Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What I Think About--Getting Kids to Eat

Once again I'm linking my thoughts up with Shell from Things I Can't Say who hosts Pour Your Heart Out every Wednesday. Thanks, Shell!

A few weeks ago we went out to lunch with some friends. The gal and I were chatting and she was sharing how much she hated veggies.

I laughed and said Madisen prefers kale chips to potato chips and thinks beets are pretty much awesome (mostly because they make her poop and pee red but whatever).

My friend was a bit shocked and asked how I get my kids to eat such foods.  And I replied, "Easy.  I don't make it an option."  I continued by sharing that I actually tell my kids that as long as there are human beings eating the remains of leather tennis shoes from dumps, we will eat the food provided to us.  I almost fell out of my chair at her reply.

"Oh," she said, giving me a somewhat "shame on you" glance, "you used the 'starving kids' story."

How badly I wanted to say, "It's not a story--it is a reality!"

As a family we adopt children from Horizon International because we want our children to know and understand that not all people live in a land of plenty.  Not all kids complain that they don't like their beets.  In fact, many kids eat trash just to survive. 

Now I'm sure I'll be totally unpopular when I share some of my food thoughts and that's okay with me.  We can agree to disagree.

1.  I am not a short-order cook.  I make 3 meals a day and my kids have an option at each meal. They can take it or leave it.  If they leave it, they can eat again in a few hours.  Do I hate thinking about them being hungry?  You betcha!  Do I know my kids won't starve themselves?  Yep.
2.  You don't have to eat everything on your plate but you have to eat some of everything on your plate.  They are called "polite bites."  Does this hold true for adults?  Yep.  Matt hates beets.  Does he eat them? Yes.  I can't stand ham. Do I eat it when my mother-in-law makes it?  Sure do.
3.  You do not get dessert if you do not eat your dinner.  No junk goes in until health food does.  Period.  It's not a bribe.  It's not a plea. It's not a requirement to clean your plate.  But my kids know if they want a fruit pop after dinner, they are going to have to eat some of that spinach.
4.  My children can refuse to try any part of their meal.  However, they must be prepared to not eat anything else until they've tried the food.  Has my daughter gone to bed hungry only to have lemon-dill salmon and wild rice for breakfast?  Yes.

To be fair, I respect my kids' likes and dislikes.  Madisen can't stand mushrooms.  When I make chicken marsala, I don't give her any.  She's tried before and doesn't like them. No need to get into a power struggle.  On the other hand she love tomatoes so when we are having tomatoes, I give her more than I give myself.

In the end I just lean on this tidbit given to be by a friend--I can't control when or how much my kids eat but I can control what they eat.  And as long as I'm in charge of that, I will offer vitamin rich, organic fruits and veggies, lean cuts of meat, and a variety of colors and flavors to try.

What I think about getting my kids to eat is that with some clear, consistent food rules, it's a piece of cake!

Do you have food rules?  What are they?  Food battles?  Share?  Going to turn me into DFS?  Let me get you their number ....


  1. I totally agree with you but unfortunately have to battle over food every time my step son comes since they cater to hi every whim at his other home. He barely eats any vegetables at all - and they wonder why he gets sick so easily. Dh and I have already decided that this child we are having together will eat what we eat from the beginning so that there are no battles over food.

  2. This is a good post. I agree, and take a similar approach. My first is an awesome eater, he is the kind of kid who will order a salad at Culvers. But my daughter is pickier. She eats whatever we eat though, I don't make her an extra dinner. I give her more of the things I know she likes, and bites to "try" of the other things. She is getting better and better. I like the term "Polite Bites".

  3. I think it's great that you make your kids eat healthy!!! If only every parent would do that, and as for your friend who said something about starving kids, you're right, there are children who are starving and American children should learn to be grateful. I don't like certain foods too but when I am served, especially at someone else's house, I eat it anyway. I love that you are taking charge as a parent and not trying to be their friend or "win them over"! Good for you!!!!

  4. @Di--We started our kids right away eating everything we did and so far, no eating issues. good luck with getting your other child to eat--that would be a frustrating situation!

  5. @Kristen--Our kids are similar. The first eats everything but takes two hours to do it. The second is picker but he tries!

    @Sarah--we must share a brain! Scary.

  6. I wanted to find a clip of a standing ovation, loud applause and yells of BRAVO! Does that mean I did what you're doing when I raised my kids. NO! My parents were strict as you about food. I "saved" my children from that treatment. It did not serve them well. BRAVO to you and all parents like you.

  7. I started out really letting Lillian be picky. And so she ate a ton of sweet potatoes and pears for baby food. Then it was nothing but chicken nuggets and corn for lunch and peanut butter sandwiches for dinner.

    Then I finally realized I had to do something and stop letting her be so picky. Now she always has to try three bites of everything. And if she doesn't eat all her food (I give small portions - no more than 5 bites per item) she doesn't get dessert...if we have it.

    Anyhow, since I "laid down the law" I've been amazed at how many foods she actually likes now because she's had to try them instead of just being scared. Now she eats green beans and asparagus like crazy even though she cried the first time she "had" to try them. :)

  8. I am a short order cook, and I applaud you! I regreat not taking more of a stance on the meal experience here, and now I'm paying the price. My boys are super picky, and my hubs and I are trying to take some steps to correct the damage we've done. It is exhausting making 3 different things for dinner! SO WAY TO GO!! I just posted about this a couple of days ago. Stopping by from PYHO. :)

  9. I completely agree with your list! We have the same "rules" in this house.

  10. Same rules here as well. Any new food has to be tried a few times before finally resulting in an I really don't like it. As my boys get older I'll continue to re-introduce as well as introduce new foods and tastes and will enforce our eating rules!

  11. I wish I had been as strict about eating variety of foods for my two. I have recently gotten my oldest who is 7 to eat what we eat or at least try it, but my 3 yr old...Not so much. I need to get more firm about it and hold strong even if he doesn't eat. I know he will get hungry but the struggle is hard. I give in after he refuses a meal and comes back 2 hours later to munch.
    I commend you for being strong and in no way do I think you're a bad mom. Good job!

  12. I think this is great. If we know that we are having something for dinner that Belle might not like, we make her something different. This has not been helpful to her at all. We are changing our ways. She needs to eat what we eat. I'd rather break the bad habits now, than to wait until she's older and its harder. Great post Reagan!

  13. I love your list!

    Although I can't relate to the kids part (none of those yet! hehe), my husband is pretty picky. He's getting better with trying new foods, but fruits and vegetables are a huge no-no. Fruits he will eat on occasion, but only if they are cut up. And veggies only if they are cooked into a dish... lasagna, casseroles, spaghetti sauce, etc. If I make chicken, rice, and green beans and carrots for dinner, he will eat chicken and rice. It's really hard for me sometimes because my plate looks so much more colourful and healthy than his... but he's a man, I can't force him.

    Oh, and I love your "polite bites"!

  14. @Everyone--Thanks for your support and encouragement. I can honestly say that it doesn't always feel like I'm doing the right thing but it is good to hear from moms who have (or are) going through the same thing. Thanks!


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