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/

Carb-Loading Over Christmas

Mason’s been lucky enough to visit both grandmas over Christmas. They had  been so excited to see him, and they prepared lots of gorgeous food in anticipation of his arrival. Beautiful, veggie-filled soups. Warm-and-cheesy lasagna. Fluffy egg casseroles. The traditional holiday ham. Golden loaves of quick bread. And that’s just for starters. Mason has taken a bite of this and that but mostly he’s enjoyed the quick bread. Pumpkin bread, cranberry-walnut bread, zucchini bread with raisins and pecans, banana muffins…he’s loved the bread by the handful, and he’s arranged almost everything else in a neat little pile to the side of his high chair tray. He’s also been gulping down bottle after bottle of milk. (At least he’s dazzled his grandmas by walking — a lot!) We gave him a bite of chocolate cake last night at his great-grandparent’s 65th anniversary party, but that’s pretty much the only dessert he’s had since we’ve been away. He’ll take quick breads over chocolate any day.

What food(s) has your babe/toddler loaded up on over the holidays?

Tuesday Timesaver: 12 Easy Sauces & Dippers for Roast Chicken

Cool, creamy Cucumber-Yogurt Dip is delish on plain roasted chicken — and it’s rich in calcium.

Best for Babies 10+ Months Old

Mason is still in his Mr. Picky phase, which means mealtime is always a gamble. It’s either super fun or super miserable, depending on Bug’s mood. Last night I was hoping for super fun. It was a Monday, after all, and I had just started my (awesome) new job, so I was pretty tapped out. I turned to an old stand-by — store-bought, free-range rotisserie chicken, one of his faves — and served it with mashed butternut squash (roasted the night before and mashed with whole milk, a little butter, and a dash of nutmeg), and chunks of cooked apple. Bug dug in but quickly got bored with his chicken. On a whim, I gave him some Roasted Red Pepper Hummus to dip it in; he loves hummus almost as much as he loves cheese.  That chicken disappeared from his tray fast! Guess Dr. Sears was right when he said dips are a great way to inspire 1-year-olds to eat.

Since the hummus and chicken combo went so well, I’m going to try serving lots of different sauces and dips with Mason’s roast chicken from now on so he can dip each piece before eating it. Check out my quick and easy picks below. I’ll make big batches ahead so we have plenty for the week. Stay tuned for great veggie and fruit dippers!

1. Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

2. Peanut Sauce

3. Roasted Eggplant Dip

4. Easy Marinara Sauce

5. Cilantro Mint Sauce

6. Apricot BBQ Sauce

7. Classic Pesto Sauce

8. Mustard-Dill Sauce

9. Mint-Yogurt Sauce

10. Baby Cheese Sauce

11. Plum Sauce

12. Cucumber-Yogurt Dip

How do you spice up chicken for your toddler?

Photo courtesy of

Why Is Mason Eating Well At Daycare But Not At Home?

My little OSU Buckeye is a lot of fun until it’s time to eat. Why is he ravenous at school but picky at home?

I’ve dreaded mealtime all week. Mason devoured a new pasta dish Sunday night but an extreme finicky streak (even for a 1-year-old) hit Monday and I haven’t been able to snap him out of it. For the past two nights he’s only eaten organic graham crackers and cantaloupe for dinner. The more wholesome choices on his tray end up on the floor. He giggles his way through our arduous meal, gleefully feeding himself his own bottle, but when I try to sneak a bite of lentils or chicken or pasta into his mouth he gives me a reproachful look and then tosses more food onto the floor for good measure. I imagine him thinking, “Let’s be clear, mommy — I’m in charge here!”

At daycare, Bug is a totally different child at mealtime. He sits at the U-shaped table with his little friends and digs in. His daily reports from school show that he’s eating all kinds of wonderful things, including scrambled eggs, bread pudding, fresh apple, pesto chicken, fresh cantaloupe, rice and bean chili, and the evidence of his culinary adventures is all over his clothes, so I know the reports are accurate. (Bug is a messy, messy child, especially when it comes to mealtime.) Then we go home and it’s a struggle to get him to eat anything more than a tiny bit of fruit, which is better than none of course, and those darn crackers.

What gives? Is Mason showing a rebellious streak early? Or is this just a phase?

I'm Raising a Food Snob!

Gearing up for our road trip

Mason and I took a road trip to Washington, DC, Friday, to visit Chris. The Love of My Life  is currently commuting to the District from New York to work as a food critic. (Yes, super complicated sitch but Chris and I have been happily married for 8 years as of June 7 so we’re trying to make the best of it!) Usually Chris comes home for the weekend but we decided to switch things up this weekend, and our good friend Kevin offered to drive the babe and me (a bold offer to say the least). Fortunately Mason was  good — except when it came time to eat. Since we were traveling I  brought organic jarred food to avoid refrigeration hassles, but Mason would only take a bite or two before spitting out the food. Then screaming and screaming and screaming…

Unhappy with his dinner from a jar on the patio of a DC restaurant

This wasn’t the first time Mason’s rejected the jar. He’s been on a dozen flights and half a dozen road trips so we’ve served him jarred food before, but this trip made it pretty obvious it’s useless to try. I’ve offered him a dozen or so different fruits, veggies, and meats — all faves that I regularly make for him — from two different organic baby food brands and it’s always the same scene. He throws a fit every time I feed him from a jar or packet then ends up living on puffs, yogurt, and whatever table food I can mash up with a fork for the entire time we’re away. It stresses me out! Last night I ended up feeding him his dinner (peach yogurt and Banana-Avocado Puree) at 9:30 at night (the time we got home) because I wasn’t comfortable putting him to bed after he had only eaten banana puffs.

For our next trip, which just happens to be next week, I’m going to freeze a bunch of homemade food, pack it on ice, and hope for the best. Wish us luck! Have I spoiled my baby by cooking all his food? Is Mason the only nine-month-old food snob out there?