My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus

November 10th, 2009

Hopefully this is one of the bumper stickers we can hang on our refrigerator (because even if our kid becomes an astronaut Shelton will not allow for the placement of stickers on our cars!): My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus, and Yours Eats Chicken Nuggets.

Growing up I was a painfully picky eater. And to be fair, “growing up” can best be defined by the last 28 years of my life. My palate has the depth of a teaspoon. I blame this, and mom DO NOT take any offense to this, on my parents. My exposure to food was pretty limited. We had Pizza Hut on speed dial, were on a first name basis with the Burger King manager, and probably consumed every flavor of Hamburger Helper on the grocery store shelf. (Thank someone for our metabolisms because we would have been poster children for childhood obesity!) I inherited my picky ways from both nature and nurture. My dad is also a very picky eater, so if I saw him turn his nose at something (oh, I don’t know, say RICE!) I wasn’t about to eat it. My mom, on the other hand, would have had us eating everything under the sun if she’d had her way. But my dad’s rule over what we ate (ground beef and potatoes) and our limited budget precluded us from broadening our culinary horizons.

As I grew up this became a huge handicap for me. To this day I have an almost fear of eating at other people’s houses. What will they serve us? How will they prepare it? Are there onions in? You put an eggplant in what? I got good at telling people that 1) I’d either had it several times before and just couldn’t stomach it, or 2) I was allergic. Neither of these were or are true. I have zero food allergies and if it looked even remotely suspicious there wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to try it.

And on the very rare occasion that I had to try something, it would go terribly wrong. Take for instance the family vacation to Disney World where I was forced to eat a bratwurst with sauerkraut in the middle of Epcot’s Germany and proceeded to puke my guts out. I, to this today, have a tremendous gag reflex and I’m not going to keep anything down that my tongue deems not worthy.

So as I said, my persnickety eating habits have been a hindrance. Business lunches and dinners at ethnic restaurants are a nightmare – and I either beg to go somewhere else, or I’ve even been known to go a day or so ahead of time and “test drive” the menu to ensure I can find at least one thing that won’t lead to a “most embarrassing moment of my life.” Exhibit A, I had dinner with Jillian Michaels last spring at a sushi restaurant in LA. Three days before the dinner, I made Shelton take me to a local spot where I tried sushi for the first time, rather enjoyed it, and made copious notes in my phone so that I could order with out fail in front of Ms. Michaels.

In the past few years, as my love of cooking has developed, so have my tastes. I’ve discovered when in the privacy of my own kitchen with me at the ingredient controls I’m willing to try just about anything. I even attempted to make a Thai dish once that before completion ended up in the trash because the smell was so overwhelming, but the point is I tried. My mother-in-law keeps a list on her refrigerator of the foods I will not eat, alongside a similar list for both of my sisters-in-law, and I’m proud to say mine is the only one that has been mostly crossed off. I eat rice now people – white AND brown!

What could this possibly have to do what having a baby? A lot actually. One of my fears for my ability to raise a child has been my picky eating habits. I don’t mind passing on my curly hair or even my ability to speak my mind and share my opinion no matter what; but I do not want to create another generation of people who curl their lips and noses at the thought of – VEGETABLES. Oh the horror!

As editor for, I’m sent a library worth of books every year, books related to diet, health, wellness and fitness. We review them, but as most editors will tell you, I don’t read them cover to cover. A few months ago a book showed up that really caught my attention, and the title is My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus. (Kudos to the author and editors for coming up with that one!) I read this one cover to cover, in fact, I couldn’t put it down and haven’t shut-up about it since i started reading.

Nancy Tringoli Piho is the author, a former food industry PR guru who handed over her press releases for mommyhood. She and her husband are foodies, so when she had her first child, she set about feeding him the same way they ate. What a novel idea. Or is it? In her book she discusses how eating trends for American children have so drastically changed from those of even our parents or grandparents. There’s an entire industry of kid foods, and for some reason, most parents only feed their kids from this limited, starchy, processed menu of mac and cheese, chicken nuggets and grilled cheese sandwiches. Meanwhile, the parents enjoy pasta with pesto and shrimp or a curry or fajitas or God knows what else. The point is, this act limits the development of their children’s palates.

My family gives me a hard time because even now when all we have is a bump in my womb, I’m adamant about how our child will and will not eat. I’m not going to raise a kid who is all strung out on sugar and refuses to eat vegetables. How do I make that happen? Well, My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus helped me feel justified in this early parenting decision that I’ve made and even offered a few ideas I hadn’t yet considered.

We’ll make our own baby food. That way, our child immediately learns the flavors, smells, colors and textures of what a green bean or sweet potato really is, rather than the high-sodium, high-sugar, over-processed version that Gerber wants to sell us at the grocery store.

We’ll introduce broader flavors and varieties of foods at an earlier age than most people do. Piho explains that in other cultures children are eating spicy foods and even more complex flavors like lamb as first foods, and we’re all human, so why can’t my American baby eat that too?

When we make dinner, that’s what everyone is eating. Shelton and I aren’t going to have sushi while the kids munch on Goldfish crackers and cheese sticks.

My goal here is to help develop a taste and appreciation for good food, health them understand that food is fuel and serves a purpose, and help my kids grow to be healthy and strong.

My picking eating habits are infamous. Friends, family and colleagues will all attest to the to down-right aggravating way I eat, or rather don’t. But hopefully, twenty or so years from now, or even five, no one will be able to say that about our child.

I really do recommend this book and hope you’ll give it a read. You can see more of my My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus review here at, and you’ll see that I think it should be added to the must-read list for all expectant moms.