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MamaLA: Keeping the Peas (and Other Veggies) at Meal Time

Before having young children, Yasmine wanted to understand why some kids seemed to eat healthy, balanced diets and others hadn’t had a vegetable in years.  The families she observed were not fast-food eating folks; they shopped at the farmers’ market and Whole Foods and most made their own organic baby food, but some of their kids were eating greens while others were loading up on empty calories.

You know that we are all about assuaging mama guilt, so let’s acknowledge that some children just have picky palates while others can globetrot from tamales to gumbo. Yasmine’s three-and-a-half-year old, Maverick, was the latter kind of kid. He was also the kid who would ask for more brussel sprouts on Thanksgiving. He still eats sushi and will try anything, so we were surprised when he recently started to refuse the most basic dinners of chicken, broccoli and brown rice. Was this the beginning of what Yasmine had observed before she had her own children?

Soraya has already encountered this phase with her eldest and is currently navigating these waters with her youngest two and has these thoughts to share:

Summer, with its lack of structure and vacations, can become an eating free-for-all.  As parents try to fill days, kids are snacking more than usual and enjoying one too many popsicles. As fall rolls in (though one would never know it has with the scorching temperatures outside!), we attempt to get our families back into routines.  While we are eager to get back into a groove, our little ones are still in snack mode.

Soraya also noticed telling differences in Hayden’s and Lila’s growing vegetable aversions. Hayden simply needs motivation.  The kid is a stellar soccer star, so Soraya explained that eating a healthy, balanced meal translates to stamina on the field and strength when kicking a goal.  He began to understand that sugary snacks might slow him down, something she knew he wouldn’t be willing to risk. Lila falls into the picky palette category. Soraya doesn’t want to turn food into a control issue, so she has paid attention to the healthy foods Lila does enjoy, like carrots and garlic, and finds ways to incorporate them into her diet. She also encourages Lila to try (or re-try) different things, being mindful to slowly introduce new options.

Meanwhile, Yasmine recognized that in managing dinnertime for her family of six, she feeds Malala while preparing a meal for the rest of her crew.  Maverick’s tummy growls between the baby’s supper and the more “grown up” mealtime, which works best for his teen siblings and Dad.  Way too hungry to wait, Maverick often opts for a quick fix snack, like an oat bar or organic gummy rabbits, inevitably spoiling his actual dinner.

Then she saw a post on Instagram that got her thinking. She follows @heirloomla and regularly drools over their posts, but was struck by one in particular, a pic taken during a knife skills class the Heirloom folks had led for kids from Challengers Boys and Girls Club. The caption read A SIMPLE CUCUMBER & BASIL SALAD THAT THEY ASKED FOR SECONDS AND THIRDS ON. LESSON: KIDS EAT WHAT THEY HELP MAKE. That evening, while Malala ate small pieces of avocado and nectarine off her high chair tray, Yasmine sat Maverick onto the counter to “help” make dinner. He handed her veggies to dice and mixed things (that didn’t actually need to be mixed) in a bowl, all the while snacking on raw mushrooms and carrots. His blood sugar was stabilized, mommy and son got some bonding time in, and when it came time for dinner, he relished the meal he helped create. Unhealthy eating crisis averted.

For more suggestions and ideas on how to get your kids eating back on a healthier track, visit mamalablog.com.


With seven children ranging in age from ten months to seventeen years between them, sisters and bloggers Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Soraya Delawari Dancsecs are experts at parenting in L.A. They take a break from PTA board meetings, cooking, and producing films to blog at CityThink each Thursday.