My 15-month old daughter is a great eater, so far. She eats about 90% of the foods we put in front of her with no hesitation and a smile on her face. The other 10% she tries and either quits after swallowing one bite, or spits it out completely. And I am okay with this. We prepare meals and snacks for her each day, but never force her to eat them. She makes the decision about whether or not to eat her food, and this has worked very well for us.
Two foods that she has repeatedly turned down are tomatoes and raspberries.
Taco night is a weekly event at our house, so we often have diced tomatoes that I give to her for lunch or dinner. She will try them but immediately spit them out.
She could eat 1,000 blueberries, but as soon as we give her a raspberry, she will scrunch up that little mouth and spit it right out. Not exactly what mom wants to see, considering organic raspberries aren’t cheap!
Despite these apparent dislikes, I decided to bring her outside with me one day to harvest the first raspberries off of our bushes. She immediately demanded the berries I had in my hand, and was eating them faster than I could pick them. I even let her pick the low ones, and she’d pop each and every one into her little mouth, followed by a sweet little “mmm, mmm, mmm!”. Picking raspberries has quickly become one of her favorite activities.
And sure enough, she loves picking and eating the cherry tomatoes as well! Nothing makes me happier than seeing my little girl eating fruits and veggies straight from the garden. And now I have proof that something I have always read and heard about is actually true: growing a garden and involving children in the planting, watering, and harvesting will increase their interest and excitement about fruits and vegetables.
Below is a photo of my niece, Milly, picking basil with her mama. My sister Alice says Milly eats a basil leaf each time they go out to look at the garden! I am pretty sure most toddlers wouldn’t eat plain basil leaves if they showed up on their tray at lunch. But straight from the garden? Much more exciting!
I am the first to admit that I am not much of a gardener (my husband does most of it), and I am pretty content getting the majority of our fruits and vegetables from a local farm’s CSA program. If you’re in the same boat with regards to gardening, I recommend taking your kids to an apple orchard or other type of farm that allows people to pick and keep the fruits and vegetables. If you go HERE, you can look up pick-your-own farms in your state.
Kids love to be involved in things. Just as we appreciate food the more we experiment with cooking and flavors, so does a child the more they learn about each food, how it is grown, and how we use it to create a meal. My daughter absolutely loves watching me use the salad spinner, and I always let her "spin" her own salad after I am finished. Try to make them a part of the meal process in your home, whether it be helping in the garden, picking out groceries, or assisting in the kitchen. It will pay off, trust me!