Developing a Taste for Healthy Foods

picky eaters

Greysen: “Mom, what’s this?” She holds the unidentifiable food from her taco in pinched fingers.

Me: “Spinach.” She eats it.

Greysen: “Mom, what’s this?” Questioning the motives of another suspicious character.

Me: “Beets.”

Greysen: “I don’t like it.” End of story.


Twice. Twice; that is, being the number of times beets have been invited to dinner thus far. The first time they showed their burgundy flesh on Greysen’s plate, she tried them. This time she was not as willing to eat them. That’s two down, ten times to go before we hit our goal of at least 12 times. Technically, eight to twelve times is the range for the number of times a child may need to experience (see, touch, taste, etc.) a new food before they accept it. I say “twelve” just to really give it a fair shot.


According to researchers, Bellows & Anderson (2006), children will need that kind of extended exposure to develop a familiarity with a new food. Once a new food is familiar, they are more likely to eventually try it.


Children’s food preferences fluctuate. Favorite foods today may not be favorites later, but with regular exposure children are more likely to give a variety of foods a shot.


Does it really matter if Greysen likes beets? No, not at all. I am, however, trying to help develop her palette to prefer as many healthy choices as possible. Early childhood is the time for this.  Research suggests that it is in these first six years that children will develop eating habits, including preferences for certain types of foods (Birch 1998).  I often ask myself, what kinds of foods do my children have the most exposure to?


As important as eating healthy is to me, I too have been quick to dismiss the possibility that Greysen is likely to enjoy foods that she already shown a distaste for.  Two months ago (I remember the day perfectly), I was guilty of proclaiming, “she won’t like it” in reference to some cauliflower a friend was sharing.  My unforgiving husband replied, “Marisa, how do you know?” Right you are. As if on cue, she ate it. Even though we had tried cauliflower steamed, stir-fried, baked, cheesed and raw, this time she ate it, and liked it.


As the gate-keepers of foods, we adults wield control over what foods our children may eat and how much of it they can have. We decide when they eat and where they eat. With this power comes great responsibility. We can all-too-easily forgo offering our children foods, dismissing the possibility that they may eat it, or we can decide to put it on a plate (again and again, perhaps), eat it ourselves and wait and see.


On Today's Lunch Menu: Broccoli, Artichoke, Hummus, and Beets


When we eat new foods in our home, there are no demands. The girls are never forced or coaxed to “just try it.” Curiosity most often leads Greysen to try new foods, or foods that we haven’t tried in a while, which may as well be new. She is also HIGHLY motivated to try anything Moon eats – which is pretty much anything we put in front of her.


Where do you find inspiration to cook new foods?  My friend, Kimmy, is inspired in the kitchen by her favorite cookbooks and chefs. I get stuck in a rut so easily thus not consistently offering the variety that I should. Last week was the first week of our local farmer’s market for the season. From May to September, we walk to town and pick some local fare for our home-prepared meals. Last week, the beets looked too wonderful to pass up, so a bunch found its way home with us. Our plan for the summer is to buy an infrequently eaten food in our home each week at the farmer’s market. I can’t wait to see what today’s market will bring.





Ray, J.W., & R.C. Klesges. 1993. Influences on the eating behavior of children. Annals of the New
York Academy of Sciences 699: 57–69.

Birch, L. 1998. Development of food acceptance patterns in the first years of life. Proceedings of
the Nutrition Society 57: 617–24.

When is Easier, Harder? An Argument Against Bottle Feeders

bottle donoght

Late this afternoon while at a baby shower, I saw a product that shocked me. One of the shower guests, a first time mom and woman I know well, was leaving the party. As she was already gathering her things, she attentively noticed that her 6-month-old daughter was hungry. This kind-hearted mom gave her daughter a bottle while she sat in her car seat with a “neat” little product designed to assist today’s busy parent in feeding their children.


Keep-It-Up Bottle Holder

So, there sat the infant girl, bottle in mouth held in place by a doughnut-shaped pillow.                                                                                     
The little one drank and drank, her hunger eased by the warm formula that filled her hungry belly. Her mom was able to politely say her good-byes to the other guests at the party, took a phone call, and finished gathering her things. Nevermind that the bottle fell out once or twice and a passerby popped it back in, or that the bottle had slipped the slightest bit and the baby was sucking on air for some time. She was, after all, being fed.

These things, though, were not the reason I was taken aback. What made me stop was the thought that yesterday was a typical busy Saturday afternoon, not that unlike any given weekend filled with parties, shopping trips and errands – obligations that occupied a busy mother and her only daughter. That bottle holder replaced the need for a parent to care for her child. The two did not spend the time to connect, to bond, to think of one another fondly for a few minutes. I’ll be the first to admit that not every feeding time amounts to a parent and child bonding experience, but that bottle holder absolutely removed all possibility of one.

The Latest & Greatest


Products that “help” parents parent abound in today’s market. The need for busy parents to work and/or stay at home to manage everyday chores, personal lives, family lives and work lives is challenging. Products like the Bottle Sling or Pacifeeder, however, while promoted as “easier” due to being “hands free,” are wedging themselves between parents and children and creating a disconnect in very fundamental parenting. The mom I spoke of previously is a great mom who loves her daughter, but all too often the latest products are also equated with being the greatest, which is certainly not the case this time.

Bottle Sling

Routines such as feeding, diapering, bathing, and sleeping are what make up a baby’s day. These are the very moments infants learn to trust that the adults in their lives will take care of them.
The Program for Infant Toddler Caregver (PITC), a program funded by the California department of Education and WestEd ( a non-profit service agency), trains educators to care for young children in group care settings. PITC produces videos and publishes guidebooks to make recommendations, founded on child development theory and research, for providing the best possible care for infants and toddlers.

In the book, A Guide to Routines: Infant/Toddler Caregiving, Janet Gonzalez-Mena specifies that caregivers should hold infants while they are being bottle fed. More specifically, she explains, “Focused attention by the primary caregiver ensures that all babies will get both the right amount of food and emotional nurturing.” This was the guideline I followed when I was an infant teacher caring for other people’s children. The care I provided for others’ children is the same standard I try daily to uphold as I now care for my infants.

As deliberate parents, it is our intention to make thoughtful choices. What choice is made by using a bottle feeder? The “benefit” of not having to hold your child while feeding her is of little, if any, benefit to a baby, as it robs him or her of the opportunity to interact with the people they love and depend on most. In the end, bottle slings and doughnut shaped bottle pillows have nothing on my arms, and I’m grateful for the memories I have of those times.