Eating By Color
The Beaner has always had a healthy appetite, and from about 6 months on ate a wide variety of foods. He's still fond of fruit and avocado sushi rolls, but lately his plates have seemed somewhat monochromatic—with heavy emphasis on macaroni & cheese and white rice.
So back in August I embarked on a plan to try to get him to eat more vegetables. (Al argued that fruits should count, too, but for me it was about expanding his palate—which was already amenable to fruits—as well as his nutrient intake.) I told him that each night we would try a new vegetable until he could come up with a list of at least five that he would agree to eat regularly.
Shortly after starting on this program, the Beaner went to Grandparent Camp, so I asked my mom to continue with it. Tomato was a big fat no, but she found three vegetables he was willing to eat, including one he actively liked (cooked cauliflower). He'd originally proposed "corn, corn, corn, corn, and corn", as the five vegetables he liked, so we already knew corn was on the list. In the week after grandparent camp, we also added sauteed orange pepper.
And then we hit a wall. The problem was that while our fridge, counters, and freezer were often overflowing with fruits and vegetables, we didn't always have the ones he liked on hand, and I didn't make it part of my daily routine to make sure we did. Al and I were still eating well from the CSA, farmer's market, and weekly Wegmans and Trader Joe's runs, but the Beaner wasn't sharing in the bounty.
Enter Plan B: "What if we eat by color?" I asked the other night at dinner. "We could designate each day a different color, and make sure we have at least two items of that color for dinner." Al and the Beaner liked this idea a lot. For one thing, it gave fruits as much credit as vegetables for livening up the Beaner's plate. For another, it addressed my original concern: that the Beaner was eating entirely too much white starch and not enough color. The Beaner immediately suggested that we eat in the order of the rainbow, starting with red.
I wish I'd thought to photograph the plates starting on Monday (red), but it didn't occur to me until Wednesday (yellow).
One of the things that is making eating by color work (so far) is that the color is a great mnemonic: Al and I both know what color the day is, and we can plan to pick something of that color up if we don't already have something on hand. It also allows for more variety than the 5-vegetable plan: We're occasionally going to offer something he's not so fond of, but at least he'll be trying new things relatively continuously. Pomegranate was not a big hit last night, for example, but he ate a few seeds in the spirit of getting in his red. (He ate most of the sauteed red pepper, too.)
We're also finding that we can accommodate eating out, as well; we just ask him to save a little room, and we have our color when we get home. Green and blue/purple this week were served as the dessert course.
It occurred to me while I was looking for red items at the farmer's market yesterday that perhaps we should incorporate a white/brown day into the mix from time to time (to allow for cauliflower, mushrooms, lychees, asian pears, etc.); I'm trying to figure out how often we should do that, given that we'd be giving up some color in favor of greater variety. Then later in the day, when I realized we had quite a few leftovers from previous nights, it also occurred to me that we should probably have a rainbow night periodically.
Tonight was our first rainbow night, since we still had some purple potatoes, kiwi, and clementines on hand. (We also had green beans, but I opted not to serve those.) In addition to the leftovers, I served Trader Joe's tomato and roasted red pepper soup with TJs frozen roasted corn and grape tomatoes from our garden (red, orange, and yellow all in the same bowl), some apple slices (which we counted as red), some deli ham for Al and the Beaner, and sauteed beet greens for me and Al. It was eclectic, awesome, and best of all, EATEN.