By Rebecca Odes
Inspiring parents around the nation to treat their children to a healthier way of life, ChowMama's Michelle Chrisman and Stacie Billis aim to challenge the tastebuds of little tykes everywhere. With an upcoming line of savory organic baby food called ChowBaby and their blog full of creative recipes and tips launched last February, the pair make for a go-to resource for how to improve the diets of kids—and the parents who raise them.
What inspired you to start ChowMama?
My business partner Michelle and I started creating ChowBaby organic baby food about two years ago due to a lack of appealing organic baby food options, which led to our blog. We believe that all parents—even working parents without the time to make any or all of their baby food from scratch—have the right to feed their children organic, all-natural and preservative-free foods that actually taste good.
As moms, we have been deeply disappointed by how many food brands, along with the FDA, that have failed us and our children. ChowMama is a way for us to start building a community and an honest dialog with other parents.
Why is it important to be an adventurous eater and to translate this to even the youngest of palates?
More and more research indicates that the food choices we make when our children are little shape who they are and how they eat for life. Childhood obesity is still on the rise, type-2 diabetes is striking in childhood for the first time and there is still general confusion in America about what it means to eat healthy. The physical aspect of "adventurous eating"—that healthy foods create healthy bodies is one side, the other is a social-emotional aspect. Food and eating are inherently social, a way we interact with family, friends, and the world. Encouraging adventurous eating is part of raising open-minded, independent, and environmentally responsible people.
How will your products better than most baby foods available?
ChowBaby tastes better, looks better, smells better and is more like the homemade foods children eat around the world—made with herbs, spices and soul.
What are some of the biggest mistakes parents make when feeding their kids?
Continue reading after the jump.
Michelle and I try to avoid judgment (parents deal with too much judgment as it is). We understand that feeding children can be challenging and intimidating. A few things that we hope parents know is that it can take up to 10-15 tries for a child's palate to accept a new food, picky eating—while frustrating—is normal and parents shouldn't assume that their child will reject broccoli forever just because they won't eat broccoli today. And, lastly, young children don't need as much food as you might think; healthy kids will naturally self regulate. It feels better to see your child happily wolf down a whole meal but if they aren't willing to eat their broccoli pesto and white beans, then there's always the next meal or a nutritious snack of apples and almond butter.
How can parents avoid stressing out when their kids are being picky eaters?
Knowing that picky eating phases are absolutely normal and to be expected can help ease the anxiety of trying to feed a reluctant eater. Trust that your child will eat if they are hungry. As much as we promote healthy, organic eating, it's important to keep perspective and a sense of humor about food. Don't feel bad about whipping out hot dogs and mac-n-cheese once in awhile; your kids will still be fine. Staying relaxed about food will keep your child relaxed about food, so try to avoid making meal time a battle time.
What advice would you give parents who want their kids to be open-minded about food?
You are your child's most powerful, influential model, be adventurous in what you eat yourself. The idea that children are supposed to eat bland foods in the beginning is an American construct; children around the world eat what the rest of the family is eating from their first bites. Don't be afraid of herbs and spices, most are safe from six months, the age at which the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting solids.
Can you tell us about the packaging design and photography?
The design was done by an independent packaging designer by the name of Chris Cook. Michelle and I worked very closely with him to ensure that we achieved a clean, modern look while still using familiar cues (e.g., pics of babies, food photography) to help consumers identify our product behind condensation-covered freezer doors. We loved the idea of putting a quirky, relevant, multi-cultural spin on the "Gerber" baby idea. Instead of one perfect, cherubic, white baby representing the "every baby," let's see real babies in all their funny, curious, authentic glory. We wanted to see personality and expression that would remind us adults of the great adventure that eating can be.
Our photographer, Janine Dietz, is amazing. She shot all the kids, which we cast through NYC parenting sites, at a natural light studio in the city. Sunlight plus a great baby wrangler plus an incredibly talented photographer gave us everything we needed for our boxes and website and more in just two days.
We've just finished working on a family cookbook/parenting book that will be represented by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. While Michelle and I continue to field press contacts about ChowBaby foods, we are more and more using ChowBaby as an entry point to discuss ChowMama. The philosophy is the same. The brand mission is the same (if shifting towards older kids and families, not just babies.) The design of the blog is simple, but draws on elements from the ChowBaby brand identity, as will all other ChowMama media and products in the works.