Serve the Rainbow!
Serving the Rainbow exposes your child to a variety of food colors at the puree stage. Teaching your kids to eat colorful foods at a young age is critical to new food acquisition at the toddler stage (when kids naturally go through a picky stage). Have you ever been to a dinner party where you were served a food you didn’t like? It can be stressful! You try not to look at or smell the food. You eat around it. You push it around your plate. That is what you child is doing when they spit out food, drop it on the floor, push the food away, or cry to get out of the chair. They are trying to get away from that food!
When a parent of a picky eater calls me, they frequently report that their child’s diet is comprised of bagels, bread, crackers, cookies, plain pasta, plain pizza, and bananas. What do these foods have in common? They are neutral in flavor and color and most are the same texture every time. This is the reason that the most popular “kids” foods are processed chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and Kraft macaroni and cheese. These foods are the same texture, flavor, and color throughout (no lumps, bumps, or clumps). And, they are the same whether you eat them at home, at a restaurant, at grandma’s house, or on vacation. They are trustworthy foods. What makes picky eaters shy away from home made versions of these foods is that there are slight changes or variations in texture when mom or dad makes them from scratch. Think about a homemade pancake versus a frozen waffle. The homemade pancake may have crust around the edges or may be soggier in the middle. A frozen waffle is the same throughout with no variation.
Introduce a Rainbow
How can you teach your child to eat colors and textures? You can introduce a variety of colors at 6+ months. Check out my list of purees in every color for more ideas! Use naturally occurring colorful foods such as red beets, orange sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, green spinach, blue blueberries, and purple sweet potatoes. When transitioning to mashed textures, start by ensuring there are no lumps and then consider color. Think about the almighty potato. If your child likes mashed potatoes, switch it up to use mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon or even purple sweet potatoes!! Green beans come in green, white, or purple too! When transitioning to solid foods, think texture. Introduce new textures slowly and watch for signs that you child may not be quite ready for that texture (spitting out, throwing on the floor, etc).
How to Serve the Rainbow:
Looking for a way to get calories AND fruits/vegetables in your child’s belly? SMOOTHIES!!! I love them because they are delicious, nutritious, and kids don’t get suspicious. They are also great on the go and can be beefed up calorically with some simple additives. I also love a good rainbow theme so I’ll give you some color ideas below. You can make it fun by assigning a day of the week to each color, spinning a color wheel, or asking your child what color they want to drink that day. So, here are some ideas for making smoothies in all colors:
Red – strawberries, bell peppers, beets, watermelon – Red foods are known for being high in a nutrient called lycopene, Anthocyanin, vitamins A and C. Red foods increase your memory and reduce your blood pressure.
Orange – carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, cantaloupe, – Orange foods are known for being high in Beta-carotene and bioflavonoids, fiber and vitamin A. Orange foods boost your immunity, and build strong bones and teeth.
Yellow – peach, nectarine, mango papaya, pineapple – Yellow foods are known for being high in vitamin c and carotenoids. Carotenoids include beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Yellow foods boost immunity and build strong hair and healthy skin.
Green – grapes, spinach, kale, cucumber – Green foods are known for being high in fiber, potassium, folic acid and vitamins A, E C. Green foods maintain maintaining good vision.
Blue/Purple – blueberries, blackberries, purple sweet potatoes – Blue and purple foods are known for being high in Anthocyanin and phenolic. Blue foods help your brain develop.
White – banana – White foods are known for being high in potassium, fiber, and Alicen. White foods protect our cells from damage.