When my firstborn was 15 months old...I was still feeding her baby food. Not homemade baby food either...jar baby food meant for 6 month old infants. To make it worse, there were only 3-4 "flavors" she would eat. OK, to make it even worse...she would only eat if we put on YouTube and let her watch The Wiggles.
And this is how we fed her day in and day out. Some days she would literally only eat a french fry and a banana. I was SO frustrated and had no clue what to do besides feed her while she was spaced out watching The Wiggles. Eating out somewhere or at someones home was SO embarrassing because she would not eat one single thing. I did not know how to change things, but I knew that this was not the way I wanted meal time to go in our family (and The Wiggles version of Hot Potato was getting on my last nerve!)
Fast forward five years and now my girls eat (almost) everything I put out for them! Here are some of the things we have changed in our home to get us where are now:
1. We stopped buying processed convenience foods.
This was hard for me because it used to be so easy for me pull out a bag of chicken nuggets and fries and serve them as a meal that the kids would be guaranteed to eat. The problem was that this was the only kind of food they wanted. So, when dinner did not look good to them they would try to default to the processed foods instead of trying the new foods. We also extended this to breakfast cereal. Completely getting rid of the sugary cereals changed the girls' palate and now they like homemade oatmeal and organic sugar free cereals.
|Preparing the sweet potatoes she helped mash herself|
2. The kids get involved in buying and cooking food
In the summer we have a local farmers market we visit. When we go there we give the girls money to purchase any vegetable they want! Last year, Sofia chose an eggplant and when it was served for dinner, she ate it excitedly! In the kitchen, I make it a big deal to help out. I let the girls sit on the high bar stools and I really let them do most of the work they can safely do. Some of their favorite big girl jobs include cutting basil into small pieces with scissors, cracking and peeling hard boiled eggs, mashing potatoes and buttering bread before mom puts it under the broiler.
|Maya with her completed Sweet Potato Pie|
3. On the kids' dinner plates, there are a variety of foods
Whenever I try a new recipe, I always add a couple other things to their plate. I usually include some fruit and some other protein like cheese. This way, if they absolutely do not like their meal then they have other options to eat without having to go hungry to ask me for something else to eat.
4. No complaining!
Now, sometimes this is a tough one...but it is a rule we really enforce! It's such an important one because all it takes is for one child to say "I don't like this, this is gross..." to make every single child at the table refuse to eat that food. So, in our house, if you don't like something, you just move on to the next food on your plate and mom will get the hint ;)
5. Don't assume the kids won't eat it!
I used to always shy away from foods that contained any strong spices, strange vegetables or cuts of meat. I assumed my kids would NOT like it. At one point, my kids would not eat anything with "green things floating in it"...green things being parsley, basil, spinach...anything! I read somewhere that you may have to introduce a new food 12 times before your child will try it. This is something I do regularly. Let me tell you that my perseverance has paid off because lo and behold my kids now eat those green floating things! It also turned out that the more variety I included in my cooking, the more my kids would try new things. I have really committed to cooking from scratch for most, if not all, meals during the week. I credit my favorite cookbook for making that a possibility for me when time is a precious commodity.
A pediatrician once told me to never make eating an argument with your kids because it is one you will always lose. Offer healthy foods, get rid of the junk and give your children the benefit of trying new foods.