Welcome to the Octopus Blog!

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If you’re the parent of a young child, I hope you’ll meet me here each week to talk about a topic that most of us think about a lot:  What Our Kids Eat, and how we can interest them in healthier, better tasting foods.

I became interested in this issue when my first son, Willie, was born in 2004.  I had worked for almost 15 years in the food marketing industry and thought I knew a lot about food and how people choose what they want to eat every day.  But when I had kids, I realized that things are not always simple.

Something has occurred in the last 10 – 15 years that has dramatically changed the way that many children eat, as compared to the what most of us ate when we were youngsters.  Picky Eating is at an all-time high – ironically, at the same time that there are more children’s food products on the market than ever before.  (But is that really so ironic?)

I started really looking into all of this about the time my second son, Daniel, was born in 2007.  I talked to pediatricians, registered dietitians, psychologists, scientific researchers and many of my contacts within the food industry.  I read many books and articles about kids and Picky Eating and found that what existed tended to fall into one of three categories:  books written by dietitians, who talked about the nutritional aspects of children’s diets; cookbooks with kid-friendly recipes; and books written by doctors or psychologists that focus primarily on the behavioral aspects of teaching kids to eat well.

But why wasn’t anyone talking about the TASTE of the food, the flavor and the texture, about children’s palates and how they are developed?  We have to teach our kids everything else; why wouldn’t we have to teach them about food, if we ever expect them to appreciate anything beyond the basest tastes, like things that are salty, sweet or full of rich fat?  Picky Eating, it seems to me, is usually not a medical problem or a nutritional problem so much as it is one of a lack of experience with the wide range of flavors that exist in different foods.

All of this led to the writing and publication of my new book, “My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything.”  I’ve learned so much about this issue, mainly from other parents who have generously shared with me their stories about their kids eating habits.  I hope this blog will be interactive and helpful to you, too, as a place where we can trade tips and comments about Teaching Our Kids to Taste!

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2 Responses to “Welcome to the Octopus Blog!”

  1. Julie Trone Says:

    My dilemma is two fold. One is trying to offer my son the opportunity to eat a variety of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and the other is to respect his ‘no’ for many reasons. The most important reason is because he has food allergies and the word ‘no’ is a crucial answer after being offered unsafe food or food with unreliable food labeling (or lack thereof). He has to feel trusting of his parents when he says no so he will feel he can say no to anyone.

    The absence of wheat, eggs, soy, barley, rye, oats, dairy, peanuts, and treenuts were a big challenge to us for the first 4 years. Now only half of those foods are remaining on the do not eat list and we continue to prepare and eat simple dishes. There is always a fruit or vegetable on the table even though they are not desirable to my sons. It is my goal to offer tasty, delicious looking foods that are not the same old staples we usually eat.

    I have twins and when they were still in their bouncy chairs I used to hand them vegetables and fruits to smell, feel, and taste. They loved it. They learned the names, looked at whole versus cut veggies and fruit, and found what they liked and didn’t. One of my sons loved to smell and feel the foods but he would gag when he tasted the stronger flavors. We continue to encourage tasting and have become a bit more creative in our vegetable and fruit presentation. Still our goal is to become even more creative.

    Considering the previous blog post about snacks in schools it seems to be a big problem because even the teacher gives out candy. Children love candy! My only solution is to offer a mix of healthy foods to snack from at class parties and I am always volunteering to help. The school lunch program has embraced healthy foods as an option which is fantastic. So I am left with feeling that a healthy balance of food is okay as well as consistent education about what is a healthy food versus junk food is a part of their daily lives at home along with the preparation of healthy food every day.

    Do my children eat octopus? Not yet but I bet someday they will or at least place their little tongues on a piece and hopefully not say ‘yuck’. They have graduated to trying to catch a stir fried shrimp from the local Japanese hibachi grill restaurant. Progress is slow but deliberate.

    I enjoy talking about food and feeding my children as well as hearing what other families experience. If you want to talk more about food allergies and safety go to my blog at; http://foodallergysaf-t.blogspot.com/

  2. Antonia Malchik Says:

    A friend sent me your book yesterday and I just finished it this evening! It was inspiring for me, who really enjoys food, is having trouble with my 2 1/2-year old, and is worried about what my son’s stubborn eating habits portend when his sibling arrives in 4 months.

    I have been frustrated with “healthy kid eating” books in the past because almost none of them address the surprise moment when our perfect eaters mug us by turning into picky toddlers. My son, for example, ate absolutely everything until he was about 16 months old. Butternut squash, sauteed beet greens, venison stew: if I made it, he ate it. I thought I’d won. I thought I’d done everything right — including breastfeeding exclusively and homemade baby food. But then, out of the blue, it was all chicken nuggets, scrambled eggs, cheese, and crackers.

    It’s been a long hard road to begin to get him to eat other foods. Almost all of the parents I know who care about what their kids eat are going through this, and they’re frankly just too tired with life and work to put the effort into it. “Octopus” has given me some good ideas for how to entice my son with strong flavors, but most of all it has reminded me that it takes willpower and commitment to raise a kid who enjoys real food.

    In this blog I’d like to see more tips for parents whose kids refuse to even taste or try unfamiliar foods. Should we go cold turkey? Allow them to go hungry for 3 days or so? (That’s the strategy I’m taking.) We can hardly force-feed them.

    Also, I find a big problem in the day care/caregiver schedule, which involves 2 or 3 snacks a day. How does my day care expect my son to eat the delicious lunch I’ve made him when he’s given a big handful of goldfish at 10 in the morning? And I can hardly ask them to leave him out. Maybe “Octopus” could help us busy parents with some strategies about how to approach day care teachers and caregivers regarding different snacking options.

    Thanks for a great book and much inspiration! I look forward to reading more tips and advice on the “Octopus” blog.

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