Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Am I raising a junk food fiend?

Shortly after Liam was born, I went for a walk with one of my friends, a mom to two little boys. She started telling me about a class she took in college about the politics of fat. Her professor, who happened to be obese, talked a lot about the fact that when parents force children to eat certain things or deliberately deny their children certain foods, the child hates the foods that are forced upon them even more and craves the foods that are being denied to them. My friend told me that she incorporated that philosophy into feeding her two-year-old. "Sure," she said, "Rudy would probably choose candy a lot more often, but we just don't keep it around." She went on to explain that if for example, they're eating chicken one night and he doesn't want chicken, she allows him to choose something else that's available.

"Yeah," I thought. "That's the kind of parent I want to be." I liked the laid-back nature of her approach. I also really liked that she was confident enough in her son's decision-making skills to allow him that kind of freedom.

When I started feeding Liam, I decided to go the puree route for a number of reasons--Liam was (and still is) really skinny so I wanted to be able to measure exactly how much he was eating, it was more convenient, and my daycare provider seemed to prefer that approach. I tried to not be too strict or forceful about what he ate. While it was important to me to maintain a balanced diet, I didn't really force anything upon Liam. If he didn't want peas, I didn't force him to eat them. I just dug out the carrots or the sweet potatoes, which I knew he'd eat.

As Liam got older, though, I wanted to start incorporating some finger foods. As I was researching, I found this post on The High Chair times by Heather Morgan Shott. I was able to relate to her in so many ways. I started to worry that even though Liam is super skinny now, I might be setting him up to become an obese toddler.

I discovered that some of the things Liam loved as purees, like mangoes and pears, he did not like as finger food. If I baked those mangoes and added some vanilla, though, he loved them. He's not a big fan of the original Baby Mum-Mums, but loves the strawberry-flavored Toddler Mum-Mums, and we know about his affinity for yogurt melts. He loves sweet things like strawberries, but avocados, he could take them or leave them (he feels the same way about bananas, though, so I'm wondering if that's a texture thing). If I give him a sippy cup full of water, he just throws it aside, but if I add juice, he's definitely interested. I'm worried that I've created a monster who only loves sweet things.

Do I throw my laissez faire approach to feeding out the window? Or do I hope that he will choose healthy options on his own? (With some guidance, of course.)

"These strawberry Mum-Mums are delicious."

"Really, Mama. Do you want to try a bite?"


  1. Amber it seems we are at similiar points in our lives. I have to first say that my Liam has always eaten absolutely everything we fed him, nothing was knocked back. I thought, you beauty, this is awesome, finally a child that eats!! (My 8 yr old is a whole other story!)
    Liam still eats everything, but I have found that the textures of some foods don't appeal to him. Give him mushy banana he will eat a whole one just like that, give him an actual banana not mushed up and he refuses it!
    Same goes with a couple of other things too.
    He certainly doesn't drink as much milk now from sippy cups as he did out of bottles either, babies can be so set in their ways :)
    BUT, he eats what we are eating every night, unless of course it isn't suitable like hot & spicy food. I do not want to make the same mistake again (3rd time around) by offering up another choice, a more 'kid friendly' meal because having learnt from my older son, he'll never eat what we eat.
    Mistake #2 was feeding my other two kids out of cans (baby food) for 3 years, Liam doesn't get fed like this, he eats freshly cooked every night. I don't know why I did it with the others, I just thought it was normal.
    Start early with whatever you choose to do and with whatever you choose to feed him, it is your choice what he eats, but take it from me, old habits die hard!!
    Good Luck!!

  2. If it makes you feel any better, I have approached feeding the same way as you and yet Ethan won't touch fruits. At all. I have to mix them with zucchini or squash or carrots to get him to get them. He will suck on an apple or a piece of banana in a fresh food feeder, but he prefers veggies in the pureed form. Our pediatricians told me to start him on veggie purees (I make my own) for a full month before introducing fruit so he doesn't go for the sweet things and refuse to eat the veggies. I'm wondering if it worked a little TOO well? I'm always having breakdowns that he's never going to eat fruit, haha, because I don't FORCE him to eat them or finish his meals if he's not hungry. According to my mother-in-law, my husband wouldn't touch veggies until he was in elementary school and now? He's pretty much a vegetarian just because he loves veggies so much. I feel like babies all have their own weird tastes and preferences. By not forcing Liam to finish his meals (ugh, don't get me started on how I hate "finish your plate or you can't leave the table!" parenting!), you're doing the right thing. You're still exposing him to different tastes and textures, even if you end up having to "hide" the veggies in his food (which my mom totally did to us growing up since I'm not a veggie person, haha!). You're doing an awesome job!

    1. Thanks so much for the tips. I like the idea of "hiding" the veggies. I'm definitely going to have to try that out.

  3. How funny! We are at the same place with our little man. The odd thing is that when we were really focusing on purees, he would try any table food without a problem. Now that we are focusing on table foods, he is becoming a picky eater. One day he likes little chunks of whole wheat bread, the next he won't touch it. He likes veggie purees but spits out any steamed whole veggies he tries. He also loves the yogurt melts, but they don't make a meal! I thought things would be easier when we moved to table food, but it has really been a challenge!

    1. I'm so glad to hear I'm not alone. I'm pretty sure Liam would make a meal of yogurt melts if he could :).