Raising Adventurous Eaters: Part Two

This series covers the approach I took at each stage of my kids' growth to develop their taste buds and encourage them to try new foods. Part One was about pregnancy and the newborn phase. Today, we'll focus on how to naturally infuse purees with flavor and color, and also get into finger foods.

Pureeing with Flavor
When our pediatrician gave us the go-ahead to start purees, at about 6 months, I bought a baby food maker and some containers. I went with the Cuisinart Baby Food Maker because it allowed me to steam and blend in one container. Another option would have been to steam with a plate placed in a pot with a little bit of water underneath, and use a fork to mash the food instead, but I wanted to keep the process as simple as possible.

I bought a bunch of the OXO Tot food storage containers in the 4 ounce size. They also come in 2 ounces, but I figured I could just store less per container, if needed, and buy the ones that I could use for a longer period of time. These were handy for freezing some of each batch of food I made, as well as for sending snacks to daycare.

Whatever combination of fruits, vegetables, and meat I was making, I wanted to make the purees visually appealing in a variety of bright (natural) colors. One way to do this is by adding some berries to the mix. Another is to puree similar colors together, such as broccoli with zucchini. I would also add spices and herbs to help expand their palates, but I never used anything with added salt because I was sure they would learn to love salt on their own without my help. This seemed to agree with my kids' stomachs and I didn't notice any gas or other signs of irritation.

When it was more convenient, I used frozen produce, such as with peas, corn, and berries. If I needed new ideas on food combinations, I would look at what Plum Organics or Ella's Kitchen was selling. Here's a list of the puree combinations I would make:
  1. Sweet potato with cinnamon
  2. Butternut squash with nutmeg
  3. Apple with cinnamon
  4. Pear with nutmeg
  5. Apple and strawberry
  6. Pear with mixed berries
  7. Oatmeal with apples and Greek yogurt
  8. Oatmeal with bananas and peanut butter
  9. Broccoli with herbes de Provence
  10. Carrots with curry powder
  11. Ground turkey with corn and poultry seasoning
  12. Ground beef with zucchini and Italian seasoning herbs
In addition to making baby food, I would buy pouches from one of the brands I listed above, or jars from Beech-Nut, for convenience. I also fed the kids hummus, plain Greek yogurt, and unsweetened applesauce. When they got a older and found the Greek yogurt to be a bit tart for their tastes, I mixed it with unsweetened applesauce.

Finger Foods
My approach with finger foods was to expose the kids to a variety of flavors, textures, and colors in as natural a state as possible. I delayed giving the kids anything with added sugar, other than plain Cheerios, for as long as possible. As with salt, I was certain they would learn to love sugar on their own without any encouragement from me. For this reason, I never bought any of the baby puffs that my husband has tried and says are very addictive for him, personally.

At the advice of our pediatrician, I continued to cut grapes and any other choking hazards into small pieces until the kids were well past the age of 3. The list of finger foods I gave the kids is provided below. Petite peas is still one of our family favorites to this day. I find them to be so much more palatable than regular peas, which can easily get hard and mealy.
  1. Petite peas (microwaved from frozen)
  2. Corn kernels (microwaved from frozen)
  3. Sweet potatoes, diced (steamed)
  4. Carrots, diced (steamed)
  5. Watermelon, diced
  6. Grapes, cut up
  7. Strawberries, cut up
  8. Blueberries, cut up
  9. Ripe peaches or nectarines, diced
  10. Bananas, diced
  11. Ripe pear, diced
  12. Avocados, diced
  13. Beans, microwaved
  14. Emmentaler Swiss cheese, ripped into little pieces
  15. Brie, broken up into small globs
  16. Meatballs, cut up
  17. Whole wheat bread with a thin smear of peanut or almond butter, ripped into little pieces
  18. Cheerios
In Conclusion
My goal from the very beginning was to make it rewarding for my kids to try new flavors. I wanted them to eat whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible, while at the same time making it an enjoyable experience. This continued as I started to introduce them to the meals that my husband and I eat, as you can read about next week.


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