Feed Me Something New!

It has recently become commonplace for my 4-year-old to say at snack time, “I want something new that I’ve never had before!”

Really. I’m not kidding. She says it all the time. It started several months ago after she had become accustomed to being subjected to my snack experiments on a regular basis.

I started blogging in March of 2009. Save a few favorites that have made repeat appearances, my kids have been continuously exposed to new foods for a year and a half. During this time, I’ve become increasingly daring and have gathered a vast arsenal of secret weapons.

My kids are an integral part of the snack development process. They are learning to appreciate new (and old) foods just like I am. And it seems like once we established our own little kitchen subculture, they have become delighted to try new foods. Granted, the level of delight increases exponentially when sprinkles or marshmallows are involved and it also helps if they’re starving…but still.

The trick is that I started preparing snacks with the blog in mind as much as my kids. Experimentation is the rule of the day. Good or bad, I keep moving, learning, and thinking about new ways to make happy and healthy snacks. The end result is that my kids are being exposed to new foods and preparations all the time. And more importantly, I’m not necessarily catering to what I believe to be their likes and dislikes. Occasionally, their reaction to a snack is nowhere near what I would have predicted.

I don’t think my kids’ taste buds are much different than most. Before I started bombarding her with all kinds of new snacks, my four-year-old was well on her way to being labeled as “picky”. Even now only beige or white foods will cross her lips for what seems like days. Even so, she’s willing to try new foods.

If you’re wishing your kids were more open to trying new foods, you could turn your snack regime on its head for a week or preferably a month. Try not to repeat the same thing twice in a week. Make novelty the rule and banish predictability and monotony. It sounds like a lot of work, but aside from the intial adjustment to your routine, it doesn’t have to be. Watching my own children get excited about preparing and tasting new foods has been extremely rewarding.

If you asked my kids directly, they’d probably tell you that they sometimes wish their mom would let them eat a bunch of cookies or potato chips for snack. And to that I say, “Sure, we’ll do that sometime soon…but first let’s taste this thing I made today…”

We Are What We Feed Our Children?

Recently, I read Peggy Orenstein’s article The Fat Trap on the New York Times’ website. Here’s part of the opening paragraph of The Fat Trap:

Food is never just food. Food is love. Food is solace. It is politics. It is religion. And if that’s not enough to heap on your dinner plate each night, food is also, especially for mothers, the instant-read measure of our parenting. We are not only what we eat, we are what we feed our children.

Not only what we feed them, but how much we feed them. According to the article, ‘good’ parents these days are expected to have normal-weight kids. An overweight child, especially a girl, is viewed as a failure. Reading this floors me. It’s true, but I don’t want it to be, especially in my own psyche. I hate hate hate to admit it, but a lot of the worry I have over my daughter’s health is centered around how others see her and me as a result. I never wanted to be this kind of parent. But is it possible not to be?

Another thing about the article that hit home for me was the unrelenting internal dialogue Orenstein describes that includes eating, social pressures to grow your own organic carrots, body image, and being a model for her daughter. Just reading about the fact that someone else is conducting this balancing act blew my mind.

I’ve never put it into words before, but I try to be thoughtful about the way I approach food in front of my girls in a lot of the same ways Orenstein does. I never talk about growing food organically, but I do make it a point to enjoy my broccoli as well as my ice cream. I try to stay away from my own body image completely. But with the girls I soak up and point out their beauty and strength as often as I can.

Have any of you out there read Orenstein’s article? Reactions? Thoughts?