Yesterday I wrote about ongoing efforts to improve school food. In that post, I mentioned that, no matter how healthy the meal, if kids won’t eat it, it doesn’t matter. I also talked a little bit about the key role parents play in introducing and encouraging new and nutritious foods. Then I mentioned that you might have to send a kid to bed with a rumbly tummy a couple of times if they aren’t interested in trying what you have to offer. I have found that idea to be a bit controversial. In fact, I’ve read comment threads online where parents who advocate such “torture” are verbally eviscerated.
Obviously, I disagree. Yup, at one time or another, I’ve excused both of my boys from the table with an empty stomach because they had a snotty attitude about the food in front of them. I’ve also done it for bad manners or poor behavior. I just did it last night, in fact! Sure there are tears and hysterics for a bit, but neither one of my kids is going to starve from one skipped meal, and I find it makes my point quite nicely.
I also don’t make special food for my kids. Never have. It’s hard enough to plan one dinner, let alone several, so I figure they can eat the same dinner as the adults, or they can wait until the next meal.
Now, lest you begin to think I’m “the meanest mom in the whole world,” (as Graham sometimes says), I’m not advocating cooking meals full of food you know your child hates and then expecting them to eat all of it up. I’d never force a kid to eat any food. But by introducing new foods along with favorites, you give your kids the opportunity to try things multiple times, and learn to like them. Over time. For example, for a long time, Garrett didn’t like salad. Normal for a two- or three-year-old, but we just kept putting a little bit of the “bunny food” on his plate whenever we had it for dinner, and now, at six, he eats it without complaint. The same thing seems to be working with Graham.
Believe me, I’m not sautéing spinach and roasting brussels sprouts every night over here. Sometimes I’m even the nicest mom in the whole world, and I make “special waffles” for dinner, not a vegetable in sight. We also do family movie nights where we have a picnic on a blanket in front of the t.v. and eat cheese, crackers, apple slices, grapes, carrots, popcorn, or other snacky foods. Wine is often involved, for the adults, of course. And, I’d say we eat pizza on average once a week.
I want meal-time be easy and fun, not fraught with emotion and ultimatums. So we balance it out, encourage adventurous eating, and try to set a good example.
See what I mean? Adventurous. I’ll bet you can guess who instigated this photo, however, no spiders were actually ingested or otherwise harmed.
Last night, I tried this recipe for the first time. Family verdict: Garrett LOVED it and had two helpings, I liked it a lot, Mike said he liked it, though was a little quiet (hmmm?), and Graham, well if you read this whole post you’ll probably be able to figure out his response!