Joel: Why do you go to work?
Me: They pay me a salary.
Joel: I don’t even like celery.
My son eats pretty voraciously: eggs, hummus, even steak but sometimes when I clean up after dinner, I notice the vegetables left on his plates. No tomatoes, no cucumber, no thanks. He is very strong and tall for his age and needs quite an amount of food on a daily basis. I try to change things up as much as possible because I know that nutrition is important; especially at his age. But, when my child asks what’s for dinner, usually, the answer doesn’t matter. Sometimes he reacts like I am about to feed him marinated monkey brains.
A giant tray of roasted vegetables, no matter how expertly cooked and seasoned, will never send my child running to the dinner table. My general philosophy when it comes to feeding him is to cook what I crave, then find ways to add bait that will bring him to the table. For example, a salad with tomatoes, olives, carrots, broccoli, mozzarella, arugula, nuts will be enjoyed when I add salmon, beans or crispy pita bread.
Sure, you are thinking, but it is still a plate of vegetables with some salmon. Hold on! I am not done sprinkling on some more kid bait. First is the aforementioned pita bread, salmon or beans. Those lead me to bait number 2: marketing. When my child asks what’s for dinner, “pita salmon salad” will beat out “healthy winter vegetables” every time. Or I cut zucchini into French fry shapes and call them “zucchini fries.” I rebrand veggies to make them sound yummier or cuter. Brussel sprouts are “baby lettuces”. It will make all the difference. When it comes to food, I like to keep it simple, nutritious, healthy and comforting.
In an effort to make sure he gets all the vitamins he needs, I figured out some other ways to encourage him to eat the good stuff. This is what works for us if you would love to read.
I sometimes serve veggies first. That way, he will eat those before filling up on pasta and bread. With this method, he actually asks for a bowl of cauliflower or broccoli to snack on sometimes. We don’t always eat whole, organic food, but mostly. When it comes to meat, I prefer organic and grass-fed. Balance is key! Mom at the playground: My kids eat organic snacks only. Me: Cool. My son eats candy off the floor. Also, there is little difference in how a horse eats hay and the way my child consumes spaghetti with meat sauce.
My son: How much of this meatball is meat? Me: Probably like 90% because it is organic and grass-fed. Son: So it is 10% balls? Me: spits out food
Or I don’t say anything. A study reveals that serving food “without giving any message about the goal” (health/strong bones, vitamins) maximize the consumption of healthy food. I just put them on the plate and wait, and watch.
I make it a game. I got him to eat certain vegetables by asking him to close his eyes, take a bite and see if he could guess the right color. This way, he would end up eating a bunch of bell peppers in red, yellow and green. I also did this for foods such as cauliflower and peas. Marinated monkey brains come to mind again.
I make sure he is hungry. As Karen Le Billon says, “hunger is the best seasoning.” Also, if I serve a smaller main dish (let’s say, just a bit of pasta), he will eat more of his side dish (say, steamed broccoli) because he will still be hungry. I avoid to let him snack all day long.
I stay at the table longer and we eat together without distractions (phone, TV, etc.). When he is done eating, we usually hang for a while because I want him to know the joys of sitting around the dinner table and chatting. I will start conversations I know he will be interested in (how great it will be to spend time at the beach, to go to the bookstore and which books he will pick). I have noticed that a great side effect is that he often ends up absentmindedly munching the food he had originally refused. We also eat slowly. No need to rush through a meal.
I teach him to avoid emotional eating and treat chocolate and sweets as dessert and something special. As a parent, I am in charge of my son’s food education. I have to teach him what is healthy and what is not; and when to eat and how much. Pizza is fine and so are donuts, but not every day. I asked him the other day if he wants a piece of really good dark chocolate. He nodded so hard that he fell over. So, yes, I am sure he is mine.
One rule is: He has to taste it but he does not have to like or finish it. I want him to enjoy food.
If all fails, I sneak it in. Obviously, I want my son to love, revel and seek fresh vegetables as much as I do. But there is nothing wrong with dropping a few frozen vegetables or mixing them into smoothies.
Currently, I am helping my son search for his chocolate that I ate last night.
Stay happy. Stay healthy.