I do not profess to have this parenting thing down, I’m learning new things about raising little humans every day. We’ve tried a lot of unsuccessful things and stumbled upon a few things that have really worked along the way.
One of those lucky stumbles was how our kids eat. They are happy to eat a good variety of foods, regularly. No, they don’t lick kale off their plate but for kids, I like to think they are better eaters than most. Here’s what has worked for us:
We aren’t a restaurant.
Whatever is being served for a meal is the meal. No substitutions. Occasionally I make things that the kids just don’t like such as chili so I will make an alternative. My daughter has never liked potatoes so we don’t require her to eat them. If I make something a little too spicy, I add cream cheese, sour cream or coconut cream to cool it off. But if the meal isn’t eaten, there isn’t a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to follow.
Introducing lots of different foods early.
Infants do not have to be raised on rice cereal and jarred fruits and veggies. It’s really easy to make your own baby food and you will thank yourself for doing it later. Puree butternut squash and sweet potatoes, mix up quinoa and bananas, add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and experiment. The more variety you can introduce over time, the better.
Involving kids in the planning process.
When I plan our menu for the week, I ask the kids what kind of meals they would like to eat. Sometimes we go through kid cookbooks and look for ideas. They chip in one or two, I add some family favorites like enchiladas and one or two new meals to continue introducing new foods and variety into our diet.
They regularly grocery shop with me and I ask them to choose as many fruits and veggies as they want plus one or two other items in the store. This summer, we’ll go to the farmer’s market and do the same.
Controlling snacks before meals.
My kids like to eat all day, particularly my oldest. Because we don’t want to make a big deal out of how much she eats (she is very active and has no weight issues), we just control what she is allowed to eat. During the day, snacks can be any fruit or vegetable, yogurt, raisins or nuts. We also keep crackers and cheese, hummus and pita and some homemade goods around. Before dinner, they can have any amount of vegetables they want, but that is all.
Working in the kitchen together.
My oldest loves to bake with me and my son is the evening sous chef. They each love to do different things from cracking eggs to rolling cookie dough to stirring rice. If I were real honest, I would say that it’s mostly frustrating to work together in the kitchen. They are slower, messier, more impatient and everything takes twice as long to do. But life skills like these must be taught and it won’t be long until they are more competent and can provide actual help instead of hindrance.
Starting a garden.
You want to see some kids get excited about vegetables? Teach them how to grow them from a seed. It can be as easy as one or two plants in a container. I personally like growing tomatoes if I were only growing one thing. Because we will likely be moving in the middle of the season, we will be planting everything in containers this year to make our vegetables portable. Once we get settled in a new house, I’m planning to build several garden boxes for long-term use.