Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Great Big Secret to Getting Kids to Eat Just About Anything

I am constantly amazed at how many articles I come across with recipes "That Your Kids Will Actually Eat!" or "Sneaky Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Fruits and Vegetables."  I've seen so many pieces about cutting food into adorable shapes or arranging broccoli into forests, or turning bell peppers into funny monster faces.  Honestly, who has the time for that kind of stuff?  It may be a fun, cute way to express your love once in a while, but do you really want that to be the only way your kids eat nutritious foods?  

I can't tell you how many times people approach us with utter amazement that our kids will eat just about anything.  Sure, our kids don't LOVE all of it, but they eat it and enjoy most of it. People wonder how we got our kids to be that way.  They tell us about how their kids will only eat Chicken McNuggets or grilled cheese sandwiches.  Our secret is this...we feed them what we eat.  We all eat the same thing.  No special meals.  No fancy presentation.  We cook nutritious meals and we eat together as a family.  Also, our kids drink water, so they are not full of juice.  They are super-active, rarely watch television and don't play computer games, so they have enormous appetites.  And we expect them to eat.  

Every morning we all eat some type of fruit and maybe some yogurt as a first course.  After the fruit course is eaten, they get their second course, which may be oatmeal, a homemade egg sandwich, or a slice of Amy's whole wheat pizza, or any number of things.  We call it "second breakfast."  At dinner, we almost always have a salad, which is served as a first course.  Once they've finished their salad, they may have the main dish.  When it comes to dessert, we go against the standard advice that it should be an occassional treat that is not to be used as a reward or punishment.  If the kids eat their salad and a reasonable portion of their dinner, they get dessert...every day.  It works for us and our kids are REALLY active, so weight issues are not a problem for them.

The truth is, kids do what you expect them to do (mostly).  If you assume they will eat, they will. If you think a food is not "kid-friendly" it won't be.  But think about it.  If you think, say, Indian food is too exotic for a child, what do you think kids in India eat?  Seriously, if you incorporate a variety of foods into your diets on a regular basis then they are not exotic.   And just because a food may be strange or exotic to you, doesn't mean your kid won't love it.  Kids take their cues from us, so if you don't like a food, just suck it up, eat it and pretend that you're enjoying it.  You will be rewarded with kids who enjoy the many exciting flavors of food.  Not to mention all that time you'll save by not making bell pepper monster faces.


  1. Here! Here! There is nothing worse than a picky child ... well ... maybe there is ... a picky adult (who was probably a picky child).

    As always ... you provide wonderful information!

    Small Footprints

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  3. SF - Thank you for your kind comments! I appreciate it.

  4. I just jumped over from a smaller footprint. Like your children, our children eat everything. When they were little we had a rule. Eat it or go hungry. Now my children eat everything, and they are very active. I will be back

  5. I'm here from SF too, picky eaters, can't abide them. We were taught eat what's put in front of you and be thankful for it.


  6. SWW and AV - Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm glad that I'm not alone in my good old-fashioned ideas for feeding the kids. Reading today's parenting magazines makes me wonder sometimes. I applaud my child's preschool, though. He came home saying "You get what you get and you don't make a fuss!" I love it! Hope to "see" you again soon!

  7. I am so happy to hear there are perfect families with perfect little eaters out there. We are an active family who prefer to be outside.
    I initially made the mistake of trusting the food industry and got caught in the trap. Unfortunately, my children think that tyson chicken nugget chicken is real chicken and that regular chicken is some kind of poison. I've stopped making special meals and my children must try at least one new food a night. We are also on the move to in season and more organic foods. Whether or not our new habits will change our children's diets is yet to be seen. Off to another website that will offer support and encouragement as we move forward. I wish you all luck in your Pleasantville!

  8. Dear Anonymous,
    It sounds like you are already off to a great start. If you keep it up, I'm sure your new habits will change your children's diets.

    I am very sorry if my post offended you. Trust me when I say I don't live in Pleasantville. I, like all parents, have made lots of mistakes, and will continue to make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. Neither our family or our kids are perfect.

    We have been fortunate, though, that our methods in this area of parenting have yielded relatively open-minded eaters. But our kids' diets are not perfect either. As I mentioned, they eat dessert every night, they sometimes eat junk foods, McDonalds and pre-cooked meals, and only a small portion of what we eat is organic. Overall, though, we hope we are providing them with a healthy, balanced diet.

    My hope is that by sharing how we get our kids to eat just about anything I can help others who struggle with picky eaters - without having to take a lot of extra time consuming measures.

    I'm certain that there are areas that I struggle with where I would benefit from your parenting techniques.

    I would love it if you would share an area of parenting that you feel you've been particularly successful with.

    My biggest struggle right now is the seemingly constant arguing between my 6-year-old and 4-year-old boys. Any advice?

    Thanks for stopping by...I hope you visit again.



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