This post is a little different than most here on our blog. I’m deviating from the travel aspect of our lives and talking more about food for our littles since a lot of people have been asking me about this lately. Feeding kids can be challenging. Feeding kids in a foreign country can be downright scary.
Thankfully, we had already committed to feeding our kids real foods before moving overseas, so that’s made things much easier while living in Peru.
We first started eating “real foods” back in 2012, before I got pregnant with Cliff. We were finally in a home, after 6 months of moving around the country, and we just slowly stopped buying the boxed things we’d come to rely on…cereals, pastas, jarred foods, bread, crackers, baby “finger foods”, and so on. As we cut these things from our diet we noticed we were all feeling much better.
It was a slow transition, but after about six months, we were mostly free of processed junk and were eating a lot more quality vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy. Olivia was about 18 months at this point. She had always been a little bit of a picky eater, but transitioned fairly well to our new way of eating. Sometimes convincing her to try a new vegetable was really difficult, but we always offered her a little bit of everything we were eating even if we knew she didn’t like it. I felt like that was key.
For a while, our strategy was for her to clear her plate. Except, since we were dealing with a strong-willed child, she often put up a fight and dinner would turn into a long drawn-out battle. After reading the French parenting book, Bringing up Bébé, we decided we needed to switch strategies. By this time, Cliff was just starting to eat solids as well, around 10-11 months old.
Our new plan was to offer them everything we were eating, as before, but just require them to taste each thing – not necessarily clear their plates. This took away the pressure that Olivia, especially, would feel when a new scary vegetable loomed in front of her. It still takes some convincing sometimes, but they are both very good at tasting a bite of each food on their plate now.
We don’t force it, they know the rule, and usually do try everything, though some meals they skip over an item. We just casually prompt them to remember to taste each thing before they are excused from the table. Many times they are surprised by how good something tastes and end up asking for more. Like the asparagus in our scrambled eggs the other morning, that Olivia assured me she disliked…but then she asked for thirds.
Something we’ve noticed is that as soon as we allow candy and processed junk back into their diets, they immediately lose their appetites for real foods. This keeps us diligent in the quality of foods we are offering (though they do get their share of treats).
One vegetable that Olivia has detested for over two years, is tomatoes. And yet, every time we serve food with tomatoes, I put a piece or two on her plate. One day recently, she tasted it, looked up with a huge grin on her face and said, “Mama, I LOVE tomatoes!” She still doesn’t eat them all the time, but it was a big victory just to have her try them and actually like them. They both love salad if it’s got a little homemade dressing on it.
And broccoli is a favorite. Cliff eats his weight in peas and sweet potatoes, and they both really like mashed cauliflower and fish.
I think it also helps that we’ve allowed each of them to “help” in the kitchen and be a part of the meal. Olivia, especially, is much more likely to eat something if she has helped wash it or cut it up. Cliff…he eats anything, the struggle with him is keeping him hungry for the meal!
It’s been a long and purposeful journey, but we have been so thankful that our littles will eat more than the typical pasta and rice, especially since traveling around we often can’t find such specific foods. They are adventurous little eaters now, and though they still put up a fight on some new things, it’s exciting to see them develop a taste for real foods!