With my first born, I was crazy about ready-made organic baby food. I loved how healthy and quick it was. Easy to feed, easy to transport, and most important, chocked full of veggies and fruits. When else in my son’s life would he happily gulp down a squeezy package of peas and beets and mango? Because I was so convinced that little jars of creamed spinach were so healthy for him, I kept feeding him baby food long after his first birthday.
I did introduced a few table foods like scrambled eggs and bananas; but over all, for a long time, he ate nothing but purees. As he grew into toddlerhood, I started feeding him more real food; but found for the most part, he only liked bland foods like applesauce, mild cheeses, and Cheerios. Although these are standard childhood staples in the U.S., I was pretty disappointed as I had been determined to not raise a picky eater or a child who would only eat off the kid’s menu.
Then I read Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, and it rocked my parenting world. I was now more than ever determined to raise children who enjoyed all kinds of real food.
When Teddy, our second child, was ready to start eating solids, I eschewed most baby food. I did start his first few feedings with easy foods like whole milk yogurt and mashed avocado or rice cereal, but only for a short while (like just a week or two). As soon as he could feed himself, I started cutting up whatever I was eating, and putting it on his tray for him to sample. I didn’t know it then, but there’s a entire feeding movement that calls this baby-led weaning.
I also started seasoning all his food with a little salt and pepper. I think this was a big mistake that I made with my first born. I thought it was “healthier” to leave his food unsalted; but in retrospect, I think this just left his taste buds undeveloped.
So, with Teddy, I introduced a wide array of foods right from the start. Bits of homemade pizza, pork chops with spicy mustard sauce, spinach and strawberry salad, quinoa with caramelized onions and dried cranberries, chili topped with zesty lime sour cream, white bean rosemary soup. He tried anything and everything. It was much messier than little jars of baby food, but also much more fun and rewarding to watch him taste and try such a variety of new things.
As I result, I now have a son who sits down to the table and often chooses to munch on Greek salad over pizza. While I love that he actually enjoys healthy foods, what excites me even more is that he loves lots of flavors and textures. I remember having an “Ah Hah!” moment when Teddy was nine months old. We were eating downtown at Taverna, and he was thoroughly enjoying tomato caprese and steamed mussels!
With my two youngest children, I was prepared to do things the same way I had with Teddy. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I have feed either of them any pureed baby food. I waited till they were a little older to introduce solids (more than six months), but by then, they were able to self-feed.
It’s untidy for sure, but oh so rewarding. Get some big, smock-style bibs like Ikea’s KLADD PRICKAR or Aden + Anais Classic Burpy Bib. Also, invest in a good pair of kitchen scissors. I use scissors to cut up all their food. It’s much faster and easier than using a knife and cutting board.
Now don’t get me wrong. While my children do like good, healthy food, there are also plenty of animal cracker snacks after naps, apple juice boxes on hot afternoons, and whining at the supper table.
What’s on the menu for your little ones?