VegNews is publishing again and they’ve added a bunch of new columns, including one called “VegFamily.” In the October 2014 issue, columnist Rich Lysloff talks about the healthy diet his wife ate during pregnancy. “And wouldn’t you know it,” he goes on to say. “[T]hese are the same foods that our [one year old] baby girl loves now that she’s eating solids.” Oh Rich, I said nearly the same thing when my son was one. Watching him happily eat any veggie, whole grain or wholesome plant-based protein I put in front of him, I surmised that my dietary habits had somehow insulated my son against picky eating. I even bragged to friends about what an amazing, healthy-eater I was raising.
A year later, the same healthy foods that my son used to eat with gusto might as well be scraped directly into the trash. “I don’t like this,” he pronounces, without taking so much as one bite of his lovely veggie stew. “Disgusting,” he says, feeding the broccoli he used to devour to the dog. “It’s dirty. Yuck,” he exclaims if I dare to put sauce of any kind on his pasta. Left to his own devices, he would subsist entirely on cookies and Gardein chicken tenders.
Had I skimmed ahead in the parenting handbook, I would have been prepared for this seemingly abrupt behavior change. As it turns out, one-year-olds are generally great eaters. Not only are they are at the tail-end of a period of rapid growth that requires them to eat a lot, they also have not yet gotten to the “assert-your-independence” stage of toddler-hood. If Mommy or Daddy says something is yummy, that’s enough reason to give it a try. Toddlers, on the other hand, are naturally picky eaters. With the first-year growth-spurt behind them, calorie needs decrease and eating becomes an annoying interruption in the middle of play time. As a bonus, refusing to eat the meal that Mommy or Daddy lovingly prepared is a perfect way to show Mommy and Daddy that they are their own boss (at least when it comes to what makes it into their tummies).
While it’s impossible to generalize about kids or parenting, I’ve talked to parents of all stripes — everyone from raw vegans to those who post “recipes” on Facebook involving Velveeta and a can of Spam — and I haven’t met one who completely avoided the picky toddler stage. For now, all I can do is have faith that this stage will pass. I continue to cook healthy, balanced and delicious vegan meals knowing that eating this way makes me feel happy and at peace with my choices and I continue to hold my breath and pray that a few bites of dinner actually make it into my son’s belly.