Staying Stylish in Suburbia

Homegrown food- A cure for picky eating?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ever since the weather turned warm, Esmae has been talking about growing strawberries. I'm not sure where she got the idea but once the thought was in her head, she couldn't seem to shake it. Recently, she's been taking her watering can outside to water the weeds, all the while pretending they are her very own strawberry plants. After watching this scenario play out so many times I decided we should probably let her have a go at growing the real thing. 

I plan on having more of a garden one day but the patio area and yard need some work first. For the time being I'm more interested in keeping it simple by potting a few vegetables along with a strawberry plant for my girl. I did some research on container gardening and it's amazing what all you can grow that way. When I told her that we were going to have a little potted vegetable garden she was thrilled and eager to help. 

There's another reason I wanted to grow a few veggies this summer though. When Esmae was a baby she would eat anything and everything I put on her plate. Broccoli, squash, brussel sprouts, you name it. I was so proud (maybe even a little smug) thinking that I was somehow cracked the kid-code to finicky eating. Then she turned two and her pickiness picked up...way up! She can usually be coaxed into taking a couple bites of whatever I prepare, but my smugness is gone and I would very much like to help wet her appetite for veggies again.

I've heard that most food preferences develop by the age of five. It's a tricky topic though. Of course I want to help steer her in the right direction for healthy eating. At the same time, it's important to me that food and eating not become a source of tension between us.

Dr. Kalich, a registered dietitian and a health science and nutrition professor, talks about the idea that the source of children's pickiness can be traced back tens of thousands of years ago.

"If you were part of a hunting and gathering society, and at the age of 3 you had enough dexterity to be one of the gatherers, you were sent out to the fields or the woods to forage your food. You would always be fearful that you would pick something that was poisonous."

In other words, children were conditioned thousands of years ago to be extremely wary of anything new or remotely bitter tasting because it could hurt or even kill them. It's that wariness, Kalich argues, that is still hardwired into their way of thinking when it comes to food to this day. I don't know if that's true but it's an interesting theory and one that certainly helps me have more patience with her reluctance to try new things. Dr. Kalich is also a huge advocate for growing your own food with kids. She started a program called Early Sprouts that engages very young children (preschool age) in gardening and nutrition with the idea of fostering early enthusiasm for healthy foods. 

Long story short, that is why I wanted to grow a little garden with Esmae this year. I believe in keeping the right foods around the house and offering her different veggies often. I don't cook separate meals for her and she is expected to try everything on her plate. But more than that, I want to see her excited about eating a gorgeous yellow squash or juicy red tomato that she grew herself. When a kid has a part in planting and watching something grow they become invested in the process. There is a sense of pride and ownership which in turn leads to an eagerness to taste whatever it is they had a part in creating. That's the hope anyways. I'll keep you posted on how it works out. xoxo 

Here she is finally watering her very own REAL strawberry plant. 

She said that the fruits and veggies we planted were going to make us grow STRONG!!!


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