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Toddler Food Wars, Fruit Edition

May23

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Hi Amy,

Love your blog. Love your advice column. You know, all that jazz. For real.

I hope this an easy question for you. What do you think about these fruit pouches that are so popular these days?

I have a 13-month-old who won’t eat fruit. She did eat 1/2 slice of apple the other day. That was a huge win. She loves cooked vegetables and eats lots of them, but she spits out fruit. She even sorts out the blueberries in her yogurt and spits them out. Anyway, she does love fruit pouches. But I worry that I’m taking a step back in self-feeding, or catering to her wants instead of getting her to eat real fruit (I continue to offer real fruit and strike out every time.) Or I don’t know, a million other potential bad things.

I got a sili squeeze and have made some of my own stuff for that. But sending a ready-made pouch to daycare is so much easier and faster. I know you are pretty well-versed in baby food so I am seeking your thoughts on the pouches. Thanks!

So I have a child who will not eat fruit either. Well, he’ll eat bananas and applesauce (though he’s not super jazzed about the latter), but that’s it. No apples, pears, peaches, berries of any kind, nothing. He’s been this way since we moved past stage one baby food.

And he’s SIX AND A HALF YEARS OLD.

I’m not telling you this to scare you or lead up to some “DO THIS OR ALL IS LOST” advice, because believe me, I have tried everything. You know I take my children’s diets super-seriously and am all about the proper foods at the proper stages and family meals and not short-order cooking for picket eaters and alllllllllll that stuff.

My kid doesn’t like fruit. (Or more accurately, the texture of fruit.) Yours doesn’t either, at least not right now.

Eh. They’ll be fine.

I’ve pumped fruit into Noah a million different creative ways, none of which were ever as easy as handing over a pureed fruit pouch. Because he still refuses to even TRY those. (One time, after successfully adding applesauce to his limited repertoire, I made a grievous mistake and offered him pear sauce instead. To this day he makes me show him the jar so he can verify that it is, in fact, plain old applesauce before he’ll taste it.) Noah always required homemade smoothies or juices (UGH). And that’s also how I had to also get vegetables into him, for many years, so at least you’ve got that going for you! I’d much prefer to have a kid who eats vegetables but no fruit than the other way around, you know? Fruits are great for Vitamin C and a few others, but they’re also a big source of sugar. In the past year Noah has made zero progress on the fruit front, but decided that he really enjoys cooked carrots and fresh raw peas. And oh, I am thrilled. And it only took six years and approximately 14,000 previous rejections.

Ezra loves fruit. All fruit. Including those shiny, handy fruit pouches. He’ll suck down a four-pack in 15 minutes if I let him (which I do not). We do occasionally buy them for him as treats or for trips/outings/etc., but not regularly. Mostly because 1) they’re expensive (especially the organic brands) and 2) HE EATS REAL FRUIT.

However, if Noah would eat them, I’d probably buy them. I’d probably buy the hell out of them. Because sometimes you just have to shrug and do what you’ve gotta do. You do what you can to get vitamins and nutrients into your kids, in a way that makes sense for your family’s budget and schedule.

You’re continuing to offer her fresh fruit. Awesome. You’re also giving her fruit in a toddler-friendly, convenient format. That’s just fine too. I wouldn’t worry too much about regressing on self feeding — is she sucking from the pouches herself, per their design? It’s really not much different than a juice or milk box, if you think about it. If she isn’t doing that yet and wants them spooned to her, that’s not really a big deal in my book either. Self-feeding with hands and self-feeding with a spoon are two very different skills, and I’ve always continued to help my otherwise independent 12+ month eaters with spoon foods like yogurt, soup, ice cream, etc.

As for fears that you’re catering to her wants…oh, we ALL cater to our kids’ food whims in one way or another. ALL OF US. We’ve all looked at something boxed or bagged and thought, “Oh, that’s perfect to keep them quiet/happy/fed/bribed.” And then bought it because yeah, it was easier. If you were local I’d invite you to peek into my pantry and freezer and see my seekrit stash of individually-wrapped granola bars, toaster pastries, boxed mac-n-cheese, canned ravioli, frozen pizzas and fish sticks and chicken nuggets. I make excellent, super-nutritious homemade versions of ALL OF THOSE THINGS. And I believe in serving them the same meals my husband and I eat, which usually involves NONE OF THOSE THINGS. And yet? We have them. Sometimes I make them. Jason is working late and the kids are hungry and I’m tired and we’re out of some necessary ingredient for a homemade meal and fine. Lemme heat something up. Dinner’s in 10 minutes, kids.

And hey, at least she’s not clamoring for neon green Gogurt and Lunchables, right? SHE’LL BE FINE. Families of fruit haters unite!

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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31 Responses to “Toddler Food Wars, Fruit Edition”

  1. Kate May 23 at 12:01 pm Reply Reply

    Hmm, I have pretty widespread fresh fruit allergies (strawberries, blueberries, apples, kiwi, peaches, all melons (except for watermelon), cherries) but I can eat fruit that has been cooked or pasteurized because it neutralizes the protein that I’m allergic to. It’s possible that this little girl has the same issue, because she’s fine with eating the fruit pouches but not fresh fruit. For me, the allergy primarily causes an itchy mouth/throat/ears.

    On the other hand, she…could just be a toddler!

  2. Kay May 23 at 12:44 pm Reply Reply

    Great advice as always, Amalah. My 10 month old currently won’t eat any soft, cut up fruits or veggies. He’ll eat any puree, but the texture of small pieces is too much for him. I randomly discovered he’ll eat cut up frozen blueberries. (slightly thawed) I’ve tried offering him slightly frozen carrots and apples and he’ll eat them as well. He’s also teething right now, so it’s possible he just really likes the cold.
    Just thought I’d mention this as something to try. I’m not sure it will lead to him accepting regular cut up fruits and veggies, but I figure it’s better than nothing.

  3. Myriam May 23 at 1:14 pm Reply Reply

    Did you check the nutrion label on the pouches you buy? If they contain a lot of added sugar, you can try to switch to a different brand that does not add extra sugar. I would treat the pouches a little like I would treat juice, as a treat, or a once-a-day-thing for daycare. If you make your puree at home, you keep the fibre in your fruit, but with pouches, they remove a lot of the fibre, taking away a lot of the value of the fruit. Anyway, the Guide says 5-10 portions of fruit AND vegetables, so if most of the intake is from vegetables, she’s allright. Try to vary her vegetables with a lot of color (greens, but also yellow, red, purple, etc.). The more diverse the color, the more diverse the nutrients. Good luck!

  4. JenVegas May 23 at 2:56 pm Reply Reply

    Most of those pouches are, like 100% fruit or veg with no funny business. Sometimes there’s ascorbic acid to maintain coloring or some jazz. My kid loves them. My kid also loves fruit. Unfortunately that’s pretty much all he loves. There was a wonderful, idyllic time when he ate anything we offered him. Now? It’s mostly blueberries, bananas and oranges. I wish they would put other things in those squeezy tubes. Like chicken. Can they put chicken in there? It would be nice if he ate some chicken. (I’m kidding, chicken from a squeeze tube would be grrrooooosssss.)

    • Emily Jun 02 at 11:44 pm Reply Reply

      I have had this thought a million times :) especially when planning a flight with my toddler.. why isn’t there chicken and beef and… yeah, it sound gross.. but.. why???

  5. Hillary May 23 at 3:05 pm Reply Reply

    I love the Happy Baby fruit squeeze things that include fruit, veggies and spirulina or other nice things that I wouldn’t otherwise include in food I prepare but my daughter happily gobbles up. Makes me feel better about the high price since 1) I know she eats it, 2) it is stuff she otherwise wouldn’t eat in a different form, and 3) it is very convenient for restaurants, long car rides, etc. Plus, no added sugar. Perfect for a lazy cook like moi. :)

  6. Kella May 23 at 3:12 pm Reply Reply

    I’ll second what Kate said – while my fresh fruit allergies are not as varied as hers, but I can’t eat raw apples, peaches or cherries either.
    When I was a kid I used to complain that they “made my mouth itchy”…. but since I had (and still have!) no problem eating applesauce, fruit pies, etc (anything that had been cooked), and there was never a severe anaphylactic allergic reaction, they thought I was faking it with the raw fruit complaints. :)
    To this day, I can’t even stand beside the peaches in the grocery store without my tongue/throat/gums feeling itchy.

    Probably this is a picky toddler, but I just wanted to be another voice echoing the thought that sometimes there’s a reason for the pickiness :)

  7. liz May 23 at 5:38 pm Reply Reply

    I get that itchy reaction with mango, so it could be allergy or it could be a texture thing.

    So, does she like carrots and sweet potatoes? Those have plenty of vitamin c. Tomatoes do, too.

    If she’s eating her veggies, I’d just let her eat those and leave the fruits alone until later.

    • tasterspoon May 24 at 1:26 pm Reply Reply

      Fun fact! (Or maybe it’s not really a fact, but I heard it from a friend and will believe anything): apparently mangoes are in the poison oak family, so if you have some of that sticky sap on the stem end you can get a poison oak type reaction by touching or eating it.

      Eggplants make my mouth itch, but an allergy never occurred to me until my baby got a rash after eating some.

      • JCF May 25 at 4:11 pm Reply Reply

        This is true!  My younger brother was severely allergic to both poison ivy and mangoes, which we always thought was super random, until a doctor informed us that it made total sense.  

  8. Whozat May 23 at 7:54 pm Reply Reply

    The original poster’s kid is a bit young for this, but for the older toddler / preschool and up crowd, I HIGHLY recommend the website http://www.todayiatearainbow.com – They have lots of fun stuff about “eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies” including videos of an adorable 8 year old cooking them. They sell a “rainbow kit” that includes a book and a chart to track your “colors” but that’s not necessary.

    My 3.5 year old has always been pretty positive about fruits/veggies in THEORY, but didn’t actually eat much of them, but this site / system has gotten her (and us – we’re all trying to “eat our rainbow) actually eating a lot more of them. 

    We try to be pretty laid back about such things, and avoid putting pressure on her to eat specific things (We both were / are pretty picky, and my partner had some serious battles with her dad over peas. We won’t do that to her.)  but now we can just say “Hey, do you want to eat some of that banana on your plate, so you can get your yellow magnet?” and it usually works. 

    And she loves “squeezy applesauce.” We buy the 100% fruit one, and I figure it’s SO much better than 99.9% of the “grab it from the pantry and hand it to her” options that I’m not concerned at all. She gets her “red magnet” when she eats one.

  9. andrea May 24 at 7:58 am Reply Reply

    Mine loves fruit.  any fruit.  and many vegetables.  Meat..not so much.  Any advice there?
    I’ve tried hiding it, but she always finds it somehow and picks it out.

    • tasterspoon May 24 at 1:40 pm Reply Reply

      My baby wouldn’t eat meat of any kind and I said something to our day care lady, and she said that a lot of kids won’t eat meat at all until age 3-5. So we provide lots of dairy and eggs and nut products and BEANS (how she loves her beans) and don’t worry about it. (Ours also just got her first molar at 18 months, so I’m sure lack of chewability has been a factor.) She will sporadically eat meats cooked very soft so has eaten my crock pot concoctions (but only the most delicious ones; she has discriminating taste buds) and fish and the insides of any type of potsticker (which I think are mostly cabbage anyway), and, rarely, meatballs that are mostly vegetables. Oh, and she went through a hot dog (sigh) phase for about three weeks but now won’t touch them. You could try all those in case it’s a chewability thing. But on our end I do think it’s also a deliciousness thing. Poached chicken breast would end up on the floor, but in a Thai coconut soup with plenty of garlic and ginger and fish sauce? She’s all over it.

      • tasterspoon May 24 at 1:48 pm Reply Reply

        Lest anyone think I’m bragging that my baby is some kind of omnivorous gourmand, I should point out that in months 14-16 she would eat no solid food other than frozen blackberries. Picture THOSE diapers, if you will.

      • andrea May 25 at 10:51 am Reply Reply

        She loves nuts. I was doing well with the beans when she thought they were raisins but once she figured out that they were not raisins that was the end of that.  Meatballs well only if one of our friends makes them, but sadly our meatballs are not the same.  Hotdogs, yes, but I cringe thinking about the nitrates. Chicken nope.. not baked, grilled, with spice, without spice, fried, or disguised in pizza. Beef, forget it.  Ham, yes, but only if its her grammy’s.  I keep trying other forms of protein , but other than offering incentives to eat she just won’t.  

        • tasterspoon May 29 at 2:11 pm Reply Reply

          Not to derail the comments, but how about baked beans, with tomato + brown sugar type sauce? Also, there’s this amazing way to make baked lima beans involving brown sugar and I think sour cream. Sounds gross, but so yummy, hot or cold. You can google around and find recipes with ridiculous amounts of fat and sugar and reduce to your preference – a little of those goes a very long way because the beans are so mild and creamy on their own.

          • tasterspoon May 29 at 2:12 pm Reply

            Or refried beans with lots of cheese? Okay, I’ll stop now.

        • Corinne May 31 at 9:13 pm Reply Reply

          How about hummus? That’s one of my LO’s favorites. We don’t eat meat, but he eats tons of beans in things, like chili or tacos, and hummus. Quinoa is a good source of protein also.

    • JCF May 25 at 4:13 pm Reply Reply

      My oldest son also wouldn’t eat any meat until around age 3.5  He’s 4.5, and he eats it pretty well now, though I wouldn’t say it is his favorite.  He ate a lot of beans, plain yogurt, cheese, whole grains, etc. and grew just fine!

  10. Jen May 24 at 9:25 am Reply Reply

    Oh hey – this was my question! Thanks for answering it so quickly, Amalah. And thanks for all the thoughts and suggestions in the comments. 

    I haven’t considered that she may be allergic to fresh fruit. I will ask ped about it at her 15m checkup. 

    She does self-feed with the pouch. She handles it all on her own, except for when I push the last bit up to the top half at the end. I also mostly buy the organic pouches (the Plum brand is usually cheaper than the Gerber non-organic where I shop). The ingredient list is not scary at all. 

    She self feeds with all the rest of her food, minus yogurt on a spoon. Honestly, a friend of mine told me her ped said to avoid purees, including pouches, all together after a year because of the self-feeding regression and it scared me a bit. Thanks for the advice and I will go forth as a non-scared mother (until something else scares the crap out of me, it’s bound to happen.) 

    Thanks again for all the suggestions and reassurance! 

  11. Erica Douglas May 24 at 10:59 am Reply Reply

    I agree about the fruit allergy! I am allergic to soy, apples and some other tree fruits and oak trees. I avoid soy and I can handle either oak trees OR tree fruits. When the oak trees are pollinating or losing their leaves, I don’t eat apples unless they’re cooked. Otherwise I get that same itchy mouth/throat/ears that others have described.

    My 12.5 month old loves anything green – spinach, green beans, kale, peas, anything. She likes frozen peas straight from the freezer and I make pesto with spinach and garlic.

    She chews on sweet bell peppers, raw carrots, apple or pear slices but I’m not sure how much she really ingests.

    She likes fruit…as long as it’s in a pouch or jar. She HATES slimy wet things so she will NOT touch bananas or even consider eating them but she’ll happily slurp down 6 oz of stage 2 or 3 Earth’s Best bananas. She hates slimy thing so much that she wouldn’t even taste her birthday cake because of the frosting! She tossed it right off her high chair tray and cried until we washed her hands.

    My pediatrician also gave us the “no jarred or pureed food” lecture because the doctor is really into baby-led weaning. I nodded and smiled and continued feeding my baby what she loves.

    My baby won’t really eat meat either but she still drinks 15 oz per day of breast milk while I’m at work, plus nursing whenever she wants, so I’m not too worried about the protein.

    She’s happy, she’s healthy (99% height, 50% weight and head circumference) so I’ll let her eat her fruits and veggies how ever she prefers.

  12. hayesmary May 24 at 11:37 am Reply Reply

    I am your daughter all grown up.  I love vegetables, even the less popular ones like brussel sprouts, lima beans, beets, cabbage.   But I’ve always hated fresh fruit.  Part of it is a texture thing – I find fruit slimy and squishy.   Peaches make me gag.   Berries squish and squirt – gross.   Bananas – shut up about bananas already, they’re disgusting.

     So, let me make two points here.  First, you cannot make somebody like something.   You can keep offering, but if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t like it.  Isn’t there some food that you find disgusting?  I don’t mean something from another culture (sea cucumber, say, or blanched scorpions*) but something familiar, that everybody around you eats that you just don’t like.   Is there something your parents could have don’t differently to make you like it?     

    Second, if she likes vegetables, you’re way ahead of the nutritional game.  Watch her eat nutritious food and allow yourself the tiniest feeling of superiority (just a bit) when you see other kids eating fruit rollups or extra sugar applesauce. Keep it to yourself, of course.  

    *Scorpions, blanched in salt water?  Really not bad.  I’m not a picky eater at all.   I just hate fruit.  

  13. Katie B May 24 at 11:56 am Reply Reply

    Yes, eating veggies is great! Any commenters with tips for the rest of us with toddlers who would live on fruit but won’t touch a vegetable? Actually, my toddler will eat certain veggies at her daycare. Not in my presence.

    Meat: my girl loooooves lunch meat, but even the “natural” stuff is pretty high in nitrates. So we save it for special outing lunches and are working at small versions of the meat we eat. Last weekend my partner made hamburgers and our daughter was quite enthusiastic about her tiny, toddler-sized patty.

  14. Grammy May 24 at 7:40 pm Reply Reply

    All the others have already given so much excellent advice, I hesitate to add this, because if the kid loves vegetables she will be FINE. But this worked with my daughter when she didn’t want something, and now I’m witnessing her pulling the same stunt on her almost-3-year-old son and it works with him:

    When she leaves the fruit and is eating everything else, say, “May I have your peaches (apple, orange, apricot, pineapple, whatever)?” The instant reaction is always, “NO! Mine!” followed by said child picking up whatever you asked for and eating it. And nearly always, then voluntarily eating the rest of it.

    If this trick doesn’t work with your daughter, no problem. At 13 months, most people go through a picky phase and that might be all it is. Or it could be allergies, like so many have suggested. Or maybe she just doesn’t like fruit. If she eats everything else you’re way ahead of a lot of moms.

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel May 25 at 9:27 am Reply Reply

      ooh, Grammy. That’s brilliant. I love your daughter’s technique.

  15. JenVegas May 25 at 4:03 pm Reply Reply

    Oh so I totally forgot about these until I got home last night and my new box of mixed-fruit crisps were waiting for me:
    http://www.brothersallnatural.com/brothers-all-natural-fruit-crisps/
    I bought a bag of apple crisps for myself once and my kid ended up eating most of them. Now we keep the house stocked with Apple and Mixed Berry crisps. Maybe a change in texture will make fruit more accessible for yours!

    • N May 25 at 10:29 pm Reply Reply

      These! My kid is addicted to these, even thought the only ‘fresh’ fruit he’ll eat is banana. But give him freeze dried berries, peaches, apples,. pears? He’s all over them.

  16. Bing May 26 at 11:56 am Reply Reply

    I don’t eat fruits, for a simple reason that I don’t like fruits. And now that my baby will soon turn 2, I’m having a hard time making her eat fruits unlike when she’s not yet turned one. My husband said that it’s primarily because I don’t eat fruits that my daughter don’t see any reason to eat too (no example). Can you help me on this?

    • tasterspoon May 29 at 2:24 pm Reply Reply

      Peer pressure! Have play dates with kids (especially older kids) who love fruit. When ours was a year old, we had friends over with a 2 year old boy who looooved broccoli. It totally made broccoli cool and now our daughter will eat broccoli any time.

  17. Emily Jun 02 at 11:42 pm Reply Reply

    oh my daughter loves squeezy fruit. She also loves all fruit and eats a ton of it. but, that’s not the point. She knows there’s a pouch in the diaper bag at all times. She knows. She will tear the bag apart to find it. I love them, but she doesn’t get them very often, mostly because I keep them for emergencies or whatever. I say use them. They’re horribly convenient and as long as you’re continuing to offer the real stuff, it shouldn’t hurt anything

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