The secret to less picky eating
I’d done it again.
“You have to eat 4 bites before you can leave the table….”
My own words circled around in my head, mocking me. Laughing at me. Pinning me to the chair where I was now stuck beside my scowling 4 year old, counting said bites. It was like watching paint dry. So far, I’d witnessed half of a bite…
Dear self: Next time, just be quiet. Just don’t say those words. Go get packing tape for your mouth if need be. Seriously!!!
Who can relate?
Surely someone else has experienced the ‘pinned to the chair’ scenario, or maybe the other one where I’d try to get something done in the kitchen, and then have to go order the under-bite-count-runnaway-offender back to the table to finish his bite allotment?
Just. Eat. The. Darn. Food.
Time for new tactics
So. You know what works? Well, I sure know what doesn’t.
What doesn’t work is counting bites. Where kids have to sit beside that (now stone cold) plate of pasta with the offensive mushroom chunks until they’ve managed to get “something nutritious” into their belly.
A few other tactics have their drawbacks too, in my books…
“Just don’t give him anything else. He won’t starve.” Great. And now I’ve sent my 3 year old to bed on an empty stomach.. tough love, but i’m not a fan of it and now he’ll be awake at midnight rambling around trying to find a banana. Just the result I was hoping for…
“Hide all the veggies!” So now I’m sneaking around my kitchen trying to underhandedly tuck spinach into something without any of my 5 kids noticing… “You put green leaves into that!”
“You have to clean your plate before you can have any dessert”. Well, what if I don’t want to finish what I have on my own plate? What if I’m just plain full? What then, oh wise sages?
What all these tactics are great at, in my experience, is creating a battle zone at our table. In adding stress to a could be enjoyable family meal.
Mom vs kiddos. Bad tasting healthy food vs good tasting junk food.
A place where I counted to 10 more times than I care to remember and all the deep breathing exercises (calm… calm) will have my lungs so strong I’ll be blowing my entire cake across the room next birthday.
So I’ve quit following that advice. All of the advice. All the ‘hide the veggies’, ‘no thank you bite’ … everything. Because they haven’t worked for me. (And I’ve had much more success with a far easier method!)
Less picky eating, the easier way.
So, if I’m not counting bites, bribing with dessert, or playing police officer by the pantry door (so no bedtime snacks are eaten by those who didn’t finish their meal… no sir, not on MY watch…) what in the world am I doing?
Confession time: I’ve gotten completely and totally underhanded. I have left the kitchen and have been fraternizing with the enemy. I’ve joined forces with my kids. #teamkiddos+mom
Waitaminute… what do you mean you’ve joined forces with your kids? Can you do that?
Yes. Yes you can. I have, and you should too. Your tailbone will thank you.
So what do we do over on ‘team kiddos’ that = less picky eating?
Oh, it’s wonderful over here. Let me fill you in, my dear mom friend! I’m not above sharing information. And I tell you, these little guys have all kinds of great ideas.
So in no particular order, listen to a few of these gems:
1. We tell stories. Stories about what animals like what foods. What size bites a dinosaur takes of the carrots. How a dragon learns to fly when he drinks a green smoothie…
2. The kiddos enjoy telling me what I should make for them. In fact, they look through cookbooks and point out scrumptious looking recipes for us to try.
3. Sprinkles are everyone’s friends. It doesn’t matter if they are chia seed ‘faux-sprinkles’ or not… even healthy sprinkles=fun.
4. Sometimes we eat under the table. In a secret fort. Where pirates can’t find us, and dragons stalk by on the prowl.
5. Chopping up the peppers for omelettes is a fun, laughter filled job. Kiddo scissors all around, and my boys are pepper cutting champions.
6. Sometimes we sing. The songs don’t even always make sense, and following a tune is optional. “Twinkle twinkle little star… what a tasty carrot you ARE!” Crunch.
For even more tactics, head over to this post: Get kids to eat healthy food (happily)
Simple Rules From Team Kiddos:
- Eating is enjoyable 🙂
- The table isn’t a stressful place
- Mom decide how much mom eats. Kids decide how much kids eat. The end.
And since joining the enemy, I’ve found peace. Blissful, enjoyable, mealtime peace.
Oh, and P.S. Do you want to know the very very best part?
Even when we have a ‘normal’ meal here, (one with no stories or secret forts or singing or scissors…) it’s fine. The kids eat. They’re used to eating healthy foods. It’s normal. So for the great majority of the time, they just tuck into their meal and chow down.
…And sometimes climb on the table or blow bubbles in their water cups, but lets leave the table manners discussion for another day. Deal?
The Secret to Less Picky Eating, summed up
So, mom friend, I give you my secret to less picky eating: Rather than looking for ways to ‘make’ your kids eat healthy food, look for ways to make healthy eating awesome so they choose it for themselves!
Join ‘team kiddos’ and make eating healthy food and trying new foods an adventure in your house! Make it fun. Make it delicious. Teach with play. Sing silly songs or get your kids sprinkling chia seed “faux sprinkles” instead of counting bites.
Not only is it a lot easier and less time consuming than constant mealtime battles, it’s a whole lot more fun too.
And something else I truly believe is this…
The healthiest meals are the ones seasoned with happiness.
Now… excuse me while I go scrub the glitter glue off these kids’ scissors. I have peppers that need dicing for omelettes…
More in the picky eater series:
Part 3: Current post