I am often asked how I get my kids to eat certain things. Overall, they’re pretty good eaters, and I simply do what it takes. I firmly believe in a multi-faceted approach to most things in life, including my kids’ nutrition. So one technique doesn’t cut it. Today I used money.
Do you pay your kids money for grades? Do you pay your kids money for chores? Do you pay your kids money for back rubs? I do none of those. Heck no!
But today I paid one child $2.50 to eat a bite of liver. I tried to go lower, but it wasn’t happening. The next child accepted $1.00. The last child liked “the chicken,” needed no money, and asked for seconds. (What? Each child got a different amount? You betcha’!)
Some favorite tools to get my kids to eat what I feel they need to eat:
1. Small, small portions of undesired foods. I’m talking one to two small bites here. Over the years, they’ll get more accustomed to the sight and taste. They’ll adapt. They’ll eat it. I cringe when I see parents shoveling heaps of veggies they know the kids won’t eat onto the plate. A painful experience for their child and dinner companions (me). I hate that–watching the drama at the end of the plate when the kids wants to be excused to play.
2. Feed them myself. It started as a joke, but now it’s for real. My oldest (now 10) was quite finicky and would not eat what I started serving two years ago when we underwent nutritional overhaul. (“When are we going to get off of this STUPID diet?”) I asked her if she wanted me to feed her, and she poutingly said “yes.” So I sat right next to her and did the “airplanes are coming in” that you’d do with a two-year old. We giggled and got most of the food down. Two years later, when a meal is tough for the kids, I plop down next to them, sigh, and fly in the bombers.
3. Minimizing snacks. A great pediatrician I trained with always told sleepless mothers of 6 month old babies, “Physically, there is no reason this child can’t sleep through the night without nursing [or bottle].” I figure if the liver has enough glycogen stores to get an infant through ten to twelve hours of sleep at night, it has enough to get a child through the three to four hours between meals. Do we snack at my house? Of course–but not too close to an upcoming meal and not as a substitute for a meal someone chose not to eat! Also, I try to keep the snack well-placed and nutritionally beneficial (nuts, veggies, fruits).
4. Sweet bribery. If the kids want dessert, they eat their meal. Period. You know what? Yes! There have been times when a child watched their siblings eat their ice cream because dinner didn’t suit them. Not often though, and if dinner sucked that bad for them, I usually will offer something that I think is nutritionally equivalent that doesn’t require me to cook. Something like carrots or leftover meatloaf, and if they can get that down, I allow them to have their dessert. But in our house, dessert often is all it takes to get the whole meal down.
5. Money. Today was a new one. I have never offered money before, but I have been learning lots about fat soluble vitamins. How we are deficient in them. And great sources of them. Liver just seems to be the tops. I know many of you don’t like liver. I don’t either much. But I do like feeling and functioning well, not taking supplements, and not being wasteful. A friend from a large family told me that her mother always made every kid eat liver once a week. I thought if this mother of six could make all of her kids eat liver, so could I!!!! Today I did. I’m hoping the price comes down as the taste becomes more familiar.
6. A little maple syrup. Yesterday it was a drizzle of maple syrup over sautéed Brussels that got the youngest one to eat them. Eventually, she’ll drop the need for maple syrup. I used to have to have cheese over my broccoli as a kid or else there was no way on Earth I would eat it! Once we were out of cheese, and I pitched a fit. Poor Dad. But the point is, I liked broccoli, and as a teenager and adult, I adjusted just fine to broccoli without cheese!
“This is not a diet. It’s the way we eat now.”
Do what it takes to add in the nutritious food. Keep working on minimizing food that has been enriched and “Botoxed”–like cereals, crackers, breads, bagels, muffins, juices, juice boxes, and boxed foods in general. My oldest still whines and fusses. Today I heard her say in the grocery store when she was looking at cereals and I shook my head no, “It’s MY body.” But I will not give in. As my husband says, “This is not a diet. It is the way we eat now.”
I will not feel bad that when I don’t have time to make breakfast, my kids are eating fresh fruit.