Raising a Lil Foodie

I’ve already mentioned how important to me it is for Jai to grow up loving food as much as I did. But teaching Jai to love food isn’t the only important thing. It’s also teaching him how to love the process of making food and learning to be open to the variety that food has to offer.

Food is one of those universal languages, like math, where it is an important form of communication that transcends language and cultural barriers. I found that my introduction to new cultures wasn’t from media, but taking an evening to try a different ethnic food. One of my fondest memories from undergraduate was spending late nights ordering Indian and watching Bollywood movies with my Pakistani roommates.

Food is tangible, hitting all of the senses, and doesn’t allow for an abstract appreciation of another culture, but an immersive appreciation. I can teach Jai all I want about his Indian/Portuguese/Puerto Rican/Irish/Italian heritage, but it will become more real when I make him dishes from each culture. It grants him a connection to his heritage that he can appreciate until we get an opportunity to visit these countries ourselves.

So including food as part of Jai’s education is important to me, so much so that I want to raise him to be a foodie. How millennial of me.

When I talk about raising a foodie, I understand all the negative connotations: it sounds so pretentious when a parent says “Quinoa is such a foodie. We raised them to love kale, microgreens, and only the finest truffle infused rapeseed oil.”

I am not looking to raise a kid who only eats gourmet ingredients. I want a kid that will look at a new dish and try to deconstruct it to see how it was made, if only as a mental exercise during mealtime.

More than anything, I want him to appreciate all the food placed before him and appreciate the work that goes into getting it there, whether at home or out at a restaurant. Read More

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Food and the Baby

What follows is an analysis of my personal experience of introducing solid food to a baby. Please do not take this as medical or expert advice on the matter and always refer to your child’s pediatrician for advice and input on your child’s nutrition. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.


Food is extremely important in our house.

Ash loves food. I love food. And it was important to raise Jai to love and appreciate food. I knew that this meant giving him a good foundation when we started solids, but I was nervous when it came time to start.

There are a lot of theories out there about how best to introduce solids to a baby. I knew I wanted to wait until his pediatrician gave the go-ahead, around 4 months, but just because he was physically ready didn’t mean that some experts suggested waiting until he was older.

I was excited to start him on solids but concerned he would choke in the process of introducing solids. I know babies are introduced to solids every day with minimal issues, but I had that parental fear that my situation would be unique and I would cause harm.

I followed my intuition and started him as soon as I could, but made sure everything was smooth enough for him and avoided baby-led weaning. I think if we had to do it again with a second child, with my experience, I would feel more comfortable with baby-led weaning, but because I wasn’t sure what I was doing I wanted to make sure I took small steps until I gained my confidence over the whole matter.

Starting Solids

For all my insecurity, I knew there were a couple of things I wanted to do that was against the expert recommendations: when we introduced solids, I would make them interesting for him. He wouldn’t be expected to eat bland food as a child or an adult, so why should I introduce him to boring and bland food?

He was basted for the final two months in utero with pumpkin spice; I ate a variety of foods and spices throughout my pregnancy; and expanded my foods to what I had to avoid during pregnancy while breastfeeding. All of this impacted his palate before he tasted his first solid food and I knew the research that backed this up. Up to this point in his life, he didn’t consume bland, flavorless food. Everything had spice and strong flavors so I couldn’t expect him to be excited over what was effectively gruel.

Doing some more research, I decided to do the following immediately when I introduced the rice cereal: add in peanut butter, cinnamon, and breastmilk. I made sure the food was thin enough so he wouldn’t choke on it, but it was important that I start the process of getting him used to peanut butter in a safe manner. I didn’t want him to have a peanut butter allergy and because neither Ash nor myself had an allergy ourselves, I was confident it would go well.

It did. And he loved it. He got so used to the peanut butter that on the mornings I forgot to put it in or didn’t have any he was more reluctant to eat.

I also wanted to add cinnamon because it was something I knew I would enjoy if I was eating warm rice cereal. I did all of these additions to his first meal with the understanding that if he reacted badly in any way: breakouts, coughing, diaper issues, etc. I would stop immediately. I just wanted to see if he would enjoy the process of eating solids considering all the foods I ate while pregnant and breastfeeding.

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Extended Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a controversial topic. I will admit that I participated in the controversy before getting pregnant.

A couple of years ago, I saw a mother allow her two-year-old lift up her shirt and feed on the playground. I was appalled, not by the public feeding – I was all for normalizing breastfeeding, but at the age of the child and the perceived lack of discipline on the mother’s part. I swore I would never allow my child to breastfeed past a certain age, especially in public.

And then I started doing some research on the matter.

I will admit this before going further: I completely changed my mind on the matter and became more open to the idea of breastfeeding a child past the recommended 6-12 months and didn’t care when the feeding happened. If a child is hungry or in need of comfort and I wasn’t bothering anyone, then I will take care of my child.

My (old) Personal Hangups

I hold many Western notions closely in judgment for a lot of things, especially concepts that make me seem prudish. I blame growing up in New England. Before getting pregnant, breastfeeding was right up there.

When I saw women breastfeeding toddlers or read articles about women who extreme breastfed, I thought something Oedipal was going on, particular mothers of boys. It seemed inappropriate to be breastfeeding a child, a son no less, past a certain age where there was the potential for them to remember and cause psychological issues.

I thought that mothers were setting their children up for a lifetime of emotional stunting because breastfeeding past the age of one was massively inappropriate. I kept my thoughts to myself whenever I encountered a stranger breastfeeding, but I may have made faces and commented out of earshot to Ash or a companion.

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Week 4: All the Fried Things

I love french fries, fried mozzarella bites, deep-fried candy bars, potato chips, wings, etc. I particularly love these foods when my body is telling me to prepare for winter: fall fair season is my foodie season. I go into biological preservation mode when I am sick or not feeling well emotionally. Chicken soup? No thanks, pass me the deep-fried chicken wings with lemon-pepper coating.

Living in the Southeastern United States does not help matters. In New England, it was easy to find fried foods, but you had to know where to look and actively go to the location to consume golden, fried goodness. Down here, practically every restaurant offers some form of fried goodness on their menu. One favorite spot offers fried kale and it’s delicious.

Just like last week, this is less about the MS and more to do with my overall health. It isn’t a secret that fried foods are really bad for you. Because I have cholesterol issues, continually consuming fried foods is not in my best interest. I am also looking at it as a means to help moderate and boost my mental/emotional well-being. Eliminating foods fried in hydrogenated oils will hopefully help bolster my mood and work as a natural antidepressant. It won’t replace antidepressants, but help modify my mood slightly.

This food elimination will double as model of better eating habits for Jai. When eating out, Ash and I have a bad habit of ordering something with fries and offering Jai everything except the fries while we eat them in front of him. He’s at that stage where if food goes into Mommy’s mouth, then he needs to try/eat it too.

It’s not fair to be refusing to feed him something from my plate while I am munching happily away on those items. So eliminating the option altogether and showing him that a meal can be well-rounded while eating out is the plan. I am not going to deprive him of eating fries or fried items for his entire childhood, but I would rather it be for a special occasion and not the norm.

I realized that I am getting deeper and deeper into this diet shift and I think I need to add in “plan” and “prep” sections for how I plan to handle the week and certain scenarios that come up in my social life. These will be new additions of the rest of my Monday “Diet Shift” posts.

The Plan for the Week

  • I am eliminating deep-fried foods, not foods pan fried in olive oil. If I am going to make something pan-fried, it will be with an eye on the amount of oil used and the type of oil. Pan fried, while not massively healthier than deep-fried, has its place in cooking certain dishes that we love at home and is limited to once or twice a month in our household.
  • I have an emotional attachment to fried-foods. If something good or bad happens, my first instinct is to celebrate or drown myself with fried foods. As emotional wins and losses happen throughout the week, I am going to pay attention to the deeper need driving me towards eating fried foods and see what I need to do to make internal changes.
  • When a strong craving for fries (my main go-to for fried snacks) happens, I will look for an alternative. Baking some sweet potatoes, grabbing some pretzels, or carrot sticks while reflecting on the craving itself.
  • Spend some time researching how bad fried foods are for my overall health and the health benefits of lowering my fried-food intak . I think by doing both of these it will help strengthen my resolve to not give in to cravings and temptation. I will include some research on how fried foods affect the little one’s diet and how I can help him by not making it a staple.
  • Research alternatives to my favorite foods that I can also offer Jai, guilt-free.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating at a fast food location where most everything is fried: Side salads with grilled chicken. Fruit slices and bottles of water.
  • Eating out and people order a shared dish that has items I am not eating: Order an additional dish that I can also share with others. Ask for a side fruit salad, bread, and drink extra water.
  • Friend offers me to try their food: Politely decline, but offer to share some of mine in return.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: I am taking a slight break in some of my previous eating habits to help my body recover OR I am training for a half-marathon and I am trying to help my performance and recovery.

Wednesday will see a return of the “Information Huddle” and a deeper examination of the importance of eliminating or moderating fried-food intake. From the cursory research I’ve done so far, I suspect I will see an overlap with my research regarding microbiomes.


Bittersweet Truths About Sugar

Sugar and sweeteners are everywhere. Sugar is like a drug: it certainly feels addictive when that particular time of day rolls around; for me it’s mid-afternoon and late evening when Jai is asleep. I just have to have something sweet to appease that craving and sometimes one piece of candy will not do. Funny enough, during other times of the day, I could pass by the stuff and not think anything about it.

Plenty of popular Western culture references stems from binging on sugar: from ice cream for heartache to characters with massive sweet tooths.

Women are courted by advertisers to buy chocolate during their menses. Children are bombarded with sugary cereals and treats during their favorite TV shows or mobile games. Men get advertisements for carbonated drinks to help boost their competitive abilities.

There is a clear bias for the stuff. And it makes sense given the narrative: it boosts brainpower, gives you energy, makes you feel good, and is all around amazing. In fact, the idea of going without sugar is one met with disbelief. Go ahead and tell someone that you plan to drop sugar. You’ll get one of these responses:

  • Really? I could never do that. I love the stuff too much.
  • Oh, [Someone’s name] did that awhile ago. She didn’t last 24 hours before caving in.
  • How will you survive without [insert your favorite beverage/treat of choice]?
  • Why? Do you think you need to lose weight?
  • We’ll see how long that lasts. I bet you’ll be back to eating it within a week.
  • Just as long as you don’t get all smug and preachy over it…

Many responses revolve around the narrative that we, as human beings, cannot live without sugar. And the truth is, Western diet is high in sugarcane (or some version of sweetener). So it’s understandable that the idea of dropping something so pervasive in our diet is out of the ordinary.

I watched this video in preparation of today’s post and it sums up the issues we face as consumers of sugar in the Western diet…

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