I consider it a blessing that I have two kids who like to eat. I am a person who likes to cook so it would make me sad if my children were ridiculously fussy. I was one of those fussy eaters. It’s kind of a miracle I managed to produce kids who like to eat. I wasn’t fussy in the way of not liking vegetables, but in the way of not wanting to try too many new things for fear they would be disgusting. Manny is 3 1/2 and Sister Girl is only 10 months so there’s still time for pickiness to set in–but I’ve got my fingers crossed. Before I had kids, I wondered what the secret to raising unfussy eaters was? Is it that you expose your children to a variety of foods? Clear your plate-there are children in Africa who are starving-mentality? Try a bite, if you don’t like you don’t have to eat it approach? Tonight my 10 month old ate baked cod seasoned with garlic, olive oil, and basil and as she put each bite in her mouth, she said “mmmm” and smacked her lips. Truth. I wish I had it on video because it was pretty adorable. I don’t claim to be any kind of an expert but I have thought out my own personal approach and have learned a few things by trial and error. Here’s my best advice:
1. I take my kids grocery shopping with me. I know this is not everyone’s favorite thing to do, but I swear it makes a difference. I let Manny pick out fruits and vegetables and tell him that I need his help finding something new to try.
2. I get my kids in the kitchen as much as possible. I let them watch, stir, lick, smell, and taste what I’m cooking. I tell Manny how helpful he is to me even when that’s not so much the truth!
3. We sit down at the table for every meal and I eat with my kids. This isn’t always easy but I try to make it a big priority.
4. I don’t make the same things over and over again. We all get stuck in a rut and it’s easy to make something I know everyone will eat but I try to make at least something new every week.
5. I tell Manny that he must try a bite. If he truly doesn’t like it–that is I can see him gagging on it or immediately spit it out, I don’t make him finish it. Have you ever been made to eat something you truly hate? It’s the worst experience ever! My parents made me eat canned corn when I was little and to this day, I still can’t eat it. Sorry mom and dad, but I still can’t even smell it. They are rolling their eyes as they read this, I know it! Little kids have sensitive palates. Certain things will appeal to them at certain ages. That is, one day slimy foods are okay, and the next, maybe not. Same for certain colored foods.
6. Everything in moderation, right? Pre-dinner snacks are allowed. Desserts are allowed. I pride myself on putting a healthy meal on the table but we love sweets so they are not off limits. I feel like this is a healthier outlook than one that restricts certain types of foods entirely. I want my kids to make good choices when they are on their own. If they understand this idea from a young age, I feel that is a good start. Neighbors I grew up with did not allow their children any “junk food”. When they would come to our house for a party, all five kids stood around the bowl of Doritos and shoveled them into their mouths. I found this strange, even at a very young age and decided then that my kids wouldn’t be the kids licking their orange cheesy fingers behind my back at a birthday party.
7. I don’t stress about food. Well, mostly I don’t stress about food. Think organic carrots and bananas all over the floor. It’s easy to get all worked up when I’ve made something and my kid won’t eat it, especially something I worked hard to prepare. I really try to keep the mood light at the table.
How about you? What’s your approach?