5 Mothers On Feeding The Kids
I think I designed this post to figure out if I was the only one who calls Dr. Praeger's and Annie's part of my village. With fingers crossed, I reached out to our panel of mothers to weigh in on what they care about when it comes to feeding their kids, their go-to foods for managing mealtime and what they've flexed on or adjusted since becoming parents. Here are six (I couldn't choose) mothers' takes that gave me comfort and ideas:
Leigh, mother to one, Natick, MA
Ugh, I wish I cooked everything. If you could only see the meals I made before baby (sigh). I definitely do a combination. For store-bought items, my favorites are Dr. Praegers Littles (they come in Broccoli, Kale Spinach, and Sweet Potato), Ozery Bakery Muesli Snacking Rounds (basically a pita with seeds, oats and dried raisins) and Siggi's Yogurt (love them all). My homemade but takes less than 5 minutes favorite meal is an omelet.
When he's a good eater, a balanced meal is most important. When he's not, I'll settle on a banana and call it a day. I'd love to only buy organic but its not always a reality. In that case, I go organic for the "dirty dozen." For the first time I actually had a small vegetable garden this summer. Not everything we planted grew, but he did gobble up a collard green pesto for a week straight and I'll call that a huge win.
Foodwise, I always have the following on hand: yogurt, Dr. Praegers Littles, some sort of seed/ nut butter and good jelly/jam for sandwiches (oh my god I just said "good jam" like Ina), frozen peas, cheese, bananas, and Cheerios. My perfect "he'll eat anything!" child is a thing of the past. Adapting to the new "I'll eat what I want when I want" life. Oh, and snacks. SO many snacks.
Molly, mother to one, Portland, ME
Just as a quick snapshot - there are lots of Dr. Praeger's Spinach Littles, organic chicken nuggets (the organic makes me feel better about myself), Annie's & peas of course, and tomatoes. Breakfast consists of Toddler Muffins and fruit. Daycare takes care of morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack (thank god!).
Lizzie, mother to one, Chicago, IL
I would love to say I cook everything and it is all organic, but in reality, I would say that is the case 50-75% of the time, though it's a much higher percentage when we are home. I am quick to take my daughter to the market for lunch so I don't have to cook/clean (at least her favorite thing there is the lentil soup!) The one thing I've gotten most relaxed about but also hate at the same time is TV during mealtime, if my husband and I are not eating with our daughter. When we eat as a family absolutely no TV, but when I'm just feeding her more and more I will turn it on and she eats SO much better with it...
Stefanie, mother to three, New York, NY
I would love to cook everything but find it hard some days. We mix home cooking with frozen foods. I hope to provide balanced meals of "real" foods. My kids recently have not been great vegetable eaters. We work on eating a rainbow plate.
I ask my kids to help me plan the dinner menu. Having their input really changed our dinner routine and lets them have a hand at what new things we introduce to our usual rotation. We also have a standing breakfast menu in place so that there are no arguments before school. I find that if we plan our meals on the weekends and place my grocery order in advance that the meals are healthier throughout the week.
As my kids have grown they have more input and work with me on the menu. With my third child, I am being the least flexible with her eating routine. With my first two children, I feel I made a mistake to stop serving things that they didn't like. I started serving "kid food" and just not making what I knew they wouldn't eat. With my third, I hope to continue to put the food in front of her even if she doesn't eat it. I think in the long run it may make a difference. We will see!
Alex, mother to one, San Francisco, CA
I cook 4-5 times per week for the whole family. We try to keep our 22-month-old on a similar diet to us. We like the idea that he expands his pallet with new flavors even if he tries and rejects them. We do stock Trader Joe's organic frozen foods like chicken fingers in the freezer along with some frozen peas and carrots that can easily be cooked with pasta for a quick and easy dinner in a pinch. We ALWAYS have cottage cheese, yogurt, applesauce, and Whole Foods pre-made tuna in the fridge for when he rejects everything else and we just want to get some reasonably healthy calories into that little body. These are also helpful 'add-ons' to more grown-up meals.
It's important to us that our son doesn't eat a lot of processed foods or sugar. Beyond that, we want him to experience a range of flavors and to be open to new foods. At nearly 2, he is beginning to look for ways to exert control over his life and food is an obvious place to do so. We try to make him feel in control by offering him several choices (chicken? Tuna? Cottage cheese?) and letting him eat the one he chooses.
When he was a younger toddler, we loved Yumi (puree delivery service), but we now want him to be introduced to foods with a range of textures and to learn to chew with his newly acquired teeth.
Our current challenge is keeping him in his seat. He began rejecting the highchair at about 20 months. Now every time a firetruck or airplane passes within hearing distance of our house, he's out of his chair and running to the window with a trail of food in his wake.
Kelli, mother to two, Boston, MA
I try to find healthful frozen options but definitely do a combination of home cooked and packaged. There are some amazing products out there that are frozen and definitely more healthful than anything I can do. With that said, I like to give them "what we eat" too so they are well-rounded but lets be honest, convenience is key and sometimes I don't want to waste my time and money cooking something they won't eat.
I am kind of a nut about organic. I am so fortunate to be able to afford to provide the girls with organic products. I know that is not the norm for most people. I think a way that makes it semi more affordable is going to local farm stands and supporting local businesses. I try to do that when I can. My doctor said something to me about "balance" when my first was around a year old. She said to look at nutrition within a week, not a day. Overall, I do my best to provide a balanced week of food. Somedays they eat Mac n cheese, ice-cream and pizza all day and other days they are eating veggies and fruit and healthy meats. It's never a perfect day of nutrition!
I never make them multiple things. If they don't eat what I make then too bad. I just don't have the time or energy to play that game. I have had to stick to my guns and it's hard but has definitely created a much more seamless mealtime routine. Especially at dinner. Because my husband and I eat later than the kids, I usually make a meal for 4 and give the kids the leftovers for dinner the next day so I am not technically making two meals. I just heat the leftovers from the night before up in the microwave for them and call it a day. I keep lunch to non-cooked things. We usually get home from preschool pick up around 12:20 and the girls are starving so It is usually cut up fruits, veggies, and peanut butter toast or avocado toast.
My oldest was never picky at all. Always ate everything we gave her....until she turned 3. Then she decided she hated eggs and most meats. At the beginning, I thought it was behavioral but I realized she genuinely doesn't like eggs anymore and meats are hit or miss. I always offer her meat and eggs and even if she has a few bites that's fine but I try my best not to push it. I am so lucky that she loves to eat fruits and veggies so I will take what I can get. I used to be a little more strict with sugar and sweets however I have started to ease up. I want them to have a healthy relationship with food and I realized that depriving them of pizza and sweets is not allowing them to understand that it's okay! It's great because when they do eat that food, it really is a treat and they know what it is. Some of my most fond memories as a kid is eating an ice-cream cone on a random day or having special after-school snacks that my mom would bake up like holiday themed cookies. After all, they are kids and these things are fun!
Tali, mother to one, New York, NY
I'd say we do a mix of cooking and frozen foods but mainly fresh food and defrosted meats/proteins. I barely cook though. I do breakfast and have prepared sides and my nanny does most of the cooking. On the weekends we mainly eat out.
I care about a balanced diet - fruit/veg/protein and carbs. For the first year we did no sugar but now I let him indulge but try to limit it to a number of circumstances. I always roast sweet potatoes and then use them for a couple of days. We have portions of bolognese in the freezer that we defrost on a Monday and add quinoa to that (I buy pre-made quinoa on Fresh Direct). We do tuna boats where I hollow out the cucumber and line with tuna mix! Every week I buy a schnitzel (I think you yanks call it a chicken cutlet) from Fresh Direct and serve with veg. For breakfast we do scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, avocado with a side of toast, Vegemite or red mills muesli mixed with almond milk and Greek yogurt with berries.
My secret lazy weapon is my faux pancakes - 2 eggs, half banana and cinnamon blended in the bullet and fried in coconut oil. Spread with almonds and berries!
I've totally relaxed on the 'bad foods' and stopped feeling so guilty! If he wants to eat starchy carbs all weekend because we have shleped him to restaurants then that's fine! He'll eat better Monday-Friday. I also realize nothing is forever so him not liking veggies doesn't mean he won't in a month... keep trying and be less freaked out by the refusal.
I also take him on a date once a week for coffee and cake... we share a muffin and hot chocolate because I don't want him to be obsessed with junk food!