I’m no expert on healthy eating, but I do try to live a healthy lifestyle. I eat my fruits and veggies, try to eat ‘clean,’ and watch how much sugar I get. Everything in moderation though, a girl can’t live without chocolate and ice cream! I try to teach the same to my three kids. Even though I have raised my kids under the same rules I have ended up with a good eater, a picky eater and an opinionated eater. Three tiny humans with their own tiny view points!
Little Man, my oldest, is the good eater. He always has been. My neighbor once joked about how much Little Man enjoyed food as a baby — you could just see it all over his face. He eats or tries anything. Because he was my first, I just assumed (yes, you know what they say about this word) that I did all the right things. WRONG!
Cricket, the middle, she is my picky eater. I would describe her as being fiercely independent and it shows at the dinner table. She has decided to be a vegetarian, although I’m sure she doesn’t know what that means. However, she doesn’t eat meat — of any kind. She loves fruit, peanut butter, humus and hasn’t met a dairy product that she doesn’t like.
Peanut is full of opinions about food. He likes a wide variety, but if he doesn’t feel having that…you know because it ends up on the floor.
Overall, we might not have done everything right, but they are learning about healthy eating in their own ways. Here are some of our house rules:
1. We don’t fight about food, EVER.
I grew up as a picky eater and because I was also stubborn, I spent many hours ‘discussing’ my food choices (or lack there of) with my father. I don’t want food to be a battle, so I choose not to fight it. I serve what I serve and they eat it or they don’t. However, if there are treats or desserts or they want seconds of something, they don’t get it until they finish what is already on their plate.
2. Always give them something they WANT to eat.
To keep my picky eater from going hungry meal after meal — she would, she is that stubborn — I always put something that I know she will like on her plate. I do this with all my kids. I believe that once they start eating and see others eating, they will eventually move on to the other items. It works, for the most part.
3. They get a choice.
I try to let my kids have a say or a choice in the meals we prepare and the sides they get. We eat at home most nights, so when I am going grocery shopping, I ask them what they might like to eat this week for dinner. Or I ask them what kinds of fruits or veggies I should buy. By letting them be a part of the decision making process, they are more willing to try the things I make.
4. Talk about Healthy Eating.
We always talk about our plates in terms of a fruit, a veggie and protein. They get enough grains and carbs, so I just leave that out of the discussion for now. Even my Cricket at 3 knows to ask what is her protein when we sit down to eat. This also sparks lots of other discussion about things being good for you or not.
5. Limit the sweet talk.
We don’t have a lot of sweets in the house, but we do offer them occasionally. My husband loves baked goods, so he is often cooking something up with them. But we focus on how these things are treats, not for every day and they only get to have them after a good meal.
I love food. I love its smells and textures and flavors. I love the way cooking warms up my whole house. I love the way you can brighten someone’s day with a good meal or special treat. And I want my kids to love it too. Without fear or hesitation. I want them to understand what to eat and when to eat it. I don’t know if we’re doing everything “right,” but my kids are typically good, healthy eaters, so we must not be doing it totally wrong.
These are our rules for healthy eating:
1. We don’t fight about food. Period. That’s our number one rule. You have to take a “no-thank-you-bite” of everything on your plate, and then, if you really don’t like it, you can leave it.
2. “You get what you get, and you don’t pitch a fit”. Mama makes one meal. You don’t like it? You don’t want to eat it? You go hungry. I used to make a great effort to always put something on the plate I know they like, but Bugaboo is in this stage where her likes have some mysterious connection to the Earth’s gravitational pull and the rotation of Jupiter’s moons. It changes from day to day. She’ll eat a whole red pepper one day and then declare them inedible the next, so now, you just get what you get.
***Full Disclosure*** This has sometimes backfired– like the time Bug woke in the middle of the night from hunger because she’d refused to eat lunch or dinner the day before. If I used hashtags, I would sum up that moment with #mommyfail, #mommyguilt, #mommyisameanyhead.
3. Despite rule #2, I always respect strong aversions. My son hates cheese. Like HATES it. With a won’t-even-eat-pizza kind of hate! I always offer him a bite, just in case, but if we eat something with cheese, I always omit it for him. I won’t make a totally different meal, but I do want him to feel respected. Sometimes you just don’t like a food, and that’s okay. (Cough, cough, broccoli, cough, cough).
4. Tummies must be full of healthy foods before we add unhealthy ones. We talk about the purpose of food– a lot. They know we eat for energy and to keep our bodies healthy, and they also know protein and veggies are the most important parts of the meal. They don’t ever have to clean their plates, but they need to do a “good” job filling up on the healthy parts before a treat can be considered.
5. There is always a bowl of fresh veggies on our table. Carrot sticks, cucumber spears, pepper slices, chives (yes, Bug LOVES chives). That bowl is often the most popular dish on the table!
5. When we grocery shop Bugaboo may pick out one produce item to try (Guy’s a little small yet, but someday, he’ll do it too). It can be anything, and if I don’t know what it is or what to do with it, I still buy it and together we research and pick a recipe to make. Sometimes this rule ends with me buying a stupidly overpriced personal watermelon, but it has also led us to try jicama, kohlrabi, collard greens, papaya, fennel, star fruit, Asian pears, turnips, fresh beets, tomatillos… And I’ll tell you, Bugaboo ALWAYS eats the produce she buys and helps me prepare!
Learn more about our Unfat and Healthy habits!