat yourself up for not being "perfect." No one is perfect. Do your best, and try to have fun with your food. If it's your only focus, you're going to get stressed. I'm betting even the "experts" have ice cream for dinner from time to time. At least that's what I told myself when I had cookies for breakfast this morning.
I think you should check out PlanToEat.com. A friend of mine started this site to help his wife, and it has been a life saver (& money saver) for us. The burden of planning meals, making our grocery list, and searching recipes has been simplified with one easy online tool. The best is that you can share recipes for friends. So, if you sign up--find my name & take advantage of all the recipes that I've already uploaded.