How to raise a good little eater: Meet a baby who loves black olives, mustard, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, feta cheese, dill pickles, rutabaga…and more!

Amanda T. read French Kids Eat Everything when her son was 5 months old, and tried out the ideas with her son, taking a ‘fearless feeding’ approach in which her son tried all sorts of foods — the more flavorful, the better. Now over a year old, he is a happy eater of almost everything! Thanks for sharing your story, Amanda!

In many ways I lucked out: I had the right mindset, I read the right book at the right time, and I didn’t have to contend with hardly any discord. My dad always told me to ‘do it right the first time’. Here’s how we did it.

A baby eats well if the family eats well
When my son was five months old I had read French Kids Eat Everything; and what an inspiration it was. Not just for my approach to how the baby eats, but to how my husband and I eat as well. We both grew up in families that ate whole foods and sat down to dinner every night as a family. How did we manage to deviate so far? Don’t get me wrong, pizza and popcorn on the couch at 10pm will always hold a special place in my heart, but I really did not want to pass that onto my son.

We changed all kinds of things. I love being in the kitchen, so that has never been a problem. I like making new foods and trying new things. I would be in there and cook all day some days. Changing and staying with whole foods instead of easy foods was easy and it’s been over a year with no relapse. For a long time we had bigger meal we eat mid day; most people can’t work this into their lives, but we could and it was great. Unfortunately when it comes to school and work it’s not very realistic anymore.

Smaller portions and more courses; more courses was a big deal. We were so used to piling everything into heaping mounds onto one plate. It really spread out the meal for us; we ate slower, we ate less, we felt more satisfied.

Starting solids: Forget rice cereal?
So just like they preach in most parenting books regarding ‘starting solids’, I began at six months of age with rice cereal. Fail. No one wants to eat drywall dust, how could I expect him to?

Trying out flavorful foods
After the rice cereal failure (yes, I tasted it myself too) I decided that was not the direction we were going to head. Food needs to be enjoyable and one single word kept playing over and over in my mind: aliment {something that is appetizing and nourishing, physically and emotionally}.

So from there we moved to baked butternut squash. Yumm! Then we conquered every root vegetable I could get my hands on.

Next we moved to fish and fruit, never being shy about fresh herbs and spices. Rice cereal did enter into our repertoire but this time with pureed papaya and mango. Avocado was a fast favourite, and so was cinnamon oatmeal.

Then came the cheese, oh the cheese! Naturally, being Greek, Feta was our first. Then Asiago, Parmesan, cream cheese, Gouda, Ricotta, Cottage cheese, Havarti, Brie, Edam, Cheddar, Camembert, along with other random Greek and Italian cheeses that his great grandmother fed him and I am unable to pronounce.

As soon as he was onto dairy and eating more and more texture, the easier life got. No more pureeing things, or making sure I wasn’t cooking with things he hadn’t yet tried. Looking back now in some ways I feel I was overly cautious. Which is funny to me, because I had friends think I was a little too variable and unsystematic. They fed their children a new food only every three days and then waited to see if any adverse reactions were to occur. I fed my son a new food every day. But I did wait until he was nine months old to start dairy, and I was hesitant on starting some red meats and shellfish. I waited until he was a year for citrus fruits, tomatoes and peanut butter.

No snacking wasn’t an easy rule to follow for us adults. But we have maintained it pretty well and strive to continue daily. It’s clear in our home it is an emotional thing (boredom, stress, ect). But the more I thought about our emotional attachments to snacking the more and more I didn’t want my son to have those vices. It’s a slippery slope and I am bound and determined not to fall down it!

Today my son’s favourite foods include black olives, mustard, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, feta cheese, dill pickles, spinach, red peppers, humus, sour cream, cottage cheese, tzatsiki, salmon, beats, rutabaga, prosciutto, mandarin oranges, garlic, avocado, all fruits and berries, butter chicken (spicy), curries, couscous, quinoa, shallots and onions, green onions, Greek Yogurt (the plain kind as well as the flavored), cranberries, tuna fish sandwiches, black beans, crab, prawns, leeks, I could go on. In fact my son is so accepting of new tastes that last week I switched his cow’s milk for goat’s milk and it didn’t faze him. I had more trouble drinking it than he did.

No kids’ food!
My husband and I adore sushi and often go out to eat it. Our son comes right along with us and joins in the fun. While I have yet to let him try any raw fish with us, he loves the seaweed and puts on his ‘I’m so happy to be eating I’m going to close my eyes and smile really big’ face and bounces up and down in his highchair while he happily devours his little rolls.

Often waitresses question what I order for him, or offer to ‘take out anything he won’t eat’. They always look shocked when I tell them not to, that he will eat it just as it is prepared. Likewise, many, many times we have had people approach us in restaurants and tell us they were watching throughout the meal and are just so impressed as to what a ‘good little eater he is’.

Could you do this at home?
This week I had two friends with babies the same age ask me for advice on lunches. Once I rambled off a few ideas to them, one couldn’t believe my child ate such things and the other told me I was crazy and she feels like a bad mother because my kid eats too healthy.

We have a fearless and serious love for good food in this house…and if you don’t like it the first time, you will like it better the second.

9 thoughts on “How to raise a good little eater: Meet a baby who loves black olives, mustard, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, feta cheese, dill pickles, rutabaga…and more!

  1. Hello,

    Well done Karen. I think you’ve inspired so many moms, it’s amazing!

    Just like previous comment, I’ve been teaching my daughter to try different foods, flavours and textures. However, I must give it to Karen, only after reading her article, I cut on her snacks and started giving veggies as a first course and this seems to work miracles. She will eat carrot salad which she wouldn’t touch before and is so happy to see her main course, and cheese, and fruits as a part of her lunch.

    We will continue on trying new delicious foods and wish other moms good luck on their journey.


  2. Pingback: Parenting Tips for January ▪ Mom's Choice Matters

  3. Hi everyone – OK I have a 5 month old – please can you give me a list of the foods that I can puree and try her on? She has had papya, banana, butternut, pumpkin, sweet potato and courgettes and likes them all! When can I try avo, spinach, sweetcorn, brocolli and cauliflower? She is still on formula – morning, mid-morning afternoon and before bedtime.

    Thanks – am also just buying a babycook machine!


  4. I am a fussy eater, I don’t like things like olives, strong fish etc and will pick them out or not use them at all. My husband eats everything, how will I possibly teach my children to eat the things I won’t eat but my husband does?


  5. Our 4.5-year-old loves food that many of her peers turn down (spicy Thai, Greek salad, hummus, capers, salmon …). We haven’t cooked a separate meal for kids in nearly 3.5 years and it seems to have really expanded her palate. One thing that also helped her explore different foods was to include her in the preparation. She liked to “sneak” pieces of veggies we were cooking for dinner while we worked.

    We have been very lax with the snacking and I am beginning to see how that impacts other eating habits. Our 20-month-old is currently “on strike” from broccoli and several other foods she previously enjoyed. If it were up to her, she would just eat fishy crackers and dessert. Both kids are constantly digging in the pantry because they seem to think they are always hungry.

    This post and the comments have inspired me to re-institute more of the ideas in Karen’s book and to finally put an end to random snacking (next week, after the grandparents go back home). However, a little tasting of our meals while we cook will not count as snacking.


  6. Great story!! I agree with the previous commenter; it’s weird that other people seem threatened by someone else’s child’s habits. We “lucked” into a very easy-going eater who, at 2.5 years, will eat pretty much anything. Reading Karen’s book, I realized we had been using many of the same principles without knowing it.

    I attribute our success (if you can call it that) to offering only water or milk (never juice); not underestimating his ability to try new flavours, textures, etc (ie., I never assumed he wouldn’t like curry or other strongly flavoured or spicy dishes).; letting him feed himself as soon as he showed the ability; and not making separate “kids'” meals. We also always eat together as a family, even if it’s a very quick meal.

    I read Karen’s book when my son was just about 2, and that’s when we decided to minimizing snacking very consciously – starting with a real test – a two-province road trip. Happy to report we made do with other distractions (like stickers!!).

    I think the no snacking guideline (I see it as a best practice, but one that sometimes falls by the wayside) really does ensure that kids are actually hungry at mealtimes, are more likely to eat well. I am starting to notice that veggies often get left on the plate after the meat and starches have been devoured, and am thinking I may introduce an first course of veggies to make sure they still get eaten.

    Love this little community of food-loving parents/grandparents that has developed around Karen’s book!!


  7. I love this! We took a similar approach for our little one, but skipped the purees in favor of Baby-Led Weaning finger foods. He also just turned a year old and has a wide, varied and flavorful diet. It makes mealtimes so much more enjoyable when we all share the same foods together.


  8. Wow,
    This is just wonderful. I WISH IT WAS LIKE THIS FOR US ADULTS.

    BRAVO!! For your son, and perhaps this will inspire other parents to get on the bandwagon.

    Thank you Karen for your inspiring book.



  9. We have taken the same path and my 10 and 7 year olds will eat almost anything, except spicy… we are working on that. Be prepared, they do go through a tricky stage at @ 2-3 where things that you congratulated yourself on them eating are all of a sudden the worst thing they have ever had (usually when they see other kids rejecting adult food and only eating pizza and macaroni and cheese), however with a little perseverance they will come back! My 7 year old is now a huge sushi fan, her favorite being Tobiko (flying fish roe) and my kids will eat all manner of greens, vegetables fruits, fishes and they love brussels sprouts and Kale. I do admit to a few moments of self congratulation, such as the other night when I tried a new recipe of red quinoa, wilted spinach, roasted cauliflower and garbanzos, with black olives and a lemon garlic vinaigrette and my 10 year old tucked into it with relish, saying “Mom, this is awesome!”. It is so funny that people seem threatened by other children eating well. Like our friends who regularly say, “oh just let them have some pop, it’s what kids do!” Funny thing is, they don’t even like pop.

    Anyway, while your lunch recipes may have been too adventurous for your friends, I would love to see them! We pack a lunch every day, and it’s difficult to come up with a variety of items that taste good room temp and are quick eating (they only get 20 minutes to wolf down lunch!).


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