Just when we think we're going to have an easy dinner filled with interesting preschooler conversation about sandboxes and spiders, it ends up like this:
... Stop talking and eat your food. Stop playing and eat your food. Sit down and eat your food. Don't just pick out the fruit, eat the whole thing. The green parts are good for you. Look, Mommy likes it.
And it frequently sinks to... If you eat your ______, you can have dessert.
Oh yes, we have meals like that, even at my house, even as a Professional Veggie. But sometimes we have successful days and overall I would say my kid is an adventurous eater. So Chow Bella asked me to compile a list of what's worked in my house. Here you go:
1. Try featuring it in a completely different way.
I know some families who serve their kids frozen peas in the frozen state. Hey, if it works. I tried making the tastiest (read: sweet) salad dressings and then drenched the salad in it. Nope. When I set out a plate of just dry leaves and told my son to eat it like a dinosaur, he loved it. We've offered dressing on the side for him to dip each leaf and that was a winner too.
2. I can't take credit for this one, (my twisted husband can) but for kids that love gross out stuff, tell them they're eating brains and eyeballs and guts. I thought for sure that would turn off our kid one night and he totally bought it and enjoyed it.
3. Actually take them to where food comes from. Grow lettuce or radishes in your backyard or container on the porch. Take them to an actual working farm. Take them to the ground it grows in and let them eat the food from the dirt (provided you know it's clean dirt). My kids love this. It was a great intro to eating their greens. If you can't take them, there's always youtube.
4. Let them choose what everyone is having for the meal. Give them two choices and then go with the one they choose.
5. Get them to cook it! My older kid is still pretty small but I let him do as many safe things as he's able to do. He has a plastic lettuce knife that he uses to cut most everything but the hard vegetables. I showed him how to grip his hands and fingers and saw the food. He's also proficient in dumping and stirring and will be graduating to flipping in a few years.
Get the rest of the tips after the jump.
6. No more "finish your plate." Offer a smorgasbord of food that you want them to eat and then let them decide what makes it down the chute. Win win.
7. No more making two dinners. Just don't do it. Stop it right now. I give you permission. They won't starve. I can't imagine what a pain it is to do that.
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8. Set a good example. Eat your beets with a big fat smile on your face.
9. Have them help set the table and clear their plates. As soon as they are able, have them do this. They're part of the whole process, they love feeling like a grown up and you don't have as much work to do.
10. Keep being mean ol' Mom/Dad. Hopefully you're trying to feed your kids healthful stuff. We're all getting too fat and sick as a country and we can turnaround that trend right now, at home, at the kitchen table, tonight. Keep up the good habits and good work.
Check back on Chow Bella on Tuesdays for Jennifer's "In Season" posts, featuring seasonal fruits and vegetables -- and what to do with them.