As much as I hate to admit it (particularly to myself), a very-picky-eater toddler lives at my house. I wanted to be one of those moms whose kid ate everything placed in front of him. A kid who said “YUM” when a plate full of sauteed leafy greens or sensational broccoli florets was placed in front of him. We were over at a friend’s house for dinner last weekend and the two year-old ate a heaping plate of salad with all the accouterments on top, and asked for “more salad and more dressing Mommy” when he had finished. I looked across the table in awe of this child. He certainly didn’t live at my house.
I sometimes make myself feel better by reading one o f Dr. Sears’ articles on toddler eating habits. He’s of the opinion that the way my Toddler Bear eats is relatively normal for his age. Picky. Inconsistent. Unpredictable. One day he’ll eat an adult portion of steamed carrots and lick his lips afterwards, and then every time he’s served carrots for the next month, EEWWWWW…they are vehemently refused.
I know the precise moment my child started disliking vegetables. It was the day he sat in his Eddie Bauer high chair and I placed the first blueberry he’d ever tasted on his tray. As he stuck that succulent little berry in his mouth I could see the transformation take hold of his entire face. He practically stared at me in shock. His eyes said “You’ve been feeding me purees of spinach and squash and carrots all these months when something THIS delicious existed? How could you, Mother?” And from that moment on, to this day, Mark’s favorite food is blueberries. He begs for them, almost on a daily basis. “Blueberry” was one of his first words – I don’t think he was yet a year old when he learned to say it. But anyway – it was on that fateful day that my son choose fruit above all other forms of food, forsaking most veggies.
I’ve tried numerous tips and tricks for making healthy food, particularly veggies, more appealing to my child. Most of my efforts have failed, and a few others have succeeded just long enough to get my hopes high so they could be once again dashed by Mr. Unpredictable.
There is only one tactic that has consistently worked for the past several months, and I’m hopeful I’ve found a secret to getting my toddler to ingest veggies on a regular basis…at least until he decides he likes them for himself again. I hide them.
Now, I realize I’m engaging in a controversial tactic. I’m aware there’s a food war regarding whether you should mask veggies for your kids. Many articles have been written about this topic, such as here and here. I’ve leaned both ways at different times, but for my family, at the stage we’re in right now, hiding veggies for my one-year-old ensures he gets the nutrients I want him to have, and I’ll gladly engage in more fearsome food wars with him over the real deal when he’s a bit older.
For now, I hide the most unpleasant veggies (according to my son’s current tastes) in fruit smoothies. Mark calls these liquid delights his ‘Green Shakes” and he BEGS me for them. I usually start with a base of organic Greek or regular yogurt (sometimes I use plain, sometimes strawberry or vanilla). I always use a frozen banana – I’m of the opinion you can throw just about anything into a smoothie as long as you’ve got a frozen banana to mask the taste. Then I add whatever I feel like that day: perhaps organic almond or peanut butter, wheat germ or flax, and whatever fruit I have that week in the fridge or freezer. My husband ordered special protein powder for Mark and I that he created himself – it contains 100% whey protein and no artificial sweeteners or soy products. So a scoop of that goes in, and then the good stuff: the veggies! I usually throw in a huge amount of spinach (thus “green shakes” got its name) as well as whatever veggies are in the house that week. Some veggies need blanching first -such as carrots or kale. But even kale or carrots disappears beautifully into a fruit smoothie.
So, that’s my secret veggie weapon under the current circumstances at our house. I’m so happy Mark loves his green shakes, and even though it’s not a perfect solution to the picky eater syndrome, I’m glad my boy is getting a bit of the good stuff.
A couple things that have really helped me with this venture:
First, we found a kids cup at Old Navy that makes the perfect cup for Mark’s Green Shakes. It has a no-spill lid that screws on very securely, and the straw goes in first, and cannot be pulled the entire way out of the cup (a HUGE help). This is Mark’s “monkey cup”:
Secondly, when I have leftover smoothie, I freeze it into Popsicles for Mark to eat later. My parents gave us a ZOKU pop maker for Christmas. It freezes pops in about 7 minutes – we LOVE it. Here he is after dinner one evening eating a spinach pop for his dessert. Heeheehee I love it!
In other news, Baby Bear had his first taste of rice cereal this morning. Can you tell how much he loved it? I’m daydreaming that this child will love his veggies and the peer pressure will help Mark learn to love them. We’ll see. One thing I know for sure: Luke isn’t getting blueberries until he’s 5. Just kidding. Sort of.