Mason's Peers Pressure Him to Eat Healthfully & I Like It

Mason always eats his whole grains, veggies, and fruits at school, which both thrills me and makes me feel like I have a paper cut that’s been spritzed with lemon juice. Since he turned 1 last August, mealtime is an…adventure. Sometimes he’ll eat a beautiful meal, while other times he refuses to eat anything but yogurt, graham crackers, and applesauce. So why is he willing to eat well so consistently at school and not at home? Peer pressure, according to a new study published in the journal of Current Biology.

Researchers discovered that even two-year-olds were more likely to copy an action when they saw it repeated by other toddlers, reports US News and World Report. “I think few people would have expected to find that 2-year-olds are already influenced by the majority,” said study author Daniel Haun, of the Max Planck Institutes for Evolutionary Anthropology and Psycholinguistics in Germany and the Netherlands.

There’s a lot to worry about when it comes to peer pressure–the documentary Bully immediately comes to mind–but in this case, peer pressure is an excellent thing. The kids in his class, who range from about 18-months-old to 21-months-old, eat breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack together. The school only serves healthful food, and when one kid bites into a spear of broccoli or apple slice, the others try it out, confirms Mason’s teacher. In my opinion, that’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Dare I dream that Mason is a leader sometimes and not always a follower? Perhaps it’s time to invite the neighborhood tots over for dinner and find out.

Does peer pressure have a positive effect on your toddler?

Photo, above: Mason enjoys whole-wheat pancakes with a raspberry sauce and fresh apple slices at school


Putting the Kabosh on Teething Pain with Chilled Fruits & Veggies

We had the Saturday from h-ll. Poor Mason’s cutting three new teeth and he has a brutal cold so he just clung to us and screamed most of the day. His little gums were horribly swollen and red, his nose was running nonstop, and his chest was rattling when he breathed. I’ve never felt so helpless as a Mom. He’s always been a good baby so we don’t have much experience with crying/screaming jags (yes, there’s an excellent chance we’ll get hit hard with #2). I kept wishing there was something I could do to make his misery go away, but I could only try to minimize his painful symptoms. At one point, I started to cry, too, out of sympathy and exhaustion and worry. I became Worse Case Scenario Mom and was convinced something was seriously wrong with him. Luckily Chris is an excellent voice of reason or I probably would have taken my baby to the ER…for teething and a cold.

To treat his cold, we turned on the shower and had him breathe in steam from hot water for 10-minute intervals (Chris and I took turns holding him and distracting him from the discomfort of the hot, wet air with his toy cars). He also slept with a humidifier running and a thick coating of Vicks on his chest. To help the teething pain, which seems to be the greater of the two evils, I gave him baby Motrin and frozen pacifiers. At mealtime, I coaxed him to eat a few different soft, squishy foods. He didn’t want to eat much (he even rejected mac ‘n’ cheese!), but here are the things that he would eat. We’d go through the list, try a few other things, and then repeat. (Other moms have recommended frozen bagels and waffles to us in the past, but unfortunately Bug wouldn’t go for either.) Any other suggestions to add to the list?

1. Homemade applesauce, chilled in the freezer for 20 minutes before serving

2. Beets, diced, cooked, and chilled

3. Banana, sliced and partially frozen

4. Full-fat Greek yogurt mixed with icy smashed pear; try one spoonful of yogurt for every two spoonfuls of fruit.

5. Ripe melon, diced and chilled– not the easiest thing to find this time of year but we lucked out.

6. Ice cold milk — a drink, I know, but Bug consumed more milk than anything else.

Other foods that Mason was willing to eat included chunks of Swiss cheese, toast with melted cheddar cheese, corn, and peas. He rejected eggs, pasta, turkey meatballs, blueberries, and grapes.

Tonight I’m making a chicken-ginger soup (recipe to come soon!). Now that both Bug and I both have his cold we need a little TLC and hot bowls of homemade soup just sound good!

How Cooking for My Son Made Me a Healthier Eater

It took an a—kicking pregnancy, a love-affair with pureeing, and a scary blood test to make me eat the way that I should have been eating all along.

Before Mason was born, back when I knew I loved children but wasn’t sure whether I wanted children of my own, I’d eat well sometimes and then other times I’d have what I call “single-girl dinners” whenever Chris was working late. These “dinners” would consist of spoonfuls of peanut butter from the jar, whole-grain chips dipped in guacamole or hummus, or rice crackers topped with goat cheese. (One time, left, “dinner” was a bag of M&Ms en route to a night out with friends.) I’d have a big glass of red wine and a few spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt for dessert. I could stay thin enough with only moderate effort, so I didn’t sweat the occasional unhealthful meal.

Around the same time I considered guacamole and crackers dinner, my twin sister had a baby. When I held my niece for the first time I knew I was meant to be a mom one day. Two years later we decided to try for a baby, and I was fortunate enough to get pregnant within a few months. I ditched the single-girl dinners and obsessed over everything I ate. Was I getting enough vitamin C? Enough calcium? An adequate dose of vitamin A? And so on. I planned my meals and snacks obsessively, determined to create a nutritionally superior environment for my babe — whatever that meant. (If you’re reading this and you’re pregnant, take it from me: A “nutritionally superior environment” isn’t a tangible, sane goal; just eat healthfully and you and baby will be just fine.)

Mason was born and I slipped into that tunnel of sleep-deprivation that every mom finds herself in those first six weeks. When breastfeeding ended and I stopped focusing on making the “perfect” breastmilk, takeout became dinner for Chris and me almost every night. Then Mason started solids and I shifted my attention to cooking all of his food. I fell in love with pureeing.  It was incredibly fulfilling to buy all of those fresh fruits and veggies and then chop, cook, and puree them. I’d puree and puree and then I’d put some in the fridge and freeze the rest for later. I loved showing off that well-stocked freezer (I still show it off but now it’s filled with finger foods instead of purees).

At one point it occurred to me that Mason was eating a lot better than I was, but I was so happy with how well he was eating that I didn’t really focus on cleaning up my act. I went on with my life, and eventually I made time for a check-up with my doctor (it had been ages). She convinced me to get a number of blood tests to check my overall health since I’d given birth a year earlier. Two days later I got a call from her office. My iron levels were incredibly low and my B12 wasn’t great either. I needed to take a supplement and two different multivitamins to get everything back on track.  The next time I ordered groceries I doubled the produce order and vowed to get my act together for good.

I’ve stuck with that vow because I want to be a strong, healthy mom for Mason. I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of him. It’s also important for Mason to see that I’m putting a priority on nutritious food and healthful living. Now, I make a point of stopping whatever I’m doing at mealtime, and I sit down and eat a meal that’s been thoughtfully put together.  Of course I still splurge, but I’m proud to say my diet is much more balanced — and free of the canned, frozen stuff. It’s been an easy lifestyle change that has benefited the whole family. After all, both Mason and I deserve a healthy me.

What about you? Has cooking for your babe helped you eat better? Or is there another habit that your babe has inspired you to improve?


Should Moms Only Feed Their Kids Healthy Foods?

My post last week about Mac ‘n’ cheese sparked a debate about how moms should feed their children. Childhood obesity came up more than once. This afternoon fellow blogger Richard Rende reminded me of that debate with his post on whether severely obese children should be separated from their parents. Once again, the question that’s been running through my mind since last Tuesday surfaced: Should moms only feed their kids healthful foods?

Mason’s at the age (11-months-old tomorrow!) where I control everything he eats. His diet consists of healthy grains, veggies, fruits, and lean protein but I do allow him splurges here and there. Mason’s not obese (he’s at the 3% mark for weight on the charts currently), but does that even matter? If he were obese then would occasional splurges still be OK?  Or should we put the kibosh on junk food in favor of all healthy food for our kids, all the time? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Photo from Clip Art Pal