Is Your Tot Refusing to Eat? Entice Him With One of These Dips.

When Mason’s being a picky little pill at mealtime, I add a dip to the mix, and watch him dig in. Last night, for example, he was more interested in his toy cars than dinner, so I added a dish of hummus to his tray, and suddenly he was gobbling up the strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and multi-grain crackers on his plate. (Sadly the pasta sat untouched, but you can’t win ’em all!) Sometime he eats dip by the spoonful, but since we give him healthy dips, I don’t mind. These ideas have worked for us. Any of your own ideas to add?

Eggplant Dip — Multi-grain crackers, bell pepper, tomatoes, chicken.

Cucumber-Yogurt Dip — Bell pepper, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, chicken.

Ketchup — Mason likes everything better with ketchup.
(I like Annie’s natural ketchup because it doesn’t have sugar or corn syrup.)

Hummus — Try it with chicken, bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, and apple slices.
Make it or buy it at the store; we like Sabra’s classic and roasted red pepper hummus

Peanut Sauce — Try it on chicken and lamb.

Guacamole — Try mild to medium guacamole on carrot sticks, toasted pita wedges, and tomatoes.

Photo: Eggplant Dip, BHG.com

Major Gross Out: Mason Eating After Other People

I’ve missed you guys! We were out of town for several days over the holiday weekend, and in an effort to unplug, I didn’t bring my computer with me. We traveled down to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit family, and everyone had a great time. Mason especially loved running his grandparents around and playing with his cousins (he’s one of four boys under 3!). But a new eating quirk surfaced on our trip that has me really freaked out, and I’m dying to hear what you guys think about it.

Mason ate a lot–especially if it came from another person’s plate. At an Asian-fusion restaurant one afternoon, for example, he ate my grilled tofu and soba soup, as well as Chris’ beef fried rice, but he refused to touch his own shrimp dumplings. At lunch another day, he ate half of his grandpa’s chicken salad sandwich after rejecting his own meal. He liked his vanilla ice cream at the local ice cream shop, but he preferred to, gulp, lick from everyone else’s cone. At a Memorial Day cookout, he ignored his cheeseburger and dug into Chris’ cheeseburger (above) instead. And so on.

On one hand, I was psyched to see him eat so well. But I was so grossed out, you guys. Repulsed. Like, OMG, did he really just lick that half-eaten ice cream?! I nearly gagged.

I mean, I’ll share my food with Mason once in a while, because he came from me, so it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But I hate the thought of Mason eating after anyone but  Chris and me, and I really hated watching it happen.  (If I had my choice, everyone would stick to their own plate all the time, but so it goes.) I didn’t grow up in a household where people ate after one another, and I think eating after someone else is germy and spitty and just plain yuck.

For Mason’s sake, I sucked up my horror. No need to share my neurosis with my 21-month-old. Whenever possible, I minimized the communal sandwich and tried to redirect his attention to food that hadn’t already been bitten into to. But there was definitely a lot of sharing going on throughout our trip, and I’m betting I was the only one in the room (secretly) bugging out when it happened.

Am I crazy, or can you relate? Should I have said something, or was I right to just let it go?

Toddler Being Difficult at Mealtime? Try This Smart (& Easy) Tip.

On Tuesday, I interviewed Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician and co-author of Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup, for an article–and I admitted that I’ve been having trouble getting Mason to eat his fruits and veggies lately. I explained that he happily eats the good stuff at school, which she attributes to positive peer pressure, but not at home. She had plenty of tips, but the one I tried first? Take him grocery shopping.

I’ve heard that tending a garden with your kid could make him eat more healthfully, but it honestly didn’t occur to me that shopping for food would be intriguing to a 20-month-old. Dr. Shu explained that participating in the process of selecting the food and even seeing it before it’s cooked could make Mason more interested in eating it.

I thought back to our baby food days and how we used to wander around the farmer’s market in our quest for organic produce to puree. I have no idea whether that experience, back when he was so young, had any influence at all in helping him become such an adventurous eater as a baby (he was into curry at nine-months-old), but we certainly bonded during those outings. And then somewhere between work and our crazy schedules, I started ordering most of our groceries online to save time. So Mason’s only real connection to the food was helping me unload it from cardboard boxes. Which he loves, but it’s just not the same.

That night we headed to Grand Central Market after I picked him up from school. The place is inside Grand Central Station, in the heart of NYC’s midtown East neighborhood, and it’s filled with stalls brimming with fresh produce, meats, spices, and cheeses. We browsed the fruits and veggies and I let him hold different things while I explained what they were. He was most interested in a mixed fruit salad of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and mango, so we purchased it. Then we headed over to the fish counter and picked up a shrimp-and-bell-pepper salad flavored with cilantro and lime juice, as well as a calamari salad with peppers, onion, and jalapenos. Mason appeared to have a great time–and he spent the entire commute home eating strawberries and mango. I was absolutely thrilled. Once we got home he ate shrimp and calamari.

Wow!

Not to sound like a loser but the meal made my week. Dinner was FUN. And, honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that. My plan now is to take him shopping every week and really the different fruits, veggies, and meats–and let him help me choose what to buy. And then he’ll hang out in the kitchen while we cook it.

Any mealtime tips of your own to share?

Photo: Fresh fruits at a market via Adisa/Shutterstock.com.

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

Getting Sneaky With Veggies & Fruits

I don’t believe in “hiding” veggies and fruits to get Mason to eat them, but I recently made an exception. I found myself with 300+ ounces of homemade puree–and a toddler who wouldn’t eat any of it (with the exception of the applesauce), presumably because it was the food I fed to him when he was a baby. These days, it’s all about eating what we eat with his own spoon. So I had to be a little deceptive to avoid wasting a lot of fresh, nutritious food.

My puree bender wasn’t out of boredom or nostalgia–it was for work. I was writing a feature article for American Baby magazine (a sister publication of Parents), and part of the assignment involved some serious baby food recipe testing. By the time I was finished, I had pureed 12 fruits and veggies in about a week.

My biggest challenge was where to store the stuff. There was no way it would all fit in my freezer, so I gave about half of the puree away to local moms. It was so satisfying that my efforts would benefit my son and his little friends. Maybe I should start my own business. (More on that another time.)

Even after the giveaways, we have plenty of puree left, so I’ve been mixing it into some of Mason’s faves to give him extra vitamins and minerals. Both carrot and butternut squash purees blend beautifully with tomato sauce. Blueberry and plum purees add a fresh twist to applesauce. And I can change up his yogurt several different ways: butternut squash and peach, green bean and pear, peas and curry powder, applesauce and banana, and blueberry and pear (see the aftermath of this last combo in the photo, above!).

My plan has been working out pretty well. Mason’s been none the wiser, and I’m psyched he’s getting more vitamins. Maybe I should be a little sneakier while we’re dealing with this finicky one-year-old stage.

Do you hide veggies and fruits in your tot’s diet? Or, do you have another trick for encouraging him/her to eat  healthfully?

6 Surprising Things My Kid Ate (& Loved) This Weekend

On Saturday afternoon, a group of LIC Mamas met up in Brooklyn for our monthly mommy and me potluck. We started this tradition in October, and I really look forward to these get-togethers. Small groups of us hang out in between, but there’s just something about having everyone together in a super chill setting that makes things especially fun. Most of the kids have known each other since they were a few weeks old, and it’s amazing to watch them run around and play together now.  There were seven moms (and a few dads) with children under age 2– five rowdy boys and two calm girls.

Last weekend’s potluck was at Florence’s place. Florence and her hubby Paul are amazing hosts, and they made several dishes to go with what each mom brought. There were cheeses, salads, savory tarts, roasted vegetables, baked mac ‘n’ cheese, pork loin, macaroons, and donuts (plus French wines for the parents and organic whole milk for the babes). Florence sent everyone home with small bags of chocolate chip cookies.  What did I tell you? She knows how to throw a party. I’d better starting planning the April potluck, which I’m hosting, now!

Despite being cranky earlier in the day, Mason was psyched to party. And he ate a lot–off his plate, my plate, Chris’ plate, other kids’ plates, some of the moms’ plates. Luckily everyone was fine with sharing their food, and I was thrilled to see him eat so well! Mason ate a few things that really surprised me–not because they’re exotic foods, but because he’s been so darn picky for the last six months:

1. Spinach tart
2. Whole, fresh green beans
3. Roasted asparagus
4. Pork loin
5. Blue cheese
6. Dried cranberries

Did your kid eat anything surprising this weekend?

Photo: Asparagus via Julia Jewel/Shutterstock.com

Celeb's Kid Thinks Broccoli Is Dessert, Why Won't Ours Even Eat Dinner?

I just saw a hilarious status update on Facebook from my friend Karyn. The topic? Feeding her 19-month-old daughter Isabel. “Riding a wild bull without a bra would be easier & less painful than feeding a toddler dinner every night.” Ouch…but I couldn’t agree with Karyn more! These days, dinnertime with Mason makes me want to pull my hair out. And scream at the top of my lungs.

So it was a proverbial paper cut (doused with a spritz of lemon juice) when I went to pick up Mason tonight and his teacher raved about how well he’s been eating at school,”including his broccoli and carrots!” And that his behavior has been perfect. I was shocked. Not only has mealtime been h-ll  for us, Mason’s had temper tantrums every morning this week (plus Monday night). Why is it that things are so smooth at school but not at home? I mean, I love that he makes a good impression at school, but mama loves to see those smiles, too!

I stared at my sweet boy on the way home thinking about what the teacher said, and I randomly remembered a super annoying quote from Gisele Bundchen: “When Benjamin eats broccoli, he thinks it’s dessert!” (Her kid also learned to pee on the potty at 7-months-old, apparently.) I have no idea whether that’s really true–but can you imagine a non-celeb mom ever saying something like that? Sure, I’ve been judged for giving my kid animal crackers instead of broccoli for a snack, but even that mom didn’t call the green stuff dessert.

Is dinnertime with the kids driving you nuts? Does your kid think broccoli is dessert? Dish here!

Illustration: Mom trying to do it all via Roslen Mack/Shutterstock

 

When Mommy is Gone, Baby Will Eat Fries

I was out of town last weekend, and my in-laws flew in to help Chris out with Mason. We are so lucky to have such a supportive family, but I was still nervous to leave him. I’m a bit of a control freak, particularly when it comes to Mason, so I had written a virtual book about his schedule and various tips about his routine/likes/dislikes. I had been particularly uneasy about Mason’s diet. My hubby is a junk food addict–I found fries in Mason’s snack catcher after Chris took him on a solo trip to the park recently–so I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about what would go on Mason’s dinner plate in my absence.

Sure enough, Mason loaded up on fries and chocolate chip cookies while I was away. He avoided fresh veggies all together, but at least he ate fruit. I tried to swallow my irritation when I heard about all the junk food and then noticed an untouched container of homemade cheese sauce that I had made for his veggies in the fridge. I also tried not to seem overly concerned about Mason’s moments of bratty behavior that seemingly went unpunished. He apparently refused to eat the whole-wheat pasta that he normally loves, wouldn’t sit in his high chair, and screamed until his sippy cup was replaced with a bottle. Oy. God help me if these are new quirks.

I sort of panicked. What if our sippy cup progress had been ruined? I called Mason over and handed him a sippy cup. He happily took it and drank his milk. Hmmmm. I picked him up and put him in his high chair, Mason looked at me and grinned. Hmmmm. I gave him organic banana and apple-cinnamon sticks for a snack–and he munched away. Hmmmm. What was happening? Was he just falling back into our typical routine? Had he been acting out because he missed me? Or was our friend RB right when he told me that all is not lost after a few days off schedule?

RB had just spent five days with his kids, alone, while his wife was out of town for work. He read that I was nervous to leave Mason, and he sent me a note on Facebook to encourage me to let my concerns go. “L did a lot of work to get ready, but then she had to trust it to me,” he wrote. He explained that there were several obstacles while he was on solo daddy duty, including his daughter’s fever and his own three-day stomach bug. He and L had also agreed to “throw the schedule out the window as it was two ‘against’ one”  — so every day was a gamble. But the kids were just fine in the end.

I re-read Ryan’s email after Mason went to bed and realized he was absolutely right. Mason may have eaten too much junk and been off-schedule for most of the weekend, but he was beaming when I walked through the door. He clearly adored having his grandparents and his daddy all to himself, and it was obvious he and his grandparents had formed a special bond. Looking at the big picture of the situation, a few fries and cookies didn’t seem like such a big deal. Maybe next time I’m out of town I’ll ask Chris to agree to fresh fruit at every meal and leave it at that.

Photo: Fries via Shutterstock/Nata-Lia

“Graham Crackers, Raisins, and Applesauce Only, Mommy!”

Back in September, Mason went through a cheese phase. I had read that it was normal for one-year-old kids to go through very finicky phases, but it was still super annoying. Now he’s in a new picky place. For the last two weeks, with very few exceptions, he  has refused to eat anything but organic apple-cinnamon graham crackers, applesauce, and raisins for dinner (left). He actually claps when he sees the graham cracker box. He eats a range of healthful foods for breakfast and lunch, but night after night he hands his dinner plate back to me minutes after I serve it to him. Usually his food is untouched, but sometimes he tosses a few pieces of the food on the floor for good measure. The experts would tell me to stop giving him snacks when he refuses a proper dinner, but we only just reached our weight goals and I’d hate to lose all that progress. At least he’s mastered the sippy cup.

I shared our conundrum on the High Chair Times Facebook page last Wednesday, and it seems like several of you have picky babes right now. “My pediatrician warned me that this would happen around 18 months,” said Karyn. “Boy was she right!” Good to know, Karyn. Our 18-month check-up isn’t for a few more weeks. “My 1 year old doesn’t eat much at home, but he eats everything they give him at school,” added Ella. I’m sensing a trend here. Maybe they’re testing us, Ella? Alexsis said that her son will eat specific foods, but “everything must have ranch on it, or BBQ sauce.”  Sigh, they don’t make it easy for us do they, Alexsis? Tracey, a mom who has a two-year-old son and is expecting another baby next month, offered a different perspective. “Wait until he’s 2 1/2 and tells you, ‘No Mommy! I no eat it!'” Good point, Tracey, I should be grateful Mason’s not talking back. Yet:)

Anyone else out there dealing with a sublimely picky toddler right now?

 

Throwing Food: Not Cool, Mason. Not. Cool.

Last night I sat and watched as Mason tossed–no, flung–his steamed broccoli, piece by piece, onto the floor. He grinned while he did it, and he didn’t even pause when I implored him to stop. He simultaneously ate mac ‘n’ cheese and cantaloupe with his other hand, so I knew he was still hungry. (We need to keep his weight up so I let him hang on to his plate; if he weren’t eating I’d take it away.) He just didn’t want the broccoli on his plate, simple as that. When he’s in an especially charitable mood, he places food that he doesn’t want in my hand and folds my fingers over instead of throwing it (a little quirk he started over Christmas, at my in-law’s house), which I find funny and preferable to the alternative. Spending 10 minutes after every meal on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor is not my idea of fun.

Truth is, it makes me crazy when Mason throws his food. It’s like tossing money down the drain, and it makes a mess. Also it irks me to spend time preparing a meal and then watch half of it end up under his high chair, in his toy pen, and in a million other places that I won’t see until we have company over. Last Sunday, for example, I suddenly noticed a little stash of dried peas behind the end table, about 10 minutes after our friends Ali and Doug arrived, and about two minutes after Mason popped one in his mouth. I had to fish the shriveled pea out of his mouth in front of our guests, who now probably think I’m the worst housekeeper in the world. At least Bug didn’t bite me. I try not to freak out when he throws food, and I definitely never laugh when he does it–I don’t want to encourage him and I suspect he already thinks it’s a game–but it’s so frustrating.

On Saturday I shared a food-throwing incident on the  High Chair Times Facebook page, and several of you said you could relate. “Oh my goodness, that drives me INSANE!!!” Kate said.  “More food goes on the floor than it does in [my daughter’s]  mouth,” Saranda added. Yep, that happens in our household, too, Saranda. Lindsay got it exactly right when she said, “I would swear my son thinks that food throwing is the next Olympic sport!” So does mine, Lindsay, I feel you. Jennifer, on the other hand, said she’s rolling with it: “At least [my] dog is enjoying it.” Looks like Mason’s going to get a dog sooner than we had planned! Thanks, Jennifer:)

Any tips for putting an end to food throwing? Want to vent about your own food throwing frustrations? Dish here!

Photo: Shutterstock, Picsfive