As a foodie parenting a picky eater

This blog is not a parenting blog, but as it is a personal blog, I will make posts like this occasionally.

My son is approaching his first birthday, and with it, comes with dealing with the transition from a baby to a toddler. In most aspects, we couldn’t be more pleased. He’s exceptionally independent. He’s calmed down. He is good at cooperative play. At the risk of jinxing, he’s going in the opposite direction from conventional wisdom: transforming from a hyperactive baby to a sit-and-forget toddler.

There is one big “but” about him. He’s not a good eater. We did spoon-feed him, but we stepped down from doing so when he (understandably) started turning these sessions into power battles about being strapped in and force-fed.

In fact, he stopped putting things in his mouth altogether at three months old, including his pacifier. It took us a month to teach him to voluntarily pick up and put food in his mouth; he was about nine months old then.

Even when he started putting food in his mouth, it was only with much coaxing, agonizingly slow, and he would only eat empty carbs or fried stuff. It took him 5-10 minutes to polish off a single french fry.

Actually, that’s not accurate. He did like eggs. I was over the moon. A cheap, versatile protein source chock full of brain friendly nutrients that the whole family could love and enjoy! Then, of course, he turned out to be allergic to them a week later.

This was a new experience for me. I have a hard time dealing with picky eaters in general. Who doesn’t love an amazing blue cheese souffle with basil-blackberry syrup? Isn’t a nice salad of pickled vegetables, beets, and a bit of goat cheese a far better treat than any chocolate? I looked down on parents who raised picky kids — no kid of mine would be picky! I’ll just feed them what I’m eating, and he can take it or leave it! … Yeah, that is not a good strategy for a kid who is stuck in the 6th percentile for weight.

So, a couple of weeks ago when he turned 11 months old, I started taking note that just about everyone’s baby at that age is well on the way to being weaned. I decided that it was time to seriously put in the effort into him eating.

The first thing I did was give him cut-up mushy bananas and cereal. He liked banana puree, so why wouldn’t he love this? Instead, he carefully picked out all the cereal bits and left the banana bits alone. If I tried to put banana in his mouth, he’d cry and spit it out.

The same pattern followed for, well, everything else. It was like his tastebuds were calibrated to reject anything that might have a vitamin in it. Whoever heard of a kid that didn’t like canned mixed fruit? I questioned whether this was my son.

So, I went online and searched for food menus for 1-year-old. The first link I found featured kaffir, quinoa, and kale as suggestions. I’m a foodie, but I wasn’t willing to invest in the time or money to get my kid to like buckwheat and kale salad.

At the same time, I was determined to not to let crap yogurt & cheesy pasta ever become a home staple. Yes, Calvin may go that way eventually – but it will not be because for my lack of trying.

After a couple days of not getting Calvin to eat anything healthy, I suddenly remembered: Bento boxes! I went through a period where I was obsessed with bento boxes, and still had the supplies somewhere. With the help of convenience ingredients and creativity, I could get Calvin to eat, without resorting to hipster meals with multi-hour preps.

I present some of my successes-to-date below. It is still an evolving process, and there aren’t any colors still, but I’m much more encouraged than I was a week ago.

Oh, and: it’s never been easier to be creative & healthy in the kitchen. My amazing sis Michelle tipped me off to the existence of healthy purees in particular that can be snuck in everything.

yams and tofu

Yam pancake and tofu pan-fried in ham juices. No greens yet, but I will turn out a foodie.


squash and ricotta

Pre-cooked frozen squash and ricotta mixed together, pan fried with a little seasoning. My husband said he would eat it for dinner himself.


banana slices in shape of flowers

Who knew that bananas looked so artistic when cut out with bento box supplies?


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