Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mommy is not a short order cook

We are trying our hardest not to raise picky eaters in this house.  So far things seem to be going well.  I do not claim to be an expert on the topic, but with three out of three kids eating most things I put in front of them we have either:  A) passed on good genetics as neither Jon or I are picky eaters, B) done something right or C) a combination of the two.  I am leading more towards C as the right answer.

Over the years some of the best advice I have been given is that kids go through picky phases and they also go through eating and non eating phases.  By non eating I mean that my kids will go several days where they eat less than what I would consider normal.  They eat, just not nearly as much as they would on a normal day.  After a few days (and I never know exactly why they do this) they start eating normally again.   When this happens I don't worry.  As long as they are acting fine (not lethargic or feverish) I accept that they are simply not hungry and don't push the matter.  And after a day or two their eating picks up again.

When they go through picky phases I try not to be frustrated by it.  I know that right now Ben would eat macaroni and cheese everyday if I let him.  And Owen would eat pb&j three meals a day if I let him (with cereal thrown in for variety).  But I don't because it is not healthy.  I give suggestions and choices for meals.  At breakfast if they are not happy with the choices they are allowed to choose a yogurt from the fridge.  Once the yogurt is eaten if they are still hungry the original choices are still there, but nothing else.  By allowing them some choice (between two items) in the matter I find myself dealing with less temper tantrums and refusal to eat.

In our house you "get what you get and you don't get upset."  At dinnertime I make 1 meal.  You either eat it or you don't.  With six people to feed I could spend all day cooking to make what everyone wants.  But that is something I refuse to do.  I try to make meals that I know the kids like, but I also don't rule out meals solely on the fact that one of the kids doesn't like it.  We'd be eating pizza every night for dinner if that was the case. 

I know moms who cook three or four meals at dinner.  I don't know why their kids are so picky.  All I know is that unless my child has a food allergy or an illness, they only get one choice at dinner.  At breakfast I allow two choices- cereal or what I am cooking (bagels, pancakes, English muffins, etc).  At lunch I either make something or allow from two choices.  But at dinner, when we all eat together, there is one meal served.  If I make nachos everyone eats (although Owen tries to get away with picking off the ground turkey).  If I make tacos then Ben and Owen each their veggies and leave the table.  If I make roast chicken they eat it, but only with ranch or BBQ sauce for dipping. 

For some meals there are options that we allow.  For example, if I make pasta I will put the sauce on the side so those who want it can have it and those who don't can have butter and cheese.  If I make tilapia for Jon and myself I make fish sticks for the kids.  But I also put a small slice of fish on their plate and request that they try it.    The other night Jon cooked chicken breasts and steak.  The kids were given a choice between the two, or they could have some of both.  If I make homemade pizza I make one plain cheese and one with toppings.

I try not to be stubborn.  I want to raise kids who are allowed to have opinions of their own.  And I understand that there are foods that they simply do not like, it happens to all of us.  And there will be texture issues on occasion.  However I refuse to hear the words "I don't like that" if they refuse to try two bites.  You can't know if you don't like something if you never try it. 

I believe that children will eat when they are hungry.  And it never killed anyone to go to bed without a meal once in awhile.  It happens in our house.  Last night Owen decided not to eat his dinner.  He went to bed fine, woke up alive and ate a bigger breakfast than usual.  I don't need to constantly cook their favorite foods in order for them to eat.  If they get hungry they will at least try what is in front of them. 

This has worked for me thus far.  Wyatt could be the kid who decides to be a picky eater and forces Jon and I to reconsider our approach to eating I suppose.  But I honestly feel that if I don't allow my children to dictate my cooking habits they will grow up not being picky eaters.

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