When I started this post, I was living in peanut butter and jelly hell. I’m not even kidding when I tell you that I looked down at my pants while I was typing and realized that my exposed knee from my distressed jeans was covered in jelly. My two-year-old had eaten a PB&J over three hours ago (insert that “stunned face” emoji here). There was always peanut butter and jelly on my floor, tables, couch, and smushed on my toddler’s clothes. He constantly had peanut butter wedged between the cracks of his chubby little fingers. Why was I living this sticky existence you ask? Because my boy is obsessed with PB&J. Like, it felt impossible to get him to eat anything else. Like, he had at least two strong meltdowns a day over peanut butter and jelly.
The real-life story of escaping from peanut butter and jelly hell
As most new moms do at one time or another, I’ve made pretty decisive statements about how I’m going to raise my kids and how they are going to behave. Things like “I’m not going to be one of those parents who let their kid play on their iPhone”. You know what my toddler’s favorite activity is? Watching videos of himself on my iPhone. Oops. One of the other things my husband and I promised to each other is that our kids would always be exposed to diverse foods, so we could avoid raising picky eaters. And for the first year and a half, this worked! Our boy ate whatever we ate. He loved all things. In fact, the first meat he ever tried was goat curry. We were so proud. Everything was going according to plan.
When my toddler was about 18-months-old, all of a sudden he had an opinion about food. “Toast” was one of his first words and bread was all he wanted to eat. He would eat toast for every meal and once he took his first bite of PB&J, it was all over. Anything else we would offer him was totally unacceptable. He would grab the peanut butter out of the pantry and hug it like it was his teddy bear. Complete and total meltdowns if we dared to offer him anything else.
A few weeks ago, after finding the jelly on my knee, we decided enough was enough! We needed to quit PB&J cold turkey! Not only because we wanted our adventurous eater back, or because that delicious little sandwich was taking over our lives, but because we all needed a little wake-up call. The amount of processed bread that we were going through in a week for two adults and a toddler was crazy. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich diet was not a good look on any of us. So, I just didn’t buy any more bread at the grocery store!
The first few days of our “detox” were tough. Our boy would whimper, “toast, toast” with tears streaming down his face. I, of course, wanted to run to the store and just buy the darn bread. My husband, who is a lot stronger than I am, said we had to stick it out. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad! Slowly but surely, our kid became okay with eating the things he used to like. Things like plain Greek yogurt and berries, cheese slices and olives, plain scrambled eggs (with no toast on the side) and corn. And since he was no longer in a PB&J fog, he was open to trying new things!
Some of the new foods we’ve introduced (and that he loves now!)
(These brands are not sponsored – just things that we truly enjoy!)
- Baked Green Peas (Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps): These have the texture of Cheeto Puffs, but are just baked green peas, so you can feel great about giving them to your family. We’ve tried the Lightly Salted, but Caesar is our favorite flavor.
- No Bake Energy Balls (recipe from Gimme Some Oven): I started making these for myself when I would wake up in the middle of the night famished from breastfeeding, but now we all eat them! Super easy to make with (pretty) good for you ingredients! My peanut butter obsessed toddler can’t get enough of them.
- Hummus and Pita: To ease the transition out of PB&J with that processed bread, I gave my kid peanut butter in a whole wheat tortilla. Now that he’s cool with the tortillas, I sneak hummus in there more often.
- Ezekiel 4:9 Bread: We now keep a couple loaves of Ezekiel sprouted grain bread in our freezer for those times when really only bread will do (like when mama wants some avocado toast!). If you’re curious about the health benefits of Ezekiel bread, check this out.
Tips for transitioning to a wider variety of foods
- We make a point to sit down to eat together. He’s curious when he watches us eat and is more likely to try what we’re having.
- We try to make sure that he is really hungry for dinner. The more snacks he eats, obviously the less dinner he’s going to eat and the likelihood of a food protest is much higher.
- When in doubt, cover it with cheese! This is kind of a joke, but kind of serious. My toddler isn’t a huge fan of meat, but if I cover taco meat or spaghetti meat with some grated cheese, he’ll usually dig right in.
- Lately, he really likes to watch me scoop up his food and put it on his plate. I’m not sure why, but when he sees me do this, he is much more excited about what we’re eating.
- I let him make decisions and give him choices, but only with regards to what is actually being served. He doesn’t get to choose the exact meal that we are eating, but if we are having oatmeal for breakfast, I let him choose which toppings he would like to put on it. When I set up an “oatmeal bar” this week, my boy ate oatmeal with bananas, blueberries, a little brown sugar, walnuts and Chia seeds. All because I let him scoop up the toppings and put it on his special bowl himself.
So what’s the moral of this story? I’m not totally sure. Maybe it’s that toddlers are more adventurous and adaptable than we think. Maybe it’s that you shouldn’t let your toddler be the boss of the house. Maybe it’s that we should all focus on giving healthful, real food to our families. Or maybe it’s just that peanut butter and jelly really is that delicious and that we can’t blame a kid for wanting to eat it for every meal if we aren’t stopping them.