Cooking For The Kid: I Suck At Introducing My Daughter To New Food

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kids vegetablesMy daughter’s favorite food is green beans. If I would just saute some green beans with a little balsamic vinegar every night for dinner, she would be completely happy. Pair it with grilled chicken and some type of roll, we’re talking the girl’s very favorite meal. So guess how often we eat grilled chicken and green beans? A whole lot.

When it comes to breakfast, it’s another simple matter. Plain or vanilla yogurt with berries will always guarantee that she gets the energy she needs for school. I can push it by adding whole wheat toast, though she’ll probably only have a half of a piece. And even then I think she’s placating me. Guess how many quarts of berries this family goes through? Yup, a whole lot.

My daughter knows the difference between healthy foods and junk foods. She’ll eat a slice of pizza, but she won’t be shy in telling you that too much of it hurts your tummy and doesn’t make you healthy. (In fact, she’ll tell lots of random people who have multiple pieces of pizza on their plate when we’re at birthday parties. It’s wonderfully awkward.) She chooses to eat healthy foods, because we’ve learned that her stomach is extremely sensitive to grease and she doesn’t want her belly to hurt. Also, I let her know that healthy food helps you grow into a strong superhero. All in all, it’s pretty great. And I’m kind of proud that my little girl eats healthy, enjoys it, and doesn’t make a big fuss about wanting junk food.

The problem is that her reasonably healthy diet had lulled me into a sense of security. Knowing that she gets nutritious meals makes it really easy to keep cooking the same fruits and vegetables over and over again. In fact, I’m worried that I’ve created an intensely picky eater, who won’t dare venture beyond her standard, healthy fare.

See, when I know that my daughter will eat green beans or zucchini or brussels sprouts, why bother forcing asparagus on her? She just doesn’t like it. If she’s happy with whole wheat pasta, why argue over brown rice that she’ll only take a couple bites of? And if chicken and fish are her proteins of choice, is it really so horrible to stop fixing pork loin?

These are the things I tell myself over and over again. Then I look up and realize that we’re eating the same seven meals every week for a month. I suddenly want to take my daughter to a new Vietnamese restaurant and there’s not a single thing on the menu that I can convince her to eat. Let’s not even talk about the fact that every chain restaurant I’ve ever been to constantly has broccoli as their “seasonal vegetable.” My daughter hates broccoli and doesn’t do baked potatoes.

I’m worried that in my quest to give my daughter healthy food, I stopped paying attention to what was most important. I needed to let her experience all kinds of things. I needed to give her lots of different choices and flavors to experiment with. Instead, I have a child who eats healthy, but who doesn’t get adventurous at all.

I’m going to try to break us out of our shell. I’m going to attempt to take some of her favorite ingredients and add in a few newbies. (This is going to be difficult because I am not a great chef.) I’m going to make meals with a few of her stand-bys and a few new side dishes to try. But I have to admit that when we’ve had a long day or I can’t seem to find more than 30 minutes to cook, I’m probably going to whip up some grilled chicken and green beans. And my daughter will love it. And I’ll feel like that’s good enough.

(Photo: Julio Duenas/Shutterstock)