Thursday, September 27, 2012

Our Son Eats Sushi

This is another one of those posts that I hesitate to write. We are so, so happy with the eater Henry has become (he eats things like vegetarian sushi and seaweed salad with us!). I want to share our general approach and strategies, but I have no way of knowing if there's a causal relationship between our strategies and the current outcome or if it's merely a correlation. 

That's what happens when your science experiment (er, parenting) only has a sample size of one. 

Regardless, I want to record our approach in this space because I want to adhere to it if we're lucky enough to have a second child. So here it goes:
  • We watched closely for indications that Henry was interested in food. Around three months, he started watching our mouths when we ate.
  • We waited until the four-month mark to introduce any foods to him because we were worried about allergies and what not (especially because he had a dairy allergy early on). 
  • At the four-month mark, we started feeding him homemade baby food. We fed him lots of different fruits and vegetables, not just bland rice cereal. We fed him homemade baby food rather than food in jars because the homemade stuff was chunkier and had more texture. I think it helped him make the transition to real food faster.
  • Somewhere around the eighth month, we started making dinners that all of us could eat. We started by using this cookbook and then we quickly made the switch to feeding Henry our regular foods. We established the idea that we all eat the same thing early on. 
  • Because Henry started eating real food very early on, we never got into the habit of making him a separate meal. He never eats mac-and-cheese, while we eat something more grown-up. We always serve him exactly the same thing we're having (which is in line with the philosophy in Bringing Up Bebe). 
  • We adhere to the philosophy that we control the what, where and when of eating, but he gets to decide whether to eat and how much. When we first took Henry to sushi restaurants, he would only eat the edamame. We were fine with that. Honestly, he probably left a little hungry, but he quickly learned that whatever we served for dinner was his only option. Now he eats the sushi, seaweed salad, and the edamame.
  • We don't let Henry snack all day. Henry has a morning snack and an afternoon snack, but other than that, we don't let him graze. For example, we don't give him food to keep him occupied in the car or stroller.
  • We don't let him drink juice. To me, it's much healthier to eat fruit instead of drinking juice (the whole fruit has more fiber). I worry that juice is bad for the teeth and creates a sweet tooth. Henry primarily drinks water and milk (we occasionally let him drink orange juice because we don't want him to feel deprived and then go crazy later).
  • We let Henry eat sweets in moderation for the same reason touched on above. If we never let him eat sugar, then he's going to be a fiend whenever he goes over to a friend's house. Instead, we try to teach him (through modeling!) that sweets should be eaten in moderation.
Of course he's only a year and a half. His eating habits have lots of time to change as he gets deeper and deeper into toddlerhood. 

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prema said...

Hi Sara, Did you have to wait till Henry had teeth before giving regular food. Currently I still feed my boys home made baby food (kinda like our food of rice and veg but steamed and blended till a somewhat rough consistency). They both now have 4 and 2 teeth respectively. I still worry about giving normal food in case they choke. Thoughts, ideas? Luv,Prema

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Prema! We gave Henry real food way before he actually had enough teeth to chew it. He just gummed it and swallowed it. He totally figured it out on his own. We dealt with the choking issue by making sure the pieces were small, but it was definitely real food. Hope that helps!

Carrie said...

Prema, you should Google "baby led weaning". It is entirely possible to give almost anything, cut up into the proper shape, to babies without teeth.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you're doing a great job of helping Henry have a good relationship with food. Having followed a similar strategy with a toddler just a little bit older (22 months now), I would say, don't be too surprised if food rejection starts in the next couple months. I definitely think that over the last couple months my daughter has suddenly become more fussy about foods she used to eat quite happily. We just keep offering, and her eating seems to balance itself out over the course of the week, though some days it seems like she eats almost nothing!

Anonymous said...

I think you have a great approach to this; we took a similar approach, and our 4 year old and our 19 month old eat nearly anything. We have no problem dining out at Ethiopian, Japanese, Greek or any other type of restaurant. As our older one grew out of toddlerhood, and developed his own likes and dislikes, we implemented one other rule. You don't have to eat it if you don't like it, but you do have to try it before deciding you don't like it. We don't give juice either, but fyi, slightly diluted apple juice is a miracle cure for little kid constipation.

Rachel said...

Not sure if you are aware of this, but your philosophy ("we control the what, where and when of eating, but he gets to decide whether to eat and how much") is straight out of Ellyn Satter. When I saw the link, I assumed it would be to her books or website and was surprised when it went to another blog post.

Anyway, I think you would really enjoy and appreciate her books. I highly recommend "Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense". Keep up the good work. Henry is adorable.

Erin C said...

Rachel, I made that connection to "Child of Mine" as well!! Excellent book! Sara, it's great for giving you an idea for what to expect in terms of attitudes towards eating as kids continue through development. Boy oh boy, it can change! And by the way, we had sushi last night... I thought of Henry!!

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