Mom to son King, 12
Bronx-born Erica Mena, 31, is an actress, author and reality TV personality best known for her stints on the Love & Hip Hop New York and Atlanta franchises. The former model with Dominican and Puerto Rican roots is currently engaged to Safaree Samuels.
She tells CHICA:
My son, King, now 12 years of age, has had several stages when it comes to his eating habits. I breastfed until he was about a year and three months because I had a rough time getting him to drink or eat anything that didn’t consist of breast milk.
After that stage, King hit a stage of wanting to try pretty much anything. Which was so much fun to me as a new mommy, especially since at the time, all my friends’ and family’s children were very picky eaters. I remember always bragging how great my son ate. I could bring him out to eat pretty much anywhere.
Around this time, 1 to 4 years of age, King would eat lots of vegetables and fruits easily. Once King started kindergarten is when he randomly became super picky and wouldn’t eat every vegetable or fruit I would give him. He was very particular about what I packed him for his lunch.
ERICA AND KING
Once King started to read a lot is when he hit the stage of wanting to be become vegan. As shocked as I was, I wasn’t surprised my son wanted to cut out all meat and dairy. His love for animals was a big impact on his decision. Being a vegan for a year made King become more open to try lots of vegetables again and slowly curious to try adding seafood to his diet.
Like most kids, he did have a love for sugar juices, which was his bad food habit. Thankfully, he never liked soda. Noticing how much juice he drank, I introduced him to lemon water so that we could cut out the Minute Made juices. That thankfully worked. King now only eats organic chicken once in a blue and will add some sort of seafood to his meal. Now that King is almost in his early teens, he doesn’t give us a problem about trying new things, but will insist he eats pretty clean. Steamed rice, vegetables and organic protein is his go-to meal.
KING AND ERICA IN 2017
As long as your child has healthy eating habits, I find it best you let them find their own way. Trying new things and what they decide to eat is something you gotta let them be themselves with. Forcing them to eat or try foods can be a turnoff to them. Making them spiteful to never try it. Their growing, finding their own identity, that also goes for food as well. I personally had fun as a mom learning my child as he learned his own taste buds and eating habits.
Make learning about food fun. One trend I did consistently was read with my son about where foods come from and how they grow. With all the chemicals and how food is preserved for us, I think it’s important our children are educated on produce, products, meats, etc. They can easily make their own decisions based on their knowledge. Teach them early on how to eat, how to properly provide nutrition to our bodies so as they grow, they can be inspired to eat clean. That should help them to decide if they want to be pescatarian, vegan, etc.
Mom to daughter Kristal, 18, and son Ayram, 7
Dascha Polanco is an actress best known for her role on Orange Is the New Black. The 37-year-old, born in the of Dominican Republic and raised in New York, is currently on the show Russian Doll.
Dascha tells CHICA about getting kids to make healthy choices:
Show [your kids] pictures about what are the consequences of not having a healthy relationship with food and how it affects you and what it does to your body. Pics of decaying teeth, eating disorders, diabetes, etc. You gotta wake them up early in life.
Picky? Who, where? Eat what’s there or don’t eat in my Latin household. My son, although, is vegetarian when he’s with his dad and is more flex when with me. My daughter, she loves a good salad and tostones. I want them to enjoy the beautiful recipes of their country, the Dominican flavor.
Kids should not be on diets. Unless is a life or death from nutritionist. Instead we should focus on what they can eat and benefit from those foods.
Mom to daughter Alana, almost 3, and son Bruce, 4
Satcha Pretto is an Emmy-winning anchorwoman and journalist for Univision’s Despierta America morning show. Born in Honduras, the 39-year-old moved to the States at 18. She married Aaron Butler in 2013.
Satcha tells CHICA:
I work very crazy hours. Fun hours because they allow me to be with my kids. I go in at 4 in the morning, I wake up at two. That means I do not cook in my house.
So first you have to understand that I’m very OCD, and so I like to plan and schedule. Both my kids already go to school so in that regard we are very blessed because they actually have a staff who will cook organic meals. They have veggie burgers, they have salmon. They have quinoa. Sometimes I feel like they eat better at school than at home.
They send a menu. And so then at home what we try to do, because I’m not a wonder woman, I make a schedule for the nanny who helps us. She cooks and basically what she cooks is what we have for dinner. So we tried to balance everything around like you know, proteins and vegetables and, quinoa, beans, rice. And so that works on a perfect schedule.
It’s my OCD. In the mornings, I leave the menu as to what they’re going to have in the morning. And so I try to balance. Like, a couple of times a week, they’ll have oatmeal, then they may have cereal or pancakes or waffles. Always fruit, sometimes yogurt. So there’s like different options that they have.
SATCHA AND THE FAMILY
I know [our nanny will] say sometimes, “Well they didn’t want to eat what you left on the menu and they asked for like yogurt, or they ask for like cereal,” and that’s fine. So I kind of like have a good gauge of what they’d be eating.
But I feel like I kind of know what they’re eating. Maybe except all the time at school because even though there’s a menu, there’s a lot of options. And I don’t specifically know what they had. I asked them and sometimes they’ll be like, I had pizza. And I’m like, well, pizza was not on the menu.
But on the weekend, we have Sunday fun day and on Saturdays, if we go to birthday parties and stuff like that, my children will eat pizza and they will eat burgers. Or, like, if we have people come over and we grill burgers, and we also have Honduran food, which my little boy loves.
But you know, there are times when we always feel that we could be doing a better job.
The school is a no candy school, but there is candy at my house.
I feel like if we wake up in the mornings, on the weekends and the kids say they want to bake cookies or like cupcakes. So we bake. And we also have sometimes McDonald’s, because I feel like any extreme, in my opinion, is bad.
I buy some things organic, I buy somethings not organic. And I feel like you have to raise kids that are well-rounded and can adapt to any kind of situation that they’re in. And that means that if sometimes they have to eat fast food, well then so be it.
I do have to say that I made a huge effort when they were babies. I made 80 percent of the food they had, like their first meal. My husband would joke that I didn’t cook but that I was a baby gourmet chef. I made all these fabulous meals, and like little tiny meatballs. I don’t know if that helped my son, but my son is a very adventurous eater, and he loves octopus and he loves mushrooms, since he’s been 1 he loves mushrooms and truffle oil, and he loves Sushi.
So he’ll tell his little sister, you have to be more adventurous, you have to try new things. They like all the opposite, she likes sweet potatoes. He doesn’t like it. She doesn’t eat bread. He loves bread. He loves Honduran food. She doesn’t like it. She’s a really good eater in that she’ll sit down and eat, but it’s more narrow of what she would allow to be put on her plate.
I always put everything that we have on the plate, because one day they’ll go back and try it. Bruce doesn’t really like white rice, but I still put it there. And once in a while I’ll have a couple of bites, because I feel like sometimes, as parents, it’s our faults that they end up eating just a few things, because we stopped offering other because we think they don’t like it.
SATCHA AND ALANA
Sometimes I feel guilty, like, because I know that there are some moms and some households where they’re like super organic and super healthy and is like, you know. And then Bruce will be school and be like, Mommy I want to go to McDonald’s…
Like there’s so much guilt I feel that goes around. I don’t like people to comment on what I eat. I never comment on what people eat. And I feel like there’s also all this pressure put on parents. That we have to be vegan or vegetarian. The truth is we grew up and I ate everything. I grew up eating everything. So, I don’t follow any specific trend. I follow what my mom raised us every day. We have like a balanced meal for lunch and for dinner with a protein, a vegetable and a carb. And that’s what I still do.
But like right now, for spring break, we had a family come over and we were eating just so unhealthy and way to much red meat, you know. And so I told my husband like, we are going on a red meat diet for two weeks. Bruce loves burgers and he would eat one every day. And I’m like, no, you’re 4 and you should be eating this much red meat.
I’m very strict sometimes. You know, we eat left overs at my house. I was raised like that. We don’t throw food away. Sometimes its the exact same dinner or sometimes you have to like get creative, and you make tacos if you have like left over chicken. But he’ll be like, I don’t want to eat this. I’m like, well they don’t eat. And then he’ll say, well, I’m hungry. Well, then eat that. He’ll be like, I want a sandwich. I’m like, no, you’re not going to eat a sandwich. So then he’ll throw a fit and then he’ll sit by himself and eat what’s on the plate. Sometimes I will oblige, then I’ll give him a sandwich because I understand you may be craving it, but it’s not like, oh well every day you’re going to eat a sandwich or every day you’re going to eat a burger.
We are just so tired sometimes as parents, and you just want to like be done. And then you need to get them in the shower, and get them to bed and sometimes you give in. You’re like, well, if you’re going to sleep without dinner, then you’re going to be hungry. You’re not going to grow.
There’s so much pressure on everything that we do as parents I feel. But eating is just as important as nurturing and eating is important as education. And eating is really part of raising healthy and smart children. I understand we need to really work hard on it, but not to the point where it’s going to stress us out.
CAMILA ALVES MCCONAUGHEY
Mom to Levi, 10, Vida, 9, Livingston, 6
Camila Alves McConaughey, 37, is an entrepreneur and founder of WomenofToday.com. The former model and designer came to Los Angeles from Brazil at 15. She married Matthew McConaughey in 2009.
Camila tells CHICA:
My kids have gone through stages of easy and picky eaters. I think the most important thing is to not give in … my oldest now pretty much will eat and try everything, but he really does not like the taste of coconut for whatever reason! My youngest is the pickiest now… but I have a deal where he needs to at least try one time everything that’s on the plate.
One of the kids went through a stage where veggies were not an option. I would still put veggies in the plate and have him stay in the table until he would eat at least one. It was a battle until one day he just reached out to the bell peppers and started to eat like nothing was happening! We were all cheering inside, sitting next to him but acted like nothing new was happening! I think the persistence of not giving a way out to eat at least one veggie eventually won him over, and he started to enjoy them. And seeing that they were not bad now he eats a bunch of veggies! Still working on some…
It’s very funny in certain times how people can be judgy if you are actually trying and working hard to feed your kids healthy! There are judgy people everywhere and at the end of the day, you just have to learn and know what’s best for your kid and stick to that no matter how many rolled eyeballs you get!
But you need to do your research and really learn as there are so many bad things out there that no one is talking about. The more fresh, not processed, is a great thing to start with…
I am not sure I fully trust the [high-pressure processing] HPP technology in food just yet. It may be the best thing, but it is somehow new in baby and kids food and is hard for me not to believe that the food structure (molecular) structure doesn’t change when put into high pressure that mimics going under the sea…🤷🏽♀️ I personally don’t give it to my kids…
Mom to son Edward “Aszi” Aszard, 2
Tatyana Ali, a singer and actress born on New York’s Long Island, is probably best remembered for her work as a child playing Ashley on the long-running hit show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as well as her six years on The Young and the Restless. The 40-year-old of Panamian and Indo-Trinidadian descent married Vaughn Raspberry in 2016.
Tatyana tells CHICA:
I’ve been a vegetarian going on seven years now, and we’re raising our 2 and half year old the same way. My husband is “mostly” vegetarian. Our house is pretty much meat-, fish- and poultry-free. I began taking eggs and egg products when I became pregnant and throughout nursing.
Our son, Aszi, used to love my homemade baby foods filled with kale and spinach and carrots and fruits and everything healthy. Now that he’s a toddler there are some vestiges of that time, but it’s a fight, at best a negotiation. He loves sweet potatoes, a super food (thank God!). He will eat hummus, raw nuts, pastas, lentils and bean dishes, toast, buckwheat — I don’t cook rice anymore, buckwheat is a fantastic replacement — hot cereals,which are filled with iron, pancakes and French toast. He also loves soups. I hide veggies and dark leafy greens every chance I get by chopping them up imperceptibly small and hiding them. Is this ideal? No, but for now it gets the job done.
TATYANA AND FAMILY
I couldn’t get him to eat fruits once he learned to use his own spoon and fork, but he goes to a nursery school a couple times a week and he eats apple slices with the other children! So, I mimic the exact way they slice and serve the apples at school and voila, one out of three times, success. I’ll take it. His diet isn’t as varied as it used to be, but I decided not to fret over it. I found myself getting so stressed out over it. I mean feeding him is one of my main jobs! But, the last thing I want is for him to feel my stress and associate bad feelings with food.
Growing up, I was told to clean my plate, I decided not to do that in our home. We encourage Aszi to say when he feels full. As long as he’s eaten a decent amount, we respect him being finished when he says so. Positive feelings about food are really important to us. Both my husband and I enjoy cooking, and we include Aszi in choosing food at the store and preparing any part of the meal that isn’t dangerous. We found that that helps him try new things. We eat together often and include his books and lots of conversation during meal time.
ASZI WITH BROCCOLI
I sometimes experience judginess around raising my baby as a vegetarian. Honestly, it’s mostly from people who have never tried it. It sounds restrictive to some, or even unhealthy. But we eat everything except for flesh proteins (except eggs). I buy organic local food as much as possible. And when I think of the hormones and drugs being put in animal products, I just can’t see putting that in my baby’s body or in mine.
I also experienced judginess around breastfeeding him to 2 years old. But I did it and am proud of it. Thank God, he is happy, healthy and our family is thriving, so our choices are working for us. I’m learning that the worst thing to do as a mom is to listen to others over your own intuition. No one knows your baby and your family better than you do. It’s important to make the choices that are best for you and to stand by them.
PS: We’re in the throws of potty training, and I’m using M&M’s as a reward. Do I feel guilty for that? Yes. But, guess what? Its working! I never thought I’d bribe my kid with candy, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Know what I mean? 😉
Mom to daughter Jocelyn, 9
Denise Bidot is a successful plus-size model who has broken barriers in the industry. In 2014, she was one of the first plus models to walk the runway during Fashion Week. The 32-year-old of Puerto Rican and Kuwaiti descent was born in Miami.
Denise tells CHICA:
Being a single mom, I have to admit that most of the food my daughter and I eat has been prepared by a restaurant. We tend to eat out a few times a week; I find that it not only lends itself to exploring different cuisines, but in doing so, allows for some prime mother-daughter bonding time. I remember sitting with her at 3 or 4 years old eating sushi and thinking how cool it was that her palate is being exposed to such different foods than what I grew up eating. To this day, she eats a wider variety of food than I do.
DENISE AND JOCELYN
My daughter, like most of her generation, is wiser than people would imagine. They are able to access information at their fingertips and they know how to use it. She also has grown up in this food savvy and health conscious time. I remember after we watched Super-Size Me together, she never wanted fast food again.
She also has a friend who’s vegan and ever since they met, she has been more thoughtful about what ingredients are in the food she eats. It makes me giggle sometimes to see a couple of kids talking about the gelatin in marshmallows, but I love that they are learning through each other’s personal choices. So, I wouldn’t say she is picky as much as she is smart about her choices; it makes me proud as a parent.
JOCELYN AND DENISE
There are times when she leans more toward being vegetarian and times when she doesn’t. I like that she is fearless in trying new food and I definitely encourage her to see what makes her body feel good.
I personally grew up eating fast food and not the healthiest options, but to be honest, my mother’s generation didn’t know any better. We have no excuse nowadays; we know too much to continue the cycle. I feed my daughter quality food that I’m eating it too. I wouldn’t give her anything I wouldn’t eat myself.
I’m so thankful that I’m around such a positive environment that allows everyone to live their best lives and not feel judged for any of their life choices.
I think it’s all about an education and learning that certain foods and trends are not for everyone.