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.