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MODEL MOM - How I Raised A Good Eater!

Debi resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, Edward and toddler, Lily and lovable dog, Tank. She was a full-time model / actress when she became a full-time mommy to Lily. She is enjoying this new full-time job and also gets the opportunity to still work once or twice weekly in the entertainment industry.


It's a gorgeous spring April day and I should be singing from the rooftops with glee over my beautiful baby daughter, Lily. Instead I realize with panic that I have to get this six month old baby eating food and have a full menu in six months time, when formula is over. YIKES! We did breastfeed for three months, but then we both got thrush and
the pain and my agitation made breastfeeding not worth continuing - a cranky mom and cranky baby are no fun for anyone!

My panic came from the fact that I was an overweight child and didn't slim down until I was about 25 years old. That's a long time to be the fat kid! It's not that my mom didn't feed me right, in fact she was really big on fruits and veggies, BUT NO SUGAR! So, when exposed to sugar, I went ape, and indulged and indulged. With that kind of baggage from my past and eating right still a job - one I work very hard at - it was no wonder I was in a tizzy about feeding Lily.

My sister-in-law, Scarlett, to the rescue! Her first child, Sophia, is ten months older than Lily and paved the way for lots of things for us, including introducing me to a book called "The Super Baby Food Book", by Ruth Jaron. She even makes her own baby cereal, yogurt and homemade wipes. I was a little put off by some of the things she had to say about those things, but I have to admit, she is onto something. She is a far better woman than I. So, I spent two weeks reading the book and preparing to feed Lily solids.

In a nutshell, the book advises you how to buy, store, cook and puree any fruit or vegetable. She has a whole system worked out. However, I changed things up a bit (you may have your own ideas). First, I decided that in order to get Lily to eat all of her veggies, we needed to test them all out starting with mild and moving to wild. I started with the very mild lighter colored veggies, such as, zucchini, sweet potatoes or carrots, mixed with baby cereal at first, then moved on to the more intense tastes like asparagus and all of the dark greens.

After we went through all of the veggies, we moved onto fruits in the same manner, then meats, chicken and fish. Now, the Super Baby Book mom is a vegetarian so the chapter on meat was quite small, in fact barely two pages, but I did pick up some valuable information such as: buy your meats fresh, cook and puree, then freeze.

This all sounds like a lot of work, but it really wasn't. I would cook or steam things in a big batch, puree, put into ice cube trays and freeze. After the trays were frozen, I popped the cubes out and stored them in a resealable freezer bag. Total time was maybe an hour and I did it alongside other cooking, so I wasn't going out of my way.

This made mealtime very easy - I'd just pull out a veggie cube, meat cube and fruit cube, heat - voila! Healthy meal and fast! As a result, when it was time to transition to chunkier textures, we were only transitioning texture, not taste and texture - a carrot still tasted the same, only now it was a chunky instead of puree. Commercial baby food has added preservatives so if I used that, I felt like I was conditioning my "little piece of clay's" palate to chemicals instead of the natural taste of a veggie or fruit. I want to add that I am not a health nut, just a healthy eater who tries to choose preservative-free foods where possible. I saved a ton of money and it was only six months and then I was onto chunkier textures. The wonderful result is that Lily is an amazing eater, will taste just about anything and loves raw veggies and of course, fruit! I also never insist that she try something, I offer by saying, "want to taste?" and she almost always does!

Now that Lily's 2 ½ years old, we never order food from the kids menu at restaurants and she really won't eat things that have preservatives - doesn't like the taste. Go figure. She snacks on all kinds of nuts, beans and of course, every mom's favorite, Cheerios. One of my favorite snacks to give her is kidney beans, cut up carrot and cheddar cheese chunks - if needed, it's a complete meal and better than fast food. I do give her treats so she knows what that's all about, but I limit them and she gets them only after her veggie/fruit quotient for the day has been satisfied. We also do the maximum amount of milk allowed every day, which is twenty-four ounces at this age. The upside to all of this is Lily is never sick - a little runny nose every now and then, but that is the extent of it.

Now that Lily is a toddler, eating the same meals as we do, we have a few family rules that we must use. The first is hard to stick to but in the long run has paid off and that is:

We sit when we eat - no cruise-by-the table eating. When she says she is not hungry, she must sit at the table with the family, but doesn't have to eat. Conveniently, her plate is there just in case she wants to - and most of the time she does.
When we offer her a taste of anything new, and she refuses, we respect her choice
We never insist that she finish what's on her plate. If she is full or says "all done" she is allowed to get up from the table and we remove the plate. This discourages the eat, play, eat, play game that toddlers love.

I will leave you with one last trick that works day after day! I always give Lily her veggie to munch on while I am finishing lunch or dinner. By the time the rest of the meal is served, she has pretty much consumed her veggie serving. Also, when I am prepping the veggie, even if it's not cooked yet, I give her a piece - it keeps her immersed in watching or helping with the prep.

For the last nine years, I've worked as a model. In order to be successful, I've had to eat well, sleep well and exercise. As a mom, I've tried hard to make sure that Lily gets enough rest and exercise as well hopefully enjoys being a good eater.

I hope you have your own great success with your littlest gourmet!

Please add your comments below...share your thoughts and experiences.

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User Comments:
Laura said:
Awesome tips that clearly work for a reason! It really is the perfect strategy to raise a kid who eats well and actually enjoys the taste of healthy foods. I see how showing your child from the start how to eat fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods will provide them with life long benefits as they grow up and continue to eat right! Good job Debi!
Scott said:
Great stuff. Will come to you when I have a little one to feed!
Marc E. Leh said:
Wow, You are a natural. I am very impressed and excited for you. I think you have found your calling. Keep going!!!
Denise Nenner said:
I loved your article!! It's great to hear how well Lily is eating. Our key to feeding a 7 year old and a 5 1/2 year old is to only cook one meal - they eat whatever we eat-period. They are not in a restaurant and I don't enjoy cooking so they;ve learned to like what is served! Their favorite dinner is chicken, pasta and broccoli and of course always with a salad.. Great Job Debi - your daughter is beautiful and you've instilled some great eating habits!!! Denise
wendy said:
This article is so full of great ideas. I wish I had read it when my children were younger. It's well written, too!
Cynthia Cromley said:
Great article, thanks for the tips!! Will share with other mothers...
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