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.


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/


Picky Eater Solution #3: A Buddy + A New Scene

Today we met up with another LIC Mama Kerry, her 15-month-old son Sal, and her husband Mike. Our mission: Go visit Santa Claus. I’ve been looking forward to this moment all season long. Last year Mason loved Santa Claus — he wasn’t scared at all and he was mesmerized by Santa’s curly, white beard — so I was really curious to see how he would¬† react to Santa this year. Instead of going to a crowded mall, we met up at a local community center that was hosting a Christmas party for the neighborhood. The scene was absolutely crazy, with people wall to wall and kids running around everywhere, but I did get a photo of Mason sitting on Santa’s lap. I had to sit next to Bug so that he would stay on Santa’s lap but at least he looked at the camera, even though he didn’t feel like smiling. The six of us left after the boys posed for pics on Santa’s lap and we headed out for brunch — a meal that turned out to be the highlight of our afternoon.

We ended up at a new restaurant in our neighborhood called Alobar. Chris and I dined there last night alone, and we loved the place. We had no idea how they’d be with kids, but we were starving, there wasn’t a line, and the brunch menu looked great, so we went for it.¬† Truth is, we couldn’t have picked a better place. The hostess set us up with high chairs right away, and we were able to place an order for the boys to share (a short stack of pancakes topped with spiced fruit) pretty quickly. A short time later the manager appeared at our table with carrot puree for the boys “in case they couldn’t wait for their meal,” and two kid-size spoons. I was speechless. We eat out all the time with Mason and nobody has ever done something so thoughtful for us. There was also no shortage of friendly servers who stopped by to talk to the boys or pick up the toy cars they kept dropping, er, throwing on the floor. The pancakes arrived and the boys dug in (that’s Mason’s little hand reaching for more, left). Mason loved eating with his little friend Sal and the pancakes were apparently awesome according to Mike and Chris. The boys were super cute with each other, and they shared their food and milk . They were so happy together, and entertained each other so well, that we parents got to enjoy our food and even chat a bit (when does that ever happen?!). If you live in NYC, I definitely recommend checking this place out.

After our meal, we stepped back out into the brisk afternoon. It was already 4 and we were planning on taking Bug home and then Chris was going to go back out and pick up our Christmas tree. We parted ways with Kerry and Sal and Mike a few blocks down the road, then hopped on the subway to go back home. We normally walk, especially after eating a big meal, but it is freezing out. Mason deigned to nap so we played ball while Chris got our tree! We’re going to decorate it tonight and gate it off so that Mason can’t pull it over on himself (hopefully he doesn’t figure out how to climb over the gate!). Today was the perfect Christmastime Sunday. Here’s to hoping there are more to come in the weeks leading up to the holiday:)

Have you noticed that your kids eat better when they’re with a friend and/or in a new place?