Saved By an Avocado

Lev’s face crumpled when he surveyed the offerings on the high chair tray in front of him; he began to wail. It just wasn’t good enough. He’d eaten far too many bananas and was sick of them, the kasha had been breakfast and lunch and was both boring and almost gone, the sugar snap peas – though branded stringless – were nonetheless untrustworthy, the hummus was too old, the grapes had seeds, the box of cheddar bunny crackers was finished, the strawberries were rejected without explanation, and there was no way he would fill up on blueberries alone (nor did I want to deal with blue poop). He was overtired from two long playsessions, but hunger was keeping him awake, and nothing I had for him was acceptable. What was I going to do? While he chased the last few kernels of kasha around his tray, I remembered: he’s eating avocados again!

Picky Eater

When he was a baby he ate so much avocado (and hummus) that I joked he was made of them. But as he got older he got picky. Now he only eats hummus if it is garlic flavor and is very fresh from the store — somehow he can tell if it is even a few days old. And somewhere along the line he got a bite of avocado that tasted bad, and he after that he refused it completely for six months. So he mostly stopped eating his old staples. I was very disappointed – avocado is the perfect baby food, easily chewable, not too sweet, with good-for-you fats, and it comes in baby-portion sized packages to boot. The only problem is that otherwise perfectly good avocados sometimes have spoonfuls that taste bad, sometimes without much warning, and I guess he ran afoul of one of those. He decided it was a dangerous food. Like the strings of the pea pods, it only takes a small problem to make him very suspicious —- he clearly has a better-safe-than-sorry attitude about food. The healthiest foods are alive, and living things have, well, quirks. Lev doesn’t like his food quirky.

His capricious appetite makes it very tempting to break down and give him Crunchies and Annie’s bunnies (bunnies are the organic-branded version of cheddar goldfish. I’m not sure they are actually more healthy, but there’s always hoping.) Those foods are the same in every bite, in every box, in every season. I can see why fast-food restaurants make so much money with the promise that the food will taste exactly the same every time and in every place: its all about keeping picky little kids happy.

Keeping Hope Alive

But after Lev had his bad avocado experience, I kept buying avocados. Perhaps it was an excuse: I like avocados too, even though they are quite expensive as small snacks. I could rationalize it as a baby-food purchase and then eat it myself when Lev wouldn’t. But perhaps I also wanted to keep alive the hope that he would get over his aversion. Every shopping cycle when the avocados got ripe I would poke bits of avocado at him, only to be disappointed when it was rejected. A few avocados rotted while I waited in the vain hope that he would come around to appreciating their advantages while they were still ripe.

On His Level

It may have been a new feeding technique that broke his avocado boycott: sometimes I sit on the floor and share things with him rather than put them on his high chair tray. It all started with carrot juice. A while ago, he figured out that the liquid in our cups are usually better than the stale water in his sippy cup; but I won’t put our cups on his high chair tray – that’s just asking for a splat, or worse, a crash. So we started sharing from our cups while we hold them for him. Eventually sharing a glass of carrot juice while sitting on the floor of the kitchen, especially right after we got home, became a ritual – it helped take the edge off his disappointment at having to come indoors. Sometimes I bring food down to our kitchen floor snack session, and one of those times I must have brought an avocado, intending to eat it myself. But as I was eating it, suddenly Lev was hugely interested! He forgot all about his aversion and wanted to try some too. He liked the first bite and ended up eating the whole thing. Everything tastes better if its mommy’s food rather than his food.

Thanks to the Avocado

In any case, breaking his avocado aversion turned out to save the day that hungry and overtired evening. He wouldn’t eat anything else, but when offered a bit of avocado he quickly wolfed down the whole thing. His appetite has changed since the last time he was eating avocado – I used to be impressed if he ate a whole half, but now he can easily eat a whole one, and more besides. In this case one avocado was enough to transform the baby’s uncomfortable rumbly tummy into a soporifically full one, and he was asleep even before I took him out of the high chair. So in the end it turned out to be an easy bedtime, all thanks to the avocado.