I have never been a fish lover. I try, but for some reason I have had a hard time convincing my palate to convert. But, my daughter, she loves all things seafood, which is awesome! I’ve spent years as a picky eater, secretly wishing I loved shrimp, salmon, lobster, asparagus, broccoli, and the list goes on. Luckily, since I gained a love of cooking, I have also come to love many new foods like broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, and squash, but seafood eludes me. However, when my daughter was born I committed to losing my picky eater status once and for all. The last thing I want is for her to become a picky eater too! I’m happy to say that I must have done something right (which is rare for a mother to say!) because my kid will eat just about anything. She loves fish, shrimp, scallops (which she calls squishy chicken) and will try most anything I put in front of her. It does take a little convincing sometimes, but once she tries it she usually loves it. Of course, as with any kid, she has her moments. She doesn’t like pineapple or watermelon. I mean who doesn’t like pineapple or watermelon?? And, occasionally she’ll come home from school with a story about a kid at who says her hummus or peppers are gross so she doesn’t want to eat it anymore. But, that is usually short lived.
As a foodie, when I reflect on my now 5 year old’s life (she had a birthday last week), I think back on her food evolution. I thought it would be fun to share some tips and tricks I’ve picked up and developed along the way.
When my little kiddo was ready to start eating, I was obsessed with getting it right. I read and read and read on how to introduce food and what to serve. Ultimately, I decided to make all of her baby food myself. I know that sounds like it is a monumental task, but it turned out to be pretty simple. For us, foods were introduced pretty early, around 5 months. Here is how I approached it:
- Start Simple – We started with mashed avocado. I simply mashed an avocado until it was completely smooth. A blender would work too. Then I put it on her high chair tray. It was finger painting with food. She played in it, tasted it, got it in her hair, all over. But, she loved it.
- Introduce new foods slowly – I introduced one new food a week. I can’t exactly remember, but I think her second food was butternut squash, or possibly pear sauce.
The last thing I wanted was for her to get bored with food. So once we had a pretty good list of foods she could eat, I tried to make sure she always had some variety. I bought a Baeba and then stored and froze all her food in seal-able ice cube trays. When I needed food, I popped two cubes into a glass container to warm up. It was also handy when we went out to eat, I would just ask the server to warm it up for me. I bought the book from www.freshbaby.com called So Easy Baby Food and it really helped me figure things out.
- Make Ahead – I always set Sunday afternoon aside for making baby food. I would make enough for the whole week.
- Make it Fresh – I know this is kind of a contradiction of the point just above but, there are a lot foods baby’s can eat fresh. Mashed up avocado is a great example, but also mashed banana or even cantaloupe. Just be sure its mashed really really well to prevent choking. And be careful about skins and seeds.
When we first started serving finger foods, I primarily served fresh fruits. My daughter ate a lot of tiny pieces of nectarine, peach, cantaloupe, apple, but also steamed (until mushy) broccoli, carrots, and very small pieces of baked chicken. I also started to serve her small pieces of what we were eating. I felt this was important because it gave her a wide variety of tastes and textures to explore.
- They Eat What You Eat – While I obviously gave her her own foods, like apples and pears, I also always gave her a small bit of what we were eating.
- Frozen is a Great Substitute – I would sometimes buy bags of frozen organic veggies. When it was time for a snack or lunch I would throw them in a tiny bit of water and then heat them in the microwave. While this wasn’t as good a fresh, it gave me the option of giving her veggies, even when I was rushed or when things weren’t in season. Honestly heating up a small bowl full of mixed veggies is easier (and probably cheaper) than heating up frozen chicken nuggets, so why not!
Now and in the Future
As a picky mom, I have to work hard to eat healthy in front of my daughter. I try hard to make things that I don’t like but want her to like. So my tips here are ways I’ve learned to get my daughter excited about foods even when I’m not.
- Eat It Even If You Don’t Like It – We must practice what we preach here. I try in earnest to make foods, like shrimp, fish, lobster, etc because I know its important for me to serve them. My child deserve to be introduced to a wide variety of foods without any prejudice on my part. So I make it, eat it and keep my mouth shut. I may not eat a lot of it, but I at least put it on my plate and make sure she’s sees me take at least one bit.
- Encourage Them To Try – We always encourage our daughter to try something before she says she doesn’t like it. When she was younger we called it the “try me portion.” When she was convinced she didn’t like something, I would put a small “try me portion” on her plate and she was required to at least take a couple of tastes. I don’t have to do that much anymore. I think its because we set that precedent early, she knows she must try a little of everything on her plate.
- Get Them Involved – One of my favorite examples here is when my daughter decided she no longer like hummus. It had been her favorite food for months, then one kid at school said it was gross…and she decided to agree. So, I asked her to help me make dinner. I drained the chickpeas and then asked her to peel them. Now, I don’t usually peel the chickpeas, as it would take forever, but you know it does make the hummus smoother. Anyway, by the time she was done, she had eaten more than half the chickpeas before I could even make hummus. Then when she saw what they turned into, she decided she liked hummus again.
Back to the fish…The other day my daughter and I were at the grocery store and we passed by the fish counter. She went crazy, “mommy I want shrimp, I want fish, oh can we get those crab hands” Of course she meant crab claws, kids can be so cute sometimes. So out of respect for my “Eat it even if you don’t like it rule” I snagged two fish fillets. I let her pick. which ones I got lucky and she picked tilapia, instead of something really fishy like trout or salmon! In the past I’ve had some tilapia, and other mild fish like flounder that I could say I actually enjoyed. So I wanted to duplicate that experience here. I decided to broil the fish and just do a simple season with salt, pepper, and dill. I added the tomatoes, because I love the flavor and wanted to add a pop of color to the fish. Plus, I love roasted tomatoes and look for any excuse to serve them. The whole thing was actually really delicious, and I’m proud to say, I’ve added it to our monthly recipe schedule moving forward. I’m pretty proud of myself. Bonus, the recipe is Whole30 compliant!
A disclaimer here – be sure to consult your pediatrician on the best time to introduce foods to your baby. Every baby is different. Also, be careful with finger food, and fresh foods, as they can be a choking hazard. And, as always, be conscience of any potential food allergies.
Local Ingredient: Fresh garden tomatoes from my CSA bag this week. Fresh dill from my herb garden.