I read this article today on kids and food. It was cute and although the author attributes luck to having a good eater for a child, I don’t buy that, and secretly I don’t think the author honestly thinks that either. I can’t really believe that pure chance gave me 3 excellent eaters. I would like to think that I had more to do with it than the roll of the dice, and to have all 3 be good eaters, it’s unlikely that it’s true. Oftentimes people comment on my children’s eating habits and it always amazes me that adults/parents seem to think that children aren’t people or are in a separate category when it comes to eating. As if they magically are born disliking all foods that aren’t white. Everyone knows in my home that we don’t mess around with food. We love food. We consume food in such vast quantities it’s alarming. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. And chance had nothing to do with it. Hard work did. Consistency. And letting my no mean no.
I love when parents say their child won’t eat such and such. Actually I don’t love it, I cringe because I think how much we as parents are influencing our children’s whole lives and relationship with food. Trust me, I was a picky eater as a child. I know first hand the torture of sitting at the table and not being allowed to get up until my vegetables were eaten. Not just eaten but swallowed. You see I was known for chewing my food and sticking it in the side of my cheek, being excused to go the bathroom, and then spitting it in the toilet. This worked until my sister ratted me out. Then I wasn’t allowed to use the restroom before my mouth got a good check. I truly believe that how we view food our children will imitate. And it’s not easy for me NOT to cringe when Gunnar spoons a huge amount of brussel sprouts on his plate. But if I were to talk about disliking them, then clearly he would get that impression and steer clear of them. Just because I’m not fond of something doesn’t mean I shouldn’t cook it or serve it for my family. There’s few things they truly dislike, and never will state a dislike for them until they have tried it several times.
I was talking with Jane a few weeks ago about how our kids probably have a greater fondness for vegetables than even we do. We both recently read an article by Heather Armstrong, writer of Dooce, who has a very very particular eater, to the nth degree. And she had a lightbulb moment in therapy one day where she was complaining that all her child ever ate was x,y,z. The therapist asked her why do you only serve her x,y,z? Ding. Light bulb moment. Our children eat what we make them. And I haven’t had any children I know of die from starvation because they went to bed hungry because they just didn’t like what mom made. My kids know that you don’t like dinner, don’t eat it. But that’s it. There’s no plan b. No second choice. I never really envisioned myself using the whole there are children starving in Africa line that I heard all. the. time. as a kid. But I use it. And it’s true. There are children who would give anything to be sitting at that dinner table eating your dinner.
A few things that I attribute to having healthy eaters:
1. I homemade all their baby food. I cannot even remember a time where any of them ate a thing out of a jar. How hard is it to throw an avocado in your purse or a banana when you are rushing out the door? I found that making my own baby food was amazing, I was aware of every single thing going into those tummies, no preservatives, no additives, no extra water. The flavor, the taste, much more real and in likeness to what they would one day eat in table food.
2. I was firm. I always stuck to my word. There was no floundering. No inconsistency. And very early on my children caught on that mom means what she says. I think it’s actually unfair for kids to have their parents go back and forth or sometimes give in. It’s not easy for a kid who has no idea when their parent will and will not give in. It’s confusing.
3. Variety. I exposed my children to a wide variety of food at a very young age. I had no qualms with my 3 year old trying sashimi, which is now the 9 year old’s favorite food. We sampled guava, kiwi, mango, all berries, all very early on. I honestly cannot think of a single fruit that they will deny. Sure, some days a banana won’t appeal to one of them, or blackberries just don’t sound as good as raspberries, but there isn’t a fruit they will say no to.
4. We eat balanced meals. They know that pasta is not considered dinner. Sure, maybe if we throw in some spinach, and have a fresh fruit smoothie to go along with it. Greta knows if she had a bagel and cream cheese, don’t even bother asking for a bowl of cereal and milk. She knows she will have to come up with a healthier snack like fresh carrots, rice cakes with humus, or something else to balance out that bagel.
5. Honesty. I am very honest with my kids. At young ages we discussed things like diabetes, blood sugar levels, etc. A few years ago Sawyer had bouts with being regular. But he understood that if he ate well and balanced he would go to the bathroom daily. He also is very aware that not going to the bathroom every single day is not good for his body. And when he does go it will be more painful. Because of that we introduced prunes into his diet. Not the tastiest thing, but he learned that if he ate prunes or drank prune juice it solved his problem. We didn’t have to rely on any powder mixes or prescriptions to make him feel good. And now, not an issue. That boy is regular! 🙂 Occasionally he may skip a day and he gets a little paranoid, but we up his water intake and stay away from apples and dairy, and problem solved. Back on track.
6. Example. I think setting a good example is THE most important thing I can do for my kids. If they see that I have a healthy relationship with food, then they will imitate that. Food is not something to be scared of, but something to be enjoyed. Something to make us healthy. Give us energy. Keep us well. They understand that eating healthy is the best thing they can do to avoid getting sick.
What can I say, we are what we eat. So that my friends is how I think I raised 3 very diverse and healthy eaters. It wasn’t all rainbows and flowers. It was hard work. Tears were involved. Probably mine more than theirs. But that hard work and consistency has paid off because when I ask what they’d like for dinner I hear back things like salmon, spinach, brussel sprouts, shredded pork tacos, split pea soup, and I can go on and on, but you get the picture.
And what was on our menu this week?
Monday- Aaron put a few pork roasts in the crock pot so that when it was time for dinner all he did was take a fork and shredded it. We had shredded pork tacos, carne asada tacos, all the fixings and a fresh spinach salad.
Tuesday- Shell pasta with turkey bolognese, spinach, and fresh fruit smoothies
Wednesday- Aaron made a 17, yes SEVENTEEN bean soup with ham in it. I wasn’t sure how the kids would like it but they devoured it. We had it with warm biscuits too. The kids had a ball trying to decipher which bean was which. Even Aaron kept his mouth shut about how much he hates lima beans, he even ate them!
Thursday- I needed to use up that shredded pork so we made shredded pork quesadillas with fresh carrots on the side. simple, easy, just what I need on a thursday night.
It’s been pretty warm here this week so our after school snack has been smoothies every single day. I actually ran out of frozen spinach this week because of all the smoothies we’ve been making. I’ve shared recipes in the past but just in case you’ve missed them, here’s my standard:
1 packet of emergen-c, any flavor will do
1-2 tablespoons of spirulina powder
1/4 cup of frozen chopped spinach
1 cup of yogurt- any flavor will do
frozen fruit- i usually do a mix of frozen mangos/peaches along with frozen berries(blueberries/raspberries)
orange juice or apple juice
water to help with consistency
blend til smooth, and enjoy!