Anyway, we were talking about the painful joy that is feeding children. After nearly six years ironing out the kinks, I can say that while I am in no way any kind of expert, I think I have it in hand. Here is my cheat sheet to kid-feeding success.
1. Determine your priorities. Are you wanting to incorporate more fruits? More veggies? More variety? Don't try to tackle the whole enchilada. Pun absolutely intended.
2. Decide ahead of time to let something slide. You can't do everything. I make dinner almost every night, so I take some shortcuts with Piper's lunch. Even Ina Garten makes one side with her dinners, and buys dessert or snacks sometimes. It's okay to not be perfect. Plan to go out to dinner once a week, which will teach your children how to behave in public, or grab take-out sometimes.
3. Don't be crazy. You aren't going to make a decision to change your children's eating habits and the next day see them setting the table perfectly, placing creased napkins in their laps, and eating escargots with the right fork. Set a weekly goal for the family meals.
4. Get your spouse on board. You can't do anything successfully unless you are both agreed.
5. Don't make the table a war zone. If the kids are whining about dinner, say calmly that if they are going to complain they can do it in their room. If they don't want to eat, they can still sit with the family and talk about their day or listen to everyone else. No pouting at the table. Don't threaten them to eat. If they don't eat, they'll be hungry. You don't need to add to that.
6. One of my favorite tricks is to put out a bowl of fresh, raw veggies and a bowl of fresh fruit out with dinner. If the kids don't want to eat the main meal, they can eat from the bowls. Liam has had several meals of just cucumbers or raw green beans and raspberries. Not too shabby. Also, keep the in-between snacks to a minimum. If the kids want a snack, give them a box of raisins, craisins, or a piece of cheese. Something that is healthy and won't fill them up. That said, the occasional Oreo will keep them from going bonkers every time they have a treat.
7. If it's something you know they won't like, you can always surprise them with a special meal for the kids. I don't do this often, and frankly if we are going to eat something they won't eat because of texture or something, we just eat after they go to bed and feed them separately. My parents used to eat linguine with clam sauce when we were kids. Even now I can't stand the smell or sight of clams. When they would make that for dinner, they knew that the flavors were something we had tried and genuinely didn't care for, so they would make alfredo sauce for us instead. It was a great compromise and we all got to eat together.
8. There are certain textures and flavors your kids might not like or tolerate, and that is okay. Everyone has foods they don't care for. I don't like mayonnaise, mushrooms, or mollusks. In our household, everyone has to try a bite. Piper has to have five bites because she is five. (Unless it is something she really can't tolerate.) Liam has to have three bites minimum because he is three.
9. It's okay for you to have chicken fingers and pizza in the freezer. You are human. I try to keep a couple small cans of veggies for those occasions and I tell myself that makes it better. :)
10. My pediatrician told me multiple times that your child will not starve. If they don't want to eat, don't force them, punish them, and bribe them. When they get hungry, they will eat. That said, don't make it painful for them. You don't want to make your daughter so anxious around food that it causes her emotional problems. The hard part for me was after nursing Piper and Liam for 19 months each, I felt personally responsible for their nourishment. It took me FOREVER to figure out that they have to learn how to forage for themselves.
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