My daughter loves food.
I mean, she gets it honestly. I am half Italian and my immigrant grandparents were very food-centric people. We went to their house for Sunday dinner every week where there was nothing short of 2-3 pasta options, 2-3 meat options, a salad, bread, and multiple desserts. Saying you weren’t hungry or that you were full was simply not an option as we were served multiple servings without consent and were expected to clear our plates. My siblings and I spent many evenings post-meal laying on their living room floor watching Wheel of Fortune with our pants unbuttoned trying to keep our minds off of our discomfort.
My husband grew up in a family with Southern roots and spent his childhood eating soul food. He loves exploring foods of other cultures and is someone who will never make alterations to a dish on a menu because he wants to eat it the way the chef intended. He also went to culinary school for a year for pastry arts, but ultimately decided it was better as a hobby. And as his wife who reaps the benefits of fresh baked goods on a regular basis, I can confidently say it is an excellent hobby.
So, it was bound that at least one of our children come out of the womb ready to eat all there is to eat. It is truly a blessing. She is always willing to try anything we give her, even if she has tried it before and didn’t like it. And, for the most part, she eats the same thing that we eat – but perhaps a “deconstructed” version (like on Food Network when what they were actually trying to make doesn’t work out). To this day, the only things she has consistently refused to eat are pears, shredded meat, and tomato. I call that a win.
Beyond that, she loves cooking in her play kitchen. She loves books about food. She loves talking about food. She loves donuts, pizza, and fruit. And man, can she put some food away. It’s kind of impressive.
I’ve recently gotten in my head about what her love of food means for her future relationship with food. Knowing that I don’t have the healthiest relationship with food myself, I haven’t quite figured out how to navigate this one. Even though she is an excellent eater and will eat most foods, she’s still a toddler and she has her days where she would rather have a big ‘ol bowl of processed mac n’ cheese. Girl, me too.
The other side of things is that she not only likes to eat the food, but she likes to make it. Helping in the kitchen is one of her favorite things to do and her capacity to learn in there is unreal. She pays attention to the ingredients we use and wants to know what all the kitchen gadgets are called. She likes to taste as we go along and stir and watch how things change when they cook. She’s processing. She’s learning. She’s retaining. And I am realizing that this isn’t just an obsession of hers, I think this might be a passion.
With this realization, our new approach to food is balance.
Food is good. It nourishes us, it helps us to create memories, and it’s delicious. Our goal is to not create any shame around eating because it’s that feeling of shame that can sometimes send us into a spiral as adults. Ever since she started eating solid food, we have always given her new things to try, new textures and flavors. Now, when she tries a new food, if she spits it out, our only response is, “thank you for trying” and she goes on eating the rest of her food.
We always give her at least one fruit or vegetable that we know she likes and sometimes she eats it, and sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, if she asks for a treat, she gets one (whatever we deem to be appropriate). She eats it and we move on. I’d like to say we are doing everything right, but we aren’t. What I can say is that we are mindful and we are trying and I think that’s the best we can ever do for our kids. Whenever someone asks her what she wants to be when she grows up, she says “a chef.” And if you ask her why, her response melts my heart – “to make Mommy and Daddy dinner.” I’m counting down the days.
Two of my favorite resources on fostering healthy relationships with food in your kids are @kidseatincolor on Instagram and this site. Check them out for more information and some great recipe ideas.