I Stopped Feeding My Toddler Dinner


They should really stop calling it dinner, which sounds innocent, pleasant even, and rhymes with “winner.” A more fitting, if less mellifluous phrase, might be Apocalyptic Hell Hour or Lucifer’s Food Time.

My daughter, Lucy, thinks the effort I put into preparing food for her is quite funny. Regardless of what she is served, it will be smooshed, flung, dropped onto the dog, or rubbed vigorously into her eyes. She will apply yogurt to her face like an all-over beauty mask. She will get ketchup on the ceiling. She will not eat.

I went out to lunch with two mom friends last week, one of whom has a son Lucy’s age. He sat in his high chair without complaint, smiling, and lapped up a quinoa, shiitake, and broccoli frittata. He devoured a savory beet yogurt by the heaping spoonful. What that actual fuck? I balked at my mom friend’s parenting wizardry. I studied her child like a buried treasure map as he nibbled his way through a mushroom, the floor beneath him pristine, not a swipe of pink across his cheek.

One evening a few weeks ago, I made Lucy a very innocuous bowl of boxed Annie’s mac and cheese. Yes, I threw a few very offensive green peas in there to appease the part of me that doesn’t want my daughter to become a carbohydrate. She wouldn’t try a single bite. She alternated between screaming like a goat and barking like an injured seal. She communicated to me via our complex system of pointing, yelling, and grunting that she wanted a Brocolli Little, which is, despite its name, a small potato cake in the shape of a triceratops. I stuck the dinocarb on a plate in the microwave. She shattered all the windows and mirrors in the house with a high-pitched scream, apparently because she wanted to push the buttons. She pulled the microwave down off its shelf and it nearly fell on top of her. Then there were tears. Then she wanted a veggie burger instead, with cheese and ketchup. I’ll let you guess how much of that made it into her mouth.

Like every other mother I know, I decided when my baby was a baby that she would “eat what I eat”, and that I “wouldn’t be one of those mothers who cooks fifteen separate dinners a night.” I realize now that this is the language of a presumptuous asshole who has never experienced Chobani as a hair mask.

After I gave up trying to feed my pig-tailed tasmanian devil and combed the cheese out of her hair that night, I called my MIL, who is the gatekeeper to the land of parenting Oz. “Maybe she’s not hungry,” she said. “What is she eating during the day?”

During the week, my 18-month-old goes to daycare so I can work. Behold, a sample menu from a single weekday:

Breakfast: half banana, cheese omelette, milk

AM Snack: Ritz crackers, water

Lunch: Veggie burger, peas and carrots, mashed potatoes, pasta with mixed vegetables, milk

PM Snack: Pouch, banana, water

She is being fed like an animal about to hibernate for 6 months, like a competitive eater training to take away that little Coney Island hot dog guy’s untouchable title, like me 3 days before my period. No wonder she’s not hungry for dinner; she’s already eating enough calories a day to sustain a family of elephants.

So, I stopped fighting with her about dinner. Now on the weeknights, she lets me know when she wants a snack. I’ll give her whole grain crackers with almond butter, a veggie pouch, popcorn, or yogurt, and she’ll eat happily while she plays. Instead of spending our evenings screaming, crying, and cleaning condiments off the ceiling, we now stack blocks, read books, and lick crayons.

Her disinterest in sitting down with me at 5pm to eat curry and talk politics doesn’t mean she’ll only eat white foods forever or never appreciate global flavors. She’s one and a half; dog hair is the height of culinary sophistication to her right now. Also, she’s full, and I don’t want to teach her that eating is required method of torture. This whole idea of eating three meals a day plus two snacks is just another thing someone somewhere made up, and now is law. It’s not actually important.

Over and over again, my daughter teaches me this: let go of your expectations. Trying to bend her spirit to fit into my idea of what kind of schedule she should be on doesn’t work. What does work is listening to her, letting her guide me to be the mother that she needs. It also results in less airborne applesauce.


3 Minute Meal: Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Toast

After eating nothing but grilled cheese on white bread and French fries for my entire first trimester (and gaining 15 pounds), my second trimester was lovely and reasonable. I liked salad again, my appetite leveled off, and I began to make healthier choices that I felt good about.

Here I am a month into my third trimester, and all of that is totally out of the window. I am ravenous. The kitchen at my office is four steps from my desk and is constantly filled with cake, cookies, and chocolates. I pack a lunch but it’s never enough food; the baby demands an additional 14 cookies a day. She likes sandwiches with a side of bread. She thinks salads are fine but could we serve them in a bread bowl with a cheese lid? She wants to know why we’re not eating that carrot cake in the fridge right out of the box with a fork this very moment. SEND HELP.

I got home from (another) doctors appointment tonight and needed food, fast. It had to involve bread, preferably a vegetable, definitely some fat, and be ready in less than 3 minutes.


Avocado toast is a big thing right now, rightfully so (if you live in Soho it costs $9 at a restaurant, which is completely insane). I mashed half an avocado with a 1/4 cup of chickpeas (protein!), the juice of half a lemon, a glug of olive oil, thinly sliced red onion, salt, and pepper. I spread it on sourdough toast. While I mixed all this up, I microwaved a bowl of Trader Joe’s tomato soup. Et voila.


So, note to self: good job on not picking up gross Chinese food on the way home, this was at least sort of healthy and was free. Also, you should really cut down to 12 cookies a day, not including chocolate truffles.

The Easiest Dinner for Slapdash Entertaining

Everyone should have a couple of go-to recipes they can make with their eyes closed. For me, that includes a simple, homemade tomato sauce for spaghetti that I can whip up with pantry staples and have ready in half an hour.

To make the sauce, I chop an onion or two while heating some olive oil in a heavy pan. I put a pot of heavily salted water on to boil. Once the onion is in, I mince a couple cloves of garlic and add that, along with salt and crushed red pepper. Sauté for a few minutes until golden and aromatic, then add a can of whole, peeled, unsalted tomatoes (always buy unsalted or low sodium and adjust the seasoning yourself). Season and cook for 30 minutes.

While the sauce bubbled away, I made a quick massaged kale salad (it pains me to refer to as a salad “massaged,” but it is what it is). I threw some minced red onion (no shallots on hand) in a little lemon and white balsamic bath to quickly lose its bite. Then I added chopped dried cranberries, unsweetened apricots, a bit of honey, sea salt and black pepper. Throw in your kale and a glug of olive oil and massage away. Massage like it’s David Schwimmer in 1995. (What, not a Ross fan?) I also toasted up some pine nuts and sliced almonds in the oven and threw those on top (in the last few minutes, so they stay crunchy). Also, garlic bread, because I’m pregnant. And sausages.

Maybe I went a little overboard, but did I mention I’m pregnant?


Pregnancy Back Pain & Fancy Grilled Cheese

After a pretty rough first trimester, I sailed through my second. Everything people said about those middle months was true: you get the good kind of hormones, feel happy, get that glow (or in my case, go to Sephora and buy a $32 blush because you really, really want that glow), the nausea goes away, you get to feel your cute little fetal parasite use you as an inside out punching bag for the first time. Glorious! I loved everything about it.

Towards the very end of my second trimester, I started to get some occasional, nagging back pain, always in the middle right of my back, sort of under my shoulder blade. I thought it was just a sleeping-on-it-funny thing, and it would come and go. Fast forward a few weeks, and it’s become a constant, someone-is-slowly-stabbing-me-with-a-jagged-dagger-all-day situation. I’ve tried heat, ice, massage (husband, not professional), tiger balm, Tylenol, yoga stretches, and 2 chiropractors. I’ve asked nurses, doctors, and midwives what to do about it. So far, nothing has brought any consistent relief.

I have a newfound respect and sympathy for anyone suffering any kind of chronic pain. Also a lot of medical bills. Chiropractors are pretty expensive considering they may or may not be actual doctors (my desperation outweighs my skepticism). The one I’m seeing now treats hockey players which I think is a good sign. Pregnancy is a lot like hockey: full body assault, and you might lose some teeth (I lost half of one last week, but that’s another story).

Anyway, there is one thing in this world that always makes everything better: grilled cheese. It makes first trimester nausea subside, gives the baby a reason to somersault cutely in trimester two (at least this baby loves her carbs), and now in the third, it still brings its little comforts. As a bonus, it’s easy to hold and eat with one hand while you balance a plate on your huge belly and readjust the ice pack under your back.


This particular grilled cheese was made with good sourdough bread slathered in mustard and layered with shredded gruyere, a handful of cooked lentils, and a few threads of sauerkraut (a nod to the classic Reuben). Served with a pile of pickles and arugula.

Little Goose: you are welcome for that sandwich. I know you liked it because you keep kicking me in the bladder. I’m cool with that, as long as you’ll at least consider unwedging your tiny feet from my ribcage.

I wish fetuses weren’t too young/unborn to negotiate.

What I Ate Today: the Third Trimester Edition

Here’s a pretty typical day for me lately, except they usually end with a little more effort at dinner. Today ended on a bad note, so I’m giving myself an A for Effort and calling iceberg lettuce a vegetable. Feel free to pretend instead that I ended the evening with a giant bowl of ancient grains dotted with seasonal vegetables and heirloom legumes. While we’re at it, let’s also pretend I haven’t gained 40 pounds this pregnancy and barely fit into my favorite Rush t-shirt.

6:30 am – a bowl of frosted mini wheats with a scoop of crunchy peanut butter, a cup of decaf with vanilla soy creamer, and seltzer with a splash of OJ.


Here’s what I packed for the next 12 hours (there’s nothing worse than a pregnant lady who runs out of food, so I always plan for a little extra)


10:00 am – this beautiful office banana. So majestic.


10:30 am – Am I on 3rd breakfast? Whatever. I ate this bag of mixed nuts.


12:30 pm – Quick lunchroom photo of my little salad (lettuce, beets, chickpeas, onions, and feta with olive oil and lemony white balsamic) and leftover Spanish tortilla slice. That’s my coworker, Spike’s, hand waving over the food.


1:00 pm – This tiny little 3 Muskateers. Hey, I wonder what that little stain on my hand is?


4:30 pm – Unpictured scarfing of single serving popcorn bag I obliterated on the drive from work to my first doctors appointment of the evening.

7:00 pm – My “thank god I made it through this tragic day I am so not cooking right now how the eff am I going to survive 80 more days of this pregnancy” dinner of 3 black bean tacos with cheddar, onion, salsa and lettuce


Since you asked, work kept me late tonight (again) and I almost missed my first appointment, one I desperately needed to keep because of the stabbing pains I’ve had almost constantly in my back lately. They kept me waiting at that appointment, and then I missed my next one. Cute, right? It is not a thing that when you’re hugely pregnant, you suddenly get magical sympathy from people and are allowed to not get held up at work and stuff.

The good news is that you can come home, change into a full body sweatsuit, and cry hormonal rage-tears into a couple of tacos while watching Chopped. Because nothing goes better with food than food tv.