Adventures in Raising an Omnivore

In these days of food scolds and childhood obesity, it can be like braving a minefield to talk about what you feed your kid. Some parents try to subtly outdo each other in describing their made-from-scratch, organic, homegrown meals (or at least that’s what they TELL you they’re serving). Others throw up their hands and admit to cold hot dogs and chocolate for breakfast. (I sort of doubt them as well, but maybe I just want to.) It’s hard enough trying to get five to nine servings of produce in yourself a day, let alone convince Junior to eat something other than bread.

During my self-imposed blogging hiatus, I tried to decide what I really had to say about food these days. I eat it. I think about it. I work with it. I read about it. But that’s me. What would anyone else care to hear about it? So I thought, “Maybe there are other parents out there who’d like to hear about ways to get their kids to eat relatively healthy food.” Maybe they’d like to go out to dinner with the kids once in a while and not eat burgers. Maybe they’d like to avoid making Jamie Oliver cry when he comes to their childrens’ school and asks them to name vegetables. But what they don’t want is to be told they’re bad parents for letting little Mary Lou eat chocolate. Because I certainly enjoy my chocolate (thank you to Ginger Elizabeth!), so I can’t really justify keeping it from my daughter. It’s all about balancing the M&Ms with the organic lettuce.

So here’s what I propose: Once a week, I’m going to blog about something related to my attempts to raise an omnivore. Maybe it will be a restaurant in the area that’s particularly good for kids but doesn’t make me cringe to eat there. Maybe it will be a recipe that was popular with my little fair-weather broccoli eater. Or, maybe I’ll tell you a story about that week’s adventures in eating with a youngster. Because the reality is that if you want your child to eat more than Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese and lollipops, you have to woo them a bit. You have to show how much you love to eat perfectly cooked veggies and a variety of cuisines. You have to expand their palates along with your own. I’ll leave you with an example:

When my daughter was maybe 18 months old, I wanted to meet my friend Shankari from Folsom for lunch. We agreed on Udupi Cafe in Rancho Cordova. I had been there before with Shankari and her husband as they explained all the amazingly delicious Southern Indian offerings on the menu. Eva had been there before too, managing to flirt her way into a whole cup of sweet fennel seeds from a waiter (which she spilled, then ate off the floor). Shankari’s co-worker, upon hearing that we were meeting for lunch, asked, “What will the baby eat?” Shankari: “Indian food.” Co-worker: “Babies don’t like Indian food!” Shankari: “What do you think Indian babies eat?” And Eva had rice and dal and dosai and fennel seeds and was happy as she could be.

All of which goes to show that we forget sometimes that kids all over the world eat a variety of things because it’s what they’re used to. So if you want your child to be used to eating more than a couple of yellow or white foods, you have to expose them to other things. Maybe I’m a bit stubborn and overly obsessed with food, but I figure I should use it to my advantage. Every time Eva eats an olive or a stir-fry or an avocado (see above photo), I’m happy that she’s an omnivore in training.

So I hope you’ll enjoy our adventures in eating!

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