Q: What do your kids eat?
Bah dah bum.
I try to find the humor in it but trying to get your kids to eat a healthy meal when all they want is junk food is not very funny either.
If you have little ones like I do, you know that most kids don’t want to eat what you put in front of them. Even if they ate the darn meal the night before, even if you prepared a brand new meal and it wasn’t the dreaded leftovers, there’s a good chance they’ll turn their nose up at it. Frustrating? Just a little.
I was out with some girlfriends this past weekend and we compared notes on what our kids weren’t eating. This is a smattering of what we came up with:
Sweet potatoes, even in french fry form, even though they’re sweet.
Potatoes of any kind, except french fries.
Rice, even though it doesn’t taste like much of anything.
Pasta, unless it’s covered in sauce.
Pasta, if it is covered in sauce.
Most vegetables, unless the moon is full and Venus is in retrograde.
Quinoa, unless they’re convinced it’s rice/couscous/magical fairy dust.
On the flip side, your kids probably have that one or two meals they’ll eat no matter what. That meal for my four and a half year old daughter these days is bologna and American cheese sandwiches, light smear of mayonnaise, on whole wheat bread. Is that whole grain bread you just put in front of me, Mother? Be gone with that foul gruel, it disgusts me. Mustard? Blasphemy! I will only eat this sandwich one way and don’t bother insisting that I eat my crust. It’s not going to happen.
I will never claim to be an expert in feeding children, in fact it’s one of my biggest frustrations. I have two kids who eat differently from each other - if one loves chicken or beef the other won’t touch it. The baby will eat almost anything if it’s covered in red sauce, my four year old would rather chew dirt than touch anything tomato-based - and it’s a constant source of arguments in my house. But my husband and I are trying not to argue with the kids about it, knowing full well it gets us nowhere, and we’re trying to find solutions instead of adding to our stress level.
For instance, when in doubt we give the four year old her beloved bologna and cheese. I make dinners that I suspect she or her baby sister won’t eat, insist they try one bite (Which is the rule in our house - everyone needs to eat one bite of everything on their plate whether they like the idea of it or not. The same goes for the adults.) and they either leave the dinner table hungry or they can have a bologna and cheese sandwich or some fruit of their choosing. Most nights when they don’t like what I made they leave the dinner table hungry. I refuse to be a short order cook so I will prepare one non-offensive hot meal and you either eat it or you don’t.
Not to a lot of mothers I’ve spoken to. General consensus is, if you make lots of different meals for each person in your family you’re not benefiting anyone. Are you afraid they’ll starve? They won’t. Think about it, how well did you eat as a kid? Exactly. Healthy eating habits develop over time but eating junk food is forever.
I watch what my kids eat during the rest of the day pretty closely - both my kids love fruit and have certain go-to vegetables that they will almost always eat so I keep a lot of those fruits and vegetables on hand and serve them for lunch and snacks. My four year old loves berries so I buy a lot of fresh or frozen berries (if they’re not in season) so I know she’s getting her antioxidants. As I mentioned before, my 19 month old will eat pretty much anything if it has red sauce on it so I’ll put that on eggs or chicken (two things she doesn’t like to eat normally) and know she’s getting her protein and vitamin C. We also encourage healthy snacking and I’m learning that grazing on healthy foods throughout the day will make up for that meal that goes completely uneaten. Junk food is not completely forbidden because that just makes it more enticing so it's dolled out in moderation.
Our worst meal is breakfast so we need to work on that. I’m up for suggestions.
What do you do in your home in regard to meals? Are you the tough parent who insists your kids eat their brussel sprouts or the push-over who lets your kid eat mac and cheese every night to avoid a fight? How do you ensure your kids are getting all the nutrients their growing bodies need while still covering everyone’s food preferences and juggling your busy schedule? And how do you feel about bologna?