I consider myself somewhat of a foodie. I love food! All kinds of food! I am a born and raised Southern girl so believe me I know what good food is! Fried chicken, friend squash, biscuits and gravy, on my! Truth is, I’ve always had a harder time cooking southern food than any other. Maybe it’s because no one ever uses a recipe, so it’s hard to teach. And although I often cook with out a recipe, I have learned a lot from recipes and then, over time, I have learned how to change or combine them to make them my own!
My husband also loves food and has a notorious appetite. So when we married, I was thrilled to have someone to cook for. Each night, I would find a new recipe to try. Homemade egg rolls, chicken pot pie with phyllo dough, quesadillas (my specialty), and stir fry. I truly enjoyed cooking!
The Best Laid Plans
A couple of year later, we were expecting our first child and I couldn’t wait! I bought baby food cookbooks and had grand ideas of what I could feed him each day. He was NOT going to be one of those picky eaters, he would enjoy all kinds of food! I would make sure of that!
And when my little guy was around 6 months old, I started introducing freshly pureed fruits and vegetable to him and he loved it! As he got older, many of our mornings were spent making homemade pumpkin waffles, banana and zucchini muffins and whole grain French toast. He was a great eater and I was so proud!
And then, the shocking news came, 2 more babies were on the way!!! I was exhausted, nauseated and certainly didn’t feel like cooking. All I wanted to eat was pizza and Coke! And then, as my belly grew, I started spending much more time in my recliner rather than in the kitchen.
By the time that “the babies” (as we affectionately referred to them) were ready for solid food, I was just starting to catch my breath, I tried to make some food for them, but they ate much more store-bought baby food than their older brother ever had! I felt guilty, but hey! I was in survival mode!
“The babies” got older and life got busier, if that were possible, and we started eating out much more! I felt guilty, but my boys were growing up on chicken strips and French fries. When they did eat vegetables, they weren’t the biggest fans!
Fast forward several more years and baby girl arrives. And now, she is 20 months old, and is certainly my worst eater of them all! She will eat bread and fruit. My one saving grace is that my kids all love fruit, but outside of that, she is pretty limited.
So, what is my solution? Well, so far, I haven’t solved anything with her, but I know research has shown that children have to be offered foods multiple times before they start to eat and enjoy it. So, I feel like my job is to be sure that they have many opportunities to try various foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
One of my friends once said, “Its ok for your kids to have a few foods that they don’t like. It’s not ok for your kids to only have a few foods that they do like!” I think this is a great reminder of what I am working toward. I want my children to grow up enjoying lots of different foods, here are some ways that I am trying to make that happen!
1. Keep Fruits and Vegetables Easily Accessible
I try to keep apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, etc in our home and we try to limit snacks between meals to fruit. That’s not to say that I don’t get worn down by my children begging for “just one piece” of Halloween candy, but hey, I’m human!
2. Veggie Eating Game!
I made a veggie plate one night to go along with super. I was completely shocked when I sat the plate down in front of my kids and said, “one point for each veggie you eat!” They were grabbing whole (plain) lettuce leaves and eating them! It worked! It really helps to have at least one good eater so someone is driving the competition!
3. Try “Finger Foods”
If your kids aren’t crazy about carrots or broccoli, try olives! My kids could eat a can of olives all by themselves! I thinks it’s a family thing, because my whole family loves black olives. I try to keep several cans in the pantry and pull them out on nights that I feel like their veggie intake is a little on the low side. They are filled with great-for-you fats and if your kids are anything like my kids, they will love eating them off of each of their fingers!
4. Try Dip!
My oldest son was around 2 when we introduced him to “trees” and “snow” on the trees (which of course was Ranch dressing on steamed broccoli. It’s amazing how little things like a fun sauce to dip something in can make it that much more appealing. I’m not a kid, but it totally works for me too!
5. Teach Them the Importance of Nutrients to Their Bodies
Be sure that you teach your kids why some foods are better “fuel” for their bodies than others. We like to call carrots “super-duper seeing carrots” because of how good they are for our eyes! Also encouraging kids to recognize food the way that God made it as the healthiest foods versus processed foods. And “eating the rainbow” and all of the different colors in fruits and veggies is a great teaching tool!
6. Cut (Way) Back on the Junk/Processed Food
You know how when you have eaten hamburgers and french fries and cakes and cookies for a while, a carrot becomes less appealing? Well, that’s because all of those things have a lot of additives in them to make them taste extra good and they make us want more of that kind of food. It’s hard for a carrot to compete with that! We need to give ourselves a little break from the processed stuff and get back to real, whole foods. Wouldn’t it be great if your children begged for an apple like they do that Halloween candy?
7. Let Them Help in the Kitchen
I almost hesitate to put this, because, I am terrible about this! Evenings are one of our most stressful times at home with homework, music practice, baths, etc. But if you can even swing one night a week to let your kids help prep your meal, they will be more inclined to eat.
Even 4 or 5 year olds can butter bread or set the table. Older children can wash and chop (with supervision) veggies. And these awesome tools are a great way to get them started safely helping out! Or get your kiddos this awesome cookbook (I’m planning to order one for my guys for Christmas). If your kids are like mine, I’m sure they won’t let you forget to let them help with the cooking.
As usual, I certainly don’t have it all figured out! This list a basic list of ideals…. Don’t let it make you feel guilty, let’s just take one step forward toward our goal of a healthier family. One step toward your goals is a step in the right direction! When you have that one down, add a new one! Don’t get overwhelmed, just keep swimming!!!
Now it’s your turn! What are your tried and true ways to get kids to try new foods and eat more healthfully? Please take a minute to share with us in the comments below!