Ask the Nanny: The Finicky Eater

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  • I have 16-month-old twins. They are my first. One is a bit of a finicky eater, and I am running out of options to give them. I was considering making more homemade baby foods, but what else can I give them that is healthy? One likes some vegetables, the other doesn’t. I am giving them the typical finger foods of crackers, fruits, and vegetables, but we really want to have fun and make actual dishes. I unfortunately grew up with simple means in the Midwest where it was mostly fatty processed foods with very little fresh produce. —Judy, San Mateo

  • Dear Judy,

  • Welcome to the wonderful world of first foods, a fun but trying time. I know we want nothing but the best for our children, but we can also feel overwhelmed by all of the choices. First, there is a cookbook called Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. Yes it is by Jerry Seinfeld’s wife, but it works, yada, yada, yada. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) It is a very creative book that shows you how to incorporate fruits and vegetables in a sneaky but creative and delicious way. I have used a homemade baby food maker and it is genius. You can control the texture and it’s very easy and fun to use. It actually steams the food, and processes it all in one container. As the twins continue to age, you can make the food chunky. It’s a great tool to use with the cookbook. Now as far as other recipes and suggestions, I like to let children play with their food, enjoy the tactile sensation. Get comfortable with how it feels and instinctively they will put it in their mouths. Don’t be afraid to use seasonings and try ethnic type foods. We are lucky to live in a diverse area, so go with it. Enjoy!

  • Chicken Tikka Masala is usually a big hit; Pad Thai and chow mein have been a huge success for me. Hummus is almost always popular, on bread or veggies as well as cream cheese that you can add chopped veggies to. Now of course a quesadilla or grilled cheese with whole grain bread is a perfect vehicle for anything and certainly a place you can hide veggies if needed. Turkey, cream cheese, chopped spinach, and cherry tomatoes are excellent in a tortilla or whole grain bread. Homemade marinara or pizza sauce is a fantastic place to really pack in some veggies—carrots, spinach, zucchini, or mushrooms, even peppers and onions are all grated in to make a delicious and nutritious sauce. Stuff shells with ricotta and spinach and top with the quick and easy sauce; use the same sauce and make mini pizzas that kids can top individually with roasted broccoli, corn, have fun. Organic macaroni and cheese with tuna and cherry tomatoes is yummy, as well as casseroles, which are making a comeback. Now casseroles have smarter ingredients, are healthier, and even foodies can enjoy them.

  • Making children a part of the meal and its preparation is a positive way to instill good eating habits and have a good relationship with food. As they continue to grow, letting them help in the kitchen is paramount. Taking children to local farms and farmers’ markets is a great way to give them choices and have them learn about where the food comes from and why it is good for us. Helping them to learn to experiment with food is a great way to make memories with your children as you all learn to cook new and tasty things together. Get messy, have fun, and dig in.

  • Good luck!
  • by Jennifer Blackburn who is the Owner/Director of The Perfect Fit Premier Nanny
    and Domestic Placement Agency. Besides being a professional nanny for over
    10 years, she has also been a certified Family Support Worker and a certified
    Family Assessment Specialist for Healthy Families America. You can reach her
    at The Perfect Fit, Premier Nanny and Domestic Placement Agency, (415)
    505-2226.