unsolicited advice wednesday: food issues

Remember that dinner scene with the mashed potatoes in A Christmas Story? You know the one I'm talking about.

I love this mom's ingenuity and willingness to let things get a little messy just to accomplish the task of getting her child to eat. Genius parenting.

I often lose sight of why I do things as a parent and just want my kids to listen to me because I'm the mom and I know best and because-I-said-so-that's-why. And while obedience is a non-negotiable in our house I have to remind myself there's no reason obedience has to mean sucking the fun right out of mealtime by being a big fat poopyhead. I want my kids to enjoy the experience of food-- gathering around a table with people they love and sharing a meal. It's community at it's funnest and tastiest.

That said, I am probably more challenged as a parent by my kids' eating habits than I am by anything else. I grow weary of feeding them. I mean they eat at least three times a day! Usually more! And they are messy. Boy are they messy. They've always been finicky, even as babies. I'm grateful that they enjoy healthy foods but they go through phases of what they will and won't eat and it's exhausting trying to keep up. So mostly I don't try to keep up. I serve what I serve, the rule is "Try It Once" and if they don't eat it after that they can be hungry until the next meal.

However, I've learned three solid moves that help with getting them to at least try what's on their plates, even if they then choose not to eat it.

1. Skewer it. My kids will eat anything if you put it on a stick. And it turns out pretty much anything can be put on a stick. Cheese, fruit, steamed veggies, sandwiches, olives, whatever. An alternative to this is arranging bite-sized food items on a plate and giving them a toothpick to eat with. I don't know why they love it, but they sure do.

2. Sauce-ify it. No matter what they're eating, if I incorporate a small bowl of some type of sauce or dip they will eat more. And especially with a new food that they claim not to like, I encourage them to give it another go by offering a dip on the second try. Ketchup, dressing, yogurt, hummus, syrup, nut/seed butter... and I mix it up. The creative combinations they invent are astounding and often disgusting. But they eat it up.

3. Play with it. Be a giant and eat as many broccoli trees and black bean rocks as you can! Stack up your food as tall as you can and what falls off has to be eaten in five seconds! Close your eyes, take a bite and guess what you're eating! Tomatoes vs. asparagus: whoever gets eaten first wins! It makes no sense at all, but for some dumb reason it works.


And during those meals when nothing works I remind myself that their weekly nutrition is more important than their daily intake, throw some Cheerios in their general direction and try again at the next meal.

So that's what works for us. What types of mealtime trickery work at your casa?


Becky said...

I love your spirit about this and your approach; I am in total agreement. I am going to try that skewer thing--I feel like I heard this from you before but I forgot.

Thanks for the advice!

Linda said...

Great ideas and perspective Cassie. I have observed my daughter doing many of the same things and they are tried and true. She also uses their competitive spirit and challenges them to little "races" to see who can eat all their veggies or meat or fruit first, one bite at a time of course. She also has a song she made up for when they have a "Happy Plate" (eat everything). As a Grandma to four, I use all the strategies I can get as well!

Emily said...

Hello! I followed you over here from a post on mmfordummies (my husband was diagnosed with MM last summer). I'm a mom too (he'll be 10 in one week- can't believe it!).

I thought I'd throw one more food idea out there- my son would eat ANYTHING that he helped prepare. Even if all he did was sprinkle some cheese on top, everything in the dinner was suddenly stuff "he made," which made it all suddenly delicious!

Cassie said...

Linda, I'm dying to hear the Happy Plate song!!

Emily, thanks for stopping over here! I love your idea. I'm totally going to borrow it if you don't mind.

Bex said...

Those are cute ideas! Our challenge isn't getting the kids to eat, its getting the kids to stay seated.