Thursday, February 23, 2017

Three Tips for Reforming Picky Eaters

Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that despite my ongoing love affair with beautiful food, my kids prefer processed garbage to the majority of awesome that comes out of my kitchen.  It's been a source of frustration and heartbreak for me, but also a constant source of humor for our family (and anyone else who will listen to our tales from the food battlefield).  Case in point:  Everett once announced at the dinner table that he would rather smell his hand than the food laid before him.  As the family chef, you don't get a better self-esteem boost than that, and yet it was so hysterical when he said it that I had to leave the room, so he wouldn't hear me laugh.

We've made some extreme progress with six-year-old Kaden, and I have high hopes that Everett will eventually outgrow this painful stage of poor eating.  Tonight, when I made this salmon in lemon garlic sauce, Kaden actually expressed excitement about dinner: 

If this isn't the look of progress, I don't know what is:

The Honest Company inspired me to post about how I ensure my children get appropriate nutrition and encourage healthy eating for our entire family.  In a lot of ways, this is probably a case of the blind leading the blind, but if I can help some poor soul struggling out there in the void, I'd love to do my part.  Chad and I have picked up some tips and tricks along the way that have genuinely helped both of our boys improve their poor palettes, and helped us maintain our sanity.  

Tip One:  Limit snacking after 3 p.m.  

This is such a no-brainer but SO HARD.  You know how everyone always talks about the terror of the "witching hour?"  Supposedly, most families only have one measly hour of whiny, tired kids at the end of a long day, that also perfectly coincides with meal preparation.  I don't know about you, but in our house it's more like witching HOURS.  I've noticed that when I limit my kiddos' snacking in the late afternoon, they are magically more hungry for dinner.  Not surprisingly, they are more tempted by healthy food when they aren't stuffed with goldfish crackers and granola bars.

Tip Two:    Let children participate in meal planning and preparation.  

When children are vested in the dinner process, sometimes it leads to them being more keen to participate in eating the end result.  Emphasis on sometimes.  But sometimes is better than no time at all, right?  When it comes to food battles, there is no shame in rejoicing over small victories!  My children both love to help me in the kitchen.  On grocery trips, I try to talk up all of the beautiful qualities of foods that aren't their favorites--"Smell this cilantro!  Doesn't that smell delicious?  It makes me want to cook with it!"  or "I love the beautiful orange of this butternut squash.  Do you like orange?  It's one of my favorite colors.  We should try roasting this for dinner.  What do you think?"  

Tip Three:  Don't give up.  Try the same food in different ways.

Just because your little guy turned his nose up at steamed broccoli, doesn't mean he won't love it roasted.  (My kids are living proof of this!)  Maybe raw carrots make your daughter gag, but she will gobble up the softer, cooked version.  Also, I think it's so important not to offer your children an escape route.  I give my kids pretty much free choice (within a healthy framework) of what to eat for breakfast and lunch.  I plan dinner, and that's what they are eating.  It's OK if something is not their favorite, but they aren't getting a kid-approved second entree choice because 1) that's too much work for me, and 2) this is the only way I will ever introduce them to new foods and flavors. 

Vitamins are another helpful way to ensure you and your children are getting the essential nutrients you need.  The Honest Company has an entire line of vitamins, including a baby DHA supplement and a prenatal vitamin that is reputed to be easy on the tummy. (I wish I knew about it during my pregnancies!)

While these three tips haven't given us a 100% success rate, they have definitely helped.  We still have occasional tears at the dinner table (they aren't always mine), and I know my kids would probably choose Chick-fil-A over my version of gourmet any day, but I like to think the grownups are slowly winning the food war in the Reese household.  

What's your best story from the food battlefield?  I love hearing that I'm not alone on this journey! 
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