Sometimes people ask me how I get my kids to eat their vegetables, fish, and other sometimes objectionable foods. I am no chef (no, seriously, I am no chef) but I do cook most of our meals and make quite an effort to feed my kids healthily. I don’t sprout my own grains, grind my own almond butter or have a moratorium on gluten. There is the odd frozen pizza or soup-&-sandwich lazy dinner. I admit we do go through our share of ketchup around here and I’m not averse to dressing things up a bit if it helps the overall nutrition cause. Generally, though, my kids do eat 90% of what is served to them. A couple of meals that have been served to them in the last week:
- braised chicken with leeks & heirloom carrots, cauliflower puree and green beans
- roasted salmon with roasted cauliflower and spinach salad
- roasted pork tenderloin with sweet potato oven fries, green peas and salad
Because that is what is served to them. I don’t offer alternatives. I have always given them variety and I offer mostly foods that they enjoy. I don’t make each of them their own meal and cater to their preferences when we are eating together as a family. They know if they don’t eat what I serve them, there is nothing else to be had.
I stay away from the “restaurant” mentality in my kitchen. But I have a few other tricks that help a lot, too…
- Don’t overcook meat/poultry/fish. The drier, the harder for little mouths to chew & swallow. Also, the drier the meat, the more likely they’ll ask to dowse it in ketchup.
- Serve salad first while your little people are waiting for the main event. It will look more appealing when it’s the only thing on offer.
- Try the “one bite” rule – your child must have one bite of everything on her plate. Be firm on this one.
- Over-serve them just a little bit. Even kids will eat more if there is more on the plate.
- Don’t force a child to clean his plate. If you don’t turn it into a battle, it won’t be a battle.
- Try, try again. It take a child several exposures to try a new food or, if they’ve tried it, sometimes just to acquire the taste and enjoy it. Keep serving and enforcing the “one bite” rule.
- Serve a variety of vegetables at every family meal.
- Use a little butter, oil, salt, spices & herbs to dress up simple veggies. You’d be surprised how bacon fat will help a brussel sprout go down the hatch!
- Watch your starch servings. A giant pile of mashed potatoes will almost certainly be preferred over a piece of steak. Give a smaller serving of starch and allow more after your child has eaten the meat and veggies, if he is really still hungry.
- Eat with your kids. You know how unappetizing sitting at your desk and eating solo can be. Eating together is just more fun. Period.
I know that, mostly, if something is good for my kids, it’s good for me as well. And vice versa. (except red wine… that one is just for mommy…) So I won’t serve my children fish sticks and french fries while I eat salmon and veggies.
The biggest tip I’ve got when it comes to getting your kids to eat healthily? Lead by example.