Sunday, October 5, 2008

I'll have the same thing as baby

My mother-in-law recently sent me this article from the New York Times, saying that we are in the vanguard of parenting. If I’d known it was newsworthy to feed a baby the same food I eat, I would have written an article myself!

Like the author, we’ve been feeding River the same food that we eat (minus refined sugars or white carbohydrates) since he was six months old. I started with the slow introduction of cereals at four months, then vegetables per current guidelines. Then I met baby Mirena and her parents and saw she was already eating bananas with avocado. At around the same time, I read an article, which told of an Indian woman living in America who ignored most of the U.S. guidelines and had a 13-month old son with very sophisticated tastes who was happily munching on a raisin, walnut bread in a NYC café.

I began to think that small children in other countries eat very spicy food and they must get used to it from a young age. I thought how the extreme pickiness I hear of seems to be largely a U.S. phenomenon and wondered if the bland early diets encouraged a taste for bland foods later on. I realized that River wasn’t at particular risk for allergies. And should he have a reaction to any dish I’d serve him, we could narrow it down to 3-4 ingredients and figure it out from there. I no longer saw the need to introduce things one at a time.

We had used spices since the beginning of the non-cereal foods – carrots with ginger, green beans with basil, peas with mint. So I just ramped it up a notch and started to puree (in a food processor or blender) whatever I was making. Early on he had turkey and blackeyed pea soup with collard greens. He loved a chicken, kale, tomato and corn tortilla casserole. He goes bonkers over borscht. Spaghetti squash with a beef and pancetta tomato sauce – yum! When I was eating spicy palak paneer and didn’t have his food ready yet, he ate mine eagerly rather than wait. He eats collard greens with red pepper, is comfortable with garlic and onions and has even had a taste of jalapenos.

Just in the past week or two, he has begun to reject some items – sweet potatoes and squash that he liked before, pureed roasted vegetables that he ate happily whole. I began to worry. I would really, really like to avoid having a picky eater. My husband (who had a very limited diet over many years of childhood) won’t eat anything that’s been touched by vegetables and refuses most fruits, no beans, baked or mashed potatoes and is unexcited by wholegrains. He has plenty of wonderful qualities and I know a picky eater is not the worst thing that someone could be. But it does make it very hard for us to eat together, and very boring for me to have to eat the same pot of soup day after day after day. It’s been wonderful to be able to share things with River.

I finally realized that River’s rejection was not coming from the taste, but that he’s getting sick of purees. I was giving him whole foods as snacks or desserts, but I tried to incorporate them into the meals.

On Friday night I made a chicken with vegetable tangine for guests. For River’s next two meals, I mashed the vegetables from the tangine (spiced beets, parsnips, potatoes, olives, eggplant, garlic, raisins) only slightly with a fork, together with some cooked brown rice. He loved it. Today I was running errands with him over his lunchtime and didn’t have any baby food with me. We stopped at a restaurant and figured I’d share my meal with him. I ordered a cup of cream of spinach soup and alternated bites with him. He danced with excitement. Then I got some tilapia and filled him up on chunks of fish, eaten in bite-sized pieces. For dessert he had the lemon slice from my soda. It was a healthy meal for him, and easy for me – no advance preparation needed.

I’m crossing my fingers that River’s culinary openness continues, especially when he sees what daddy’s diet is. Since dad does recognize the importance of example-setting, I’m hoping he’ll also work on eating healthier when River is around. In the meantime, I’m thrilled to share my cooking with an appreciative audience and glad that River is able to gain a good amount of vitamins and minerals from his food.

For those of you who were more adventurous in what you fed your baby, did your child continue to be open to various foods as s/he grew older?

Photos: going after the couscous at 8 months and later the same day, lemon num-nums.

1 comment:

Nodin's Nest said...

I never paid any attention to the baby books on feeding, It just didn't make sense. My son also started eating what I ate around 6 months and loved most of it. It wasn't until he was about 2, that he started to reject foods.That appeared to be a phase. Now at almost 4, he will eat most anything again. He's had no reactions to anything. I know some child do have food allergies, but not mine.