When my son could start eating food, I was so excited. I did homemade baby purées. He hated them. I introduced veggies first like a good mom should. He was unimpressed. Then, came food allergies to further complicate mealtimes. Followed by lots of one-handed cooking with a toddler in the other arm.

 

The thing is, I love to cook. And I couldn't wait to share that with my son. I have a day job that requires brainpower and creativity, but time in the kitchen is where I get to have some fun and be creative. It's a release. At least it used to be. With the kiddo, it started to become a dreaded chore.

Another trip to the grocery store to pick out healthy foods he wouldn't eat.

Getting excited about a recipe that seemed like a sure winner — only to have him refuse to try it or throw it across the room. 

Trying to find foods that were delicious that also fit his allergy profile — no eggs, no dairy, no soy, no peanuts, no tree nuts. 

And all of those allergies also meant very few options for eating out too. I was exhausted and grumpy. This thing I used to love was not enjoyable anymore. In fact, many nights, I found myself in tears over it. Ugh, did we have to have dinner?

But in January 2016, I resolved to get better. Plan better. Be more creative. And care less when dinner was a failure. I also refused to make multiple meals for a family of three. I was confident we could be healthy as a family, eat — joyously!!! — together, restore my love of cooking and maybe instill some of that in my son.

Because ultimately, I want my son to have a positive relationship with food. I want him to associate food with sustenance and health — and positive memories of family gatherings and smells of bacon on Sunday mornings. I want him to know where a tomato comes from and that Cheez-Its are not really food, and that homemade sorbet just tastes better.

And I want him to have skills that sustain him for a lifetime — an understanding of how to prepare simple meals, so he doesn't have to live on frozen pizza and fast food in college.

What if he's a food snob, you wonder? I'm totally OK with that. I'd love to have a kid who turns up his nose at crappy pizza and Happy Meals. But let me tell you: We have a long — and I mean LONG — way to go. Because to be a food snob, you need to eat food. At the moment, I have a pretty typical toddler.

But it's a journey. And I know I'm not alone. Being a working mom who wants to find time for grocery shopping and farmers markets and recipe hunting and cooking every night is HARD. If you're in the same boat, maybe you'll find something here that helps you — like a dinner your picky kid might actually eat. Or a tip or a trick that helps. That's my goal, anyway. And hey, if all you get is the knowledge that you're not alone in your own food fight, that's fine too.

Happy Cooking!

 
 Stephanie Conner

Stephanie Conner