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In the News: Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Not as Easy (or Hard) as It Looks

3SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
9/18/2008 8:00 AM   :  86 comments

At my house, every person who came to the table—child or adult, resident or guest—got the no thank-you helping.

When a new food came your way at the table, you had two options. You could take a serving or say "no, thank you." The latter response didn’t exclude you from the broccoli/mashed sweet potatoes/brown rice. Nope. Saying "no, thank you," meant you got a small spoonful of the declined food on the edge of your plate.

You were obligated to take one bite. After that, you could choose to say "No, thank you," again and leave the remaining food on your plate. (You could even spit it out in your napkin, which my little sister frequently did!) Or, if you liked it, you could add a new food to your repertoire. No fuss, no pressure, no arguments.

No thank-you helpings made me a fan of broccoli (steamed and dipped in vinegar that first time) and asparagus. They also helped me learn I don't like deer meat or lima beans.

This past weekend, NYT health columnist Tara Parker-Pope wrote about the "6 Food Mistakes Parents Make." Her colleague Martha Rose Shulman offers a kid-friendly recipes (with not a box of mac-n-cheese or deep-fried chicken nugget in sight). And TPP also has an interview with TV's most popular cook, Rachael Ray, who's an advocate for childhood nutrition and teaching kids to cook. Read all three.

Among the mistakes parents make: Kicking kids out of the kitchen and dieting in front of children.

Sure, there are sharp knives, hot burners and heavy pans, but the benefits of bonding over cooking and learning how to make a nutritious meal far outweigh those risks. My friends whose mothers kept the kitchen door closed now struggle to cook for their fledgling families. Those who grew up in homes like my own--where moms and grampas gave us a stool, handed us an apron and put us to work—are quite comfortable in the kitchen as grown-ups.

Kids are sponges. So if your daughter sees you drinking a chocolate meal replacement shake for dinner, she'll think that "chocolate milkshakes" are acceptable meals. If you skip breakfast or push your veggies to the side of the plate, she'll think that's OK.

Another interesting tidbit from the story: " A Rutgers study of parent and child food preferences found that preschoolers tended to like or reject the same fruits and vegetables their parents liked or didn’t like. And other research has shown girls are more likely to be picky eaters if their mothers don’t like vegetables."

The solution, Parker-Pope says, isn't hiding broccoli in a brownie or making allowing kids to eat only chicken tenders and applesauce until they graduate high school. As with any aspect of healthy living, there is no instant cure, no magic answer. Expect guess-and-test, trial-and-error. With some patience, perseverance, and yes, a bit of cheese sauce and ranch dressing, kids can learn to like (even love) vegetables.

Research has shown that it can take 10 tries to get kids to eat a new food. (It took at least that many for me to learn to like green peppers.)

Don't give up, and keep those no thank-you helpings coming! (Though forcing foods on kids isn't recommended, according to the article.)

How do you (or did you) get your kids to eat their vegetables? What worked for you?



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Comments

  • MEMORY_GRRL
    86
    My parents always managed by really bigging-up how tasty they thought vegetables were! It worked a treat; I always wanted to try new veg and even now I am obsessed with veg!

    I think, also, that not positioning unhealthy/fast food as a "treat" was a big help; kids like treats...so if they think that chips and sweets are treats, they automatically like them more. - 6/14/2011   11:49:57 AM
  • 85
    I'm with Laroja, I tend to throw in the towel after my 20 month old has spit it out a few times. I will keep plugging away, and hopefully both he and my 6.5 year old will start to eat things they haven't before? Can't hurt, right? - 8/18/2010   1:58:10 PM
  • 84
    Whenever my mom put out a bowl of raw veggies before dinner (bell peppers, carrots, even raw broccolli!) it'd always be gone before dinner time! Catch 'em when they're most hungry and give it a nice presentation, and kids will eat most things.

    That said, some of "taste" is genetic. Some people have more bitter taste receptors, and will honestly taste bitterness in a food that someone else might not taste at all. I completely agree with this article that the key is making foods available but not forcing foods on anyone. We all have to learn to trust our inner sense of when we're full and what we need to eat, kids most of all! - 3/22/2010   1:07:48 PM
  • 83
    I've never heard of this one before. I have read about putting the offending food on their plate anyway, and doing this until they buck up and taste it, but this is brilliant.
    - 2/20/2010   10:38:09 AM
  • JULIET4058
    82
    I have a almost three year old and I always make him taste the vegetable but I don't force him to eat the rest. I thought about the cook books called the sneaky chef where you puree the foods and hide it in the meal. I don't want to think that I have to do that to get my little guy to eat veggies. - 2/15/2010   2:50:04 PM
  • MOU37SE
    81
    My job is to provide a varied selection on healthy choices to my kids, their job is to choose what and how much they will eat from that selection. When junk food is not on the table (or waiting to be eaten between meals) then it's not that hard to make healthy choices. My kids don't like every food, neither do I; but we all like many healthy foods. Then deserts or snacks are an occasional treat rather than the thing they have to get past their veggies to get.

    Having said that, I think that the greater problem with so many kids is that refusing to eat is about the only thing in their little lives that they have any control over. Their parents relationships, their schedules, their sleeping, their bathing, who they play with and where they go are all outside of their control. I don't think that children need to be given adult levels of control over their lives but, having the freedom to choose between the pink shirt and the blue one, or between whether they do homework or practice piano first can make a difference to a child. - 9/26/2009   5:42:43 PM
  • 80
    It's all about trial and error. My kids are picky veggie eaters, but they each like several types. I just make sure I give them the ones they enjoy. My youngest loves tomatoes, corn, peas, snowpeas, soybeans. My oldest likes broccoli, cucumber, carrots and corn. They will eat others if I mix them in food (like squashes and cauliflower). You just have to keep trying until you find what they will eat. I also try different toppings. My kids love to put the salad sprays on their veggies, as well as salsa, both of which taste good but aren't loaded with fat or calories. - 9/20/2009   7:39:57 AM
  • 79
    When I've been faced with children who's parents have allowed them to dictate what they will and will not eat I try to find ways to make the "won't eat" food fun.

    The oldest utencils in the world are our fingers...why not use them to pick up the salad and dip it into different healthy sauces for taste tests?

    Allowing kids to help make the food also is almost always guaranteed to have them eat it (and convince those picky parents to eat it).

    If I'm in a kitchen that isn't easily made kid friendly, we can move to a table. If the kids are too small to sit (or stand safely) at the table, I sanitize the floor, the shoes come stay outside and we mix on the floor.

    Yes, I end up with *huge* messes sometimes, but you'd be surprised with the meals kids are willing to make and serve their parents when they get to chose. The parent's love the fact that the kids have had a good time, the kids love having fun making things (everything from choosing menu through serving) and I get to spoil the family.

    My hand keeps the menu healthy (You can choose one from his column and one from this one) and I know I'm the one who cleans up later, but we even get my 50 something husband crawling on the floor helping, and everyone eats bettter.

    - 9/18/2009   12:52:10 PM
  • 78
    I read an article once that discussed how the palette really does change as you grow. The eating experience you have at age 2 (flavor, texture perception) will be different with the same food at age 10. That's why it's so important to re-visit foods now and again. As a small child I hated green peas and green beans, but when I got older I tried them again and couldn't understand what I didn't like about them. I still go back and try things that I think I don't care for from time to time, just to make sure. So far lima beans come back as yucky every time!

    I also think that preparation has a lot to do with it, especially veggies. I can remember going to the homes of friends, and eating broccoli that had been boiled to mush or having frozen corn/peas/carrots - blech. - 8/19/2009   6:10:38 PM
  • 77
    I have always been an avid veggie eater. If my parents said it was gross I would tell them to buy it for me so I could try it. And every time, I liked it. My niece was easy. I did what i do for myself if I am feeling not so into veggies: dipped in applesauce, alternating with bites of fruit, hiding in PBJ or added to spaghetti. - 8/14/2009   11:14:03 PM
  • 76
    I used to tell my daughter she couldn't have dessert if she didn't eat more of her vegetables, but after reading (and learning), I no longer do that. I now give her a variety of foods on her plate (in small quantities) and allow her to decide how much of each on she wants to eat, while encouraging her to at least try the things she doesn't like.

    And I don't serve dessert right after dinner anymore either. I wait at least an hour before serving dessert (when we actually have it) and it's usually something small and made with fruit. She's learning to control that craving for sweets, not forgoing some of her meal to leave room for it and not overeating to ensure she gets it. - 8/13/2009   2:59:43 PM
  • PATRICIA441
    75
    Our son was so funny when he was a little boy. He was not a big meat eater and one time I was helping him brush his teeth and he still had the meat in his mouth from dinner! He said he was hoping it would go away. Too cute. - 4/15/2009   4:52:04 PM
  • LUBOOST
    74
    My son ate all sorts of great foods when he was little. We literally took him to the doctor thinking he had jaundice only to find he was eating so many veggies he'd turned yellow-ish! But that all changed when he turned 3. I have no idea what happened, but he stopped eating good foods and he started to become bad-tempered. Now he's 6 and it's pretty much the same story. I'm afraid for my daughter who just turned 3 because she's starting to say no to some good foods she's liked up until now. I can only hope it's just a phase.

    I've found my son will try foods he's had a hand in creating, and eat an entire serving. Then when asked if he wants to make them again he'll say "no, it wasn't good." :) - 4/13/2009   1:15:43 PM
  • 73
    One of the reasons I'm changing what I eat is so when I get preggers, I'm used to non processed foods (again) and won't crave crazy things. I've heard kids tend to really like the same foods their moms chowed down on while pregnant - so if she was a junk food junkie and shunned healthy fare, the kids are likely to as well. I don't want that to happen when I have kids so I'll be stocking up on veggies and spicy foods! - 3/16/2009   4:43:26 AM
  • 72
    My kids love the veggie trays with dip and one of those trick-em and tell them what they ate. My kids are among those with an aversion to veggies. They love and even request cauliflower in their mashed potatoes and fruit and veggie smoothies.Cut up and boil mashed potatoes and cauliflower together. Then drain and mash together. Another quick way to get extra nutrients is take any carrot bread/cake recipe and reduce the sugar. Add the pulp from juicer made with carrots, apples and oranges. The juice is fabulous and the leftovers go in the bread to add taste and nutrients with no waste. It is also more moist. - 3/6/2009   1:50:00 PM
  • 71
    I really think that kids "hate" fruits/veggies because of the power control over parents. With that being said, parents can't treat these things as chores when they are eating, either.

    My parents really didn't focus on eating fruits and veggies growing up, but I always wanted my kids to eat healthier. We have fruit/veggies at every meal, but I don't expect them to like everything. My oldest doesn't like green beans or peppers too much, my younger daughter doesn't like peppers or tomatoes - it's ok. I personally don't really love bananas or blueberries when eaten plain.

    My kids love to help make meals - and I often set out ingredients they can choose to add. For salads, we put most veggies on the side and they put in what they want. Two of my kids ate sauerkraut when they were two and three because my hubby and I liked it. It was one of the weirdest things. - 2/8/2009   10:19:22 AM
  • KAREN214
    70
    I have children who like fruits and vegatables, but early on in their lives I showed them that I liked them . My kids also had my mother who always cooked at home and had them try every vegatable. My son has actually asked for broccili at a restaurant and the woman taking the order could not believe it. Everyone out there with small children encourage you child to eat well and show them that you do too. - 2/5/2009   6:56:04 AM
  • 69
    I think that this article has a valid point, my friend is 25 years old and swears that she doesn't like any vegetables, come to think of it the only thing she likes is Mt. Dew but that a whole other story. Well we had broccoli cheese rice at my house and she said ok I'll try a bite but I don't like green stuff, well she sure as heck did like it. I just don't buy this whole thing of I don't like any vegetables.
    I love veggies, I don't eat tomatos and onions sorry they make me gag it just isn't happening, but I like squash, eggplant, peppers, broccoli, asparagus, potatos, lettuce, spinach, raddishes all kinds of stuff, but that is probably because I have eaten that stuff all my life. - 1/30/2009   2:42:08 PM
  • VENICELARK
    68
    My little ones are vegetarian (6, and 7 yr olds) and more than once we have told them vegetarians have to EAT vegetables - dessertarian is not an option : ) At first, they wouldn't eat veggies - after eating everything else on their plates, they'd be "full" (and they don't have to eat when they're full). BUT if I put the veggie part out as an "appetizer" (say 4:30 when the whining starts) while making dinner, they're hungry, there's nothing else, and they eat it. Now they love salad - and have actually ordered it in restaurants! Also, all those books are true - if you give them the same thing, and they actually taste it each time - they really WILL like it after about the tenth time. (Of course, there are limits!....) "Appetizers" work for us : ) - 12/4/2008   9:51:11 AM
  • 67
    I am so lucky with my son, until recently he didn't eat much as he has a disability and suffers from debilitating headaches which make him very sick. I never worried too much about his weight or diet though as it has always been healthy and balanced. As a toddler, he used to come in the kitchen when I was preparing dinner and would take the veggies off the side an eat them raw. As a consequence, I now have to prepare enough for dinner and about a cup full for him to eat as a snack whilst I am preparing it! He loves peppers (all colours), mushrooms, courgette (zuchinni?), brocolli (mini trees) and cauliflower. He hates peas and it doesn't matter how many times we try to get him to eat them, even hiding them in other food doesn't work. He's 14 now and is on medication for his headaches, the side effect is that he now eats a lot more. Thankfully, we have the good eating habits in place and he snacks on fruit, vegetables and yogurt.

    He also has a good role model in my step-son too, who came to live with us 3 years ago and is now 20. He will eat almost any vegetable or fruit and is always willing to try something new. The only thing he won't eat is potatoes but he eats rice or pasta instead and my son loves potatoes anyway. - 11/21/2008   5:56:31 AM
  • 66
    I've lucked out and my daughter that's 14 likes all kinds of fruits and veggies. When she comes home from school and wants a snack, she opens up a can of asparagus or kidney beans instead of reaching for the chips and cookies that are on the counter too. Her friends think she's weird!

    My son that's 19 is a little pickier, but likes most veggies. I'm looking forward to when my son moves out because dinner time sure will be easier to prepare because my daughter and husband and I all like the same things. - 10/13/2008   9:34:44 PM
  • 65
    My son eats everything, but my daughter is so picky. Won't eat a single veggie and the only fruit she eats are apple and bananas, but very sparingly. I've tried everything, but she just won't eat. - 9/22/2008   12:16:48 PM
  • 64
    Believe it or not, it's hard to get kids to eat healthly. Especially if they are not used to it. I teach middle school and we are not allowed to bring candy or sweets into the classroom as rewards. We are only allowed to bring healthy snack such as fruit, fruit snack with zero fat. I usually bring small packs of dried fruit. Some like them but many of them do not. It's important to introduce healthy eating options when they are young so they learn the healthy way. - 9/21/2008   3:40:22 AM
  • ROBINHP
    63
    We called them "no thank you" helpings when I was growing up, too! I haven't broken out the term with my own family, but everybody gets at least a small taste of whatever I make. My 2 year old is in a very picky stage, but my 7 year old has become much more adventurous over the past few years. There is always plenty of fruit, yogurt, etc. for those who don't eat as much of the meal. - 9/20/2008   5:19:07 PM
  • 62
    when it comes to my step children it's really not that hard actually. for some reason the daughter wants to eat anything i eat. so i start out by eating the veggies first. she copies everything i do so that helps a little. as far as my step son, he's really not a big meat eater so he tends to just eat the veggies, but he does eat a small piece of meat or at least a few bites. i also give them veggies with lunch. even if they are having a pb and j sandwich, i give them some baby carrots. they also love cherry tomatoes, they think that the tomatoes are the same as strawberries, lol. i honestly have never had a problem getting them to eat their veggies. i guess that's a blessing in itself. - 9/20/2008   3:13:29 PM
  • BLACKROSE9231
    61
    my kids age 16 and 15 vary greatly in there eating habits but will try jsut about anything.. they go through stages where one will only eat the meat and potatoes at dinner and the other will only eat the vegs.. this may go on for a week or so and then they will switch and the one only eating the meat and potatoes will eat the vegs and the veg eater will eat the meat and potatoes so i guess in the long run they get a balenced diet lol my son loves to cook but my daughter doesnt go near a stove if she could help it .. think i will let them plan and cook a meal by themselves from start to finish and see if i cant get them to cook more - 9/20/2008   10:18:06 AM
  • 60
    My kids are 16 ans 20 years old. They have the same parents and home life, but different tastes in food. I love veggies, fish and fruit. My older child has the same taste in food. Their dad hates fish. He'll eat fruits and veggies, but he isn't crazy about them. My younger child only eats veggies as a part of a meal and hates tomatoes. He often will go weeks without eating fruit. He's getting to be less picky as he gets older. It seems strange that the two kids could have such different tastes in food and still have at least one parent that is a good example. - 9/19/2008   7:35:34 PM
  • 59
    I used the take a bite, a real bite and actually taste the food, then if you don't like it you don't have to eat it. I would do that frequently until they either said NO more or actually started liking it. I made a lot of stews, put grated carrots in meatloaf. With 3 children they didn't all like the same things, so I had them each make a list of their 10 favorite meals, then I would alternate what they liked, fortunatly several things on their lists were the same. All three of them like their veggies and fruits now and do the same with their children. - 9/19/2008   6:08:18 PM
  • 58
    I used the "take a bite, that's polite" method in my home. If they didn't like it, they could leave it. - 9/19/2008   3:48:31 PM
  • 57
    I think a lot of parents expect their kids to give them problems with eating - and the kids comply. I had a babysitter once that went on and on about how amazing it was on of the other kids LIKED broccoli - I thought to myself, well she won't for much longer since you are telling her she shouldn't! I just give my what we are eating. Period. There are no subsititute meals. They have to take at least two bites. My older son is a very adventurous eater. The younger one not so adventurous but still a pretty good eater. Both of my kids at about age 2.5 asked to have salad - they saw us eating it most nights and wanted to have some too. They still have salad with us. (OK, mostly they like the ranch dressing - but hey, its salad!) - 9/19/2008   2:55:03 PM
  • HAWAIIANSUN13
    56
    I dont understand how letting the kid spit it out in a napkin is helping, I understand that they are tasting it, but my kid would just get in the habit of spitting it out everytime..any ideas? - 9/19/2008   1:25:46 PM
  • TWINSMOM0429
    55
    Love the no-thank you helping idea. That will be remembered for sure.
    I have 2 1/2 year old twins and I am already allowing them to pull up a chair to the island or counter where I am cooking so they can "help". They absolutely love "helping Mommy" or just "watching Mommy" while in the kitchen. Yes, it gets a little stressful and there have been times when I have sent them on their way, but I will let them watch me chop veggies and they can help me put it in the bowl & they love to mix things so I let them each have a chance at mixing things up. I also will explain what I am doing & they already know not to touch the stove or knives and to back away when the oven door is open.

    I wish my Mom would have done this more with me instead of just having me set the table for dinner. It's fun & it keeps the girls interested for sure.

    They are starting to get a little fussy with eating but they are both up to trying new things. The other day, I made an acorn squash as a side dish with dinner and they both tried it. I am all about them trying new things. If they like it-- bonus but if not, that's OK too. My husband & I were just talking the other day about how growing up, the only veggies I had were peas, green beans, corn, carrots, lima beans, and an occassional head of cauliflower & regular iceberg lettuce salads. Boring!! There are so many veggies out there and you have to give em a chance to shine-- your palate will thank you! - 9/19/2008   12:23:57 PM
  • 54
    I'm so happy those articles were brought to my attention via Spark. My fav quote from the Rachel Ray article was, "So yes, your kids can get hurt in a kitchen, but they can get hurt on a playground, too." My five year old will now be prepping dinner with me in the kitchen more often. - 9/19/2008   10:38:13 AM
  • 53
    My kid is one of those rare kids that gets excited about new fruits and vegetables. He likes brussel sprouts and asparagus!!! I've been getting him to help me with dinner as a way to spend time together. So, he'll help snap off the ends of green beans, or wash the fruits and vegetables, while I cut and saute. He also likes being the person that dumps the newly cut veggies into the pan and gives it a stir. He likes to watch me cut everything and says "Wow! You can cut so fast!" which is a nice compliment! Then when we eat dinner, he gets a sense of pride in the part that he helped make - which makes him like it even more! - 9/19/2008   10:37:12 AM
  • 52
    I grew up in a mostly vegetarian family. Because I lived in India, where the starving masses were, quite literally, visible everywhere, we _had_ to eat everything on our plates.

    There were two direct results. The first, most obvious one, is that I still eat like it's going out of style. The second, very healthy result, is that I love vegetables of all sorts, even the really, really bitter ones like bitter melons and the bitter varieties of eggplant! :) And this _despite_ being a picky eater as a child! :)

    Children _will_ eat what you give them. You just have to be firm that "no" is not an option when it comes to eating healthy! After all, isn't it the parent's responsibility to make sure the children have a nutritious diet?

    True, they will probably NOT eat all those good-for-you veggies when out of your sight (school lunches, for example!) but at least the meals they have at home -are- under parental control!

    Cheers,
    Maya
    - 9/19/2008   9:38:49 AM
  • 51
    Our kids are not allowed to say they hate the food being served unless they have tried it. They must try it and say they dislike it for the time being but they usually end up eating it because they did enjoy it after all. I continue to challenge them on different days of the items they dislike because you never know that this time your new concoction of the item made is the winner. - 9/19/2008   9:11:49 AM
  • 50
    My son LOVES vegtables thankfully and I think it is completley becasue he knows that he has to "try new things"
    I agree with the article! My son also knows that grocery shopping day means that HE gets to choose a new food at the grocery store that we have never tried and we both have to try it, weither it be a new exotic fruit of vegtable. He loves that he gets to wander around the store and surprises me with a new item (even if it is not new to me!)
    Now my husband on the other hand ONLY eats meat, potatoes and corn... and refuses to eat anything else, so I am glade that I started at a young age to teach my son that he needs to try new things or he would have been tempted to be like his daddy! Great article! - 9/18/2008   9:59:24 PM
  • 49
    How I wish this article had been given to my parents when I was a kid. I vividly remember sitting at the kitchen table for hours (I actually fell asleep after a few) because I wouldn't eat what was left on my dinner plate. I don't even remember what it was. Now I have a 3yo and 2yo and they love pretty much whatever I give them. They are always invited to help me 'cook' and honestly I think it takes the mystery out of the new 'mystery' foods that they otherwise would turn their noses to. I find if they do not help make the food and I serve something new, then they are most likely not going to eat it. Especially my son, if it's foreign to him, he usually won't touch it. After MULTIPLE attempts with broccoli, he now will eat it if it's cut very small and cooked very tender or fresh with ranch. I'm so glad I love all veggies and fruits, never met one I didn't like. I watch my nephew, who's parents rarely eat a fruit or veggie, and he is extremely picky, except since he's started coming here. Now he'll eat pretty much whatever fruit I give him, and most veggies. He's not a fan of broccoli. :)
    Anyhow, kids do what they see, and what they see is their parents. This applies to EVERY aspect of their life, let alone food. Now I know why I feel the need to 'clean my plate' to this day and have the urge to have dessert with every dinner! Ugh!
    Loved this article.... - 9/18/2008   9:26:20 PM
  • 48
    Right now I encourage my 4 y.o. to eat at least one fruit and veg a day so he can be strong enough to go swimming on Friday evenings. He gobbled up his peas tonight! - 9/18/2008   5:08:02 PM
  • 47
    Girl Scout camp in the '60's had a similar custom. You could ask for "three bites only" of any food you didn't like/know/care for. You had to eat all three bites before asking for seconds of anything else. Lots of girls discovered that cooked carrots, peas, and some casseroles weren't as bad as they supposed.
    Unfortunately, my family was a "clean plate club" family. I still have problems with portion control.
    - 9/18/2008   4:57:02 PM
  • 46
    Growing up, the only three things I didn't like to eat were pickled beets, liver of any kind, and beef tongue. I found with the addition of ketchup that the liver and tongue could be made palatable.

    As an adult, I thought there would never be a day where I would eat calamari or escargot.

    While stationed in Europe, I had a girlfriend who got me tipsy and took advantage of me, by feeding me both. Now I think they are both great appetizers, and I have found that pickled beets are not nearly so bad as I once thought.

    When my sons were growing up, we concentrated on having appropriately sized portions of food, and since they saw Mom and Dad eating everything - they ate everything, too.

    One night, my oldest son had a friend stay over. At dinner, and breakfast the next morning, he ate everything on his plate and asked for seconds on some foods. That afternoon his Mom came to pick him up and apologized if we had been hurt by something he refused to eat (he was supposedly a picky eater).

    My DW told her we must have lucked out and had everything he liked, because he didn't refuse to eat a single thing on his plate and had asked for seconds on almost everything (like growing boys are wont to do).

    My wife had prepared meatloaf (he gagged at home when asked to take a bite), green peas (swept them off the plate at home), salad (are you kidding!), and mashed potatoes (yes, he liked mashed potatoes). He had asked for seconds on the meatloaf, green peas with vinegar (yes, that's how I preferred them) and on the mashed potatoes.

    For breakfast that morning, we had scrambled eggs with cheese, green and red peppers and onions. We also had country potatoes with onions, cantaloupe and big glasses of COLD milk. He supposedly would not eat onions, peppers of any kind, eggs - no matter how they were prepared, and he detested milk. He had never had canteloupe, but it was almost impossible to get him to try new foods.

    We worried he'd be ill, but the strangest thing happened. He started hanging out at our house around dinner time and calling his Mom to see if he could stay for dinner. I'm sure he ate things that would have shocked his mother, but maybe it was the cooks. One evening he said at the dinner table, "Mrs. C, you and Mr. C. are maybe the best cookers in the world".

    Both of us, having grown up in or near the country all our lives just fixed plain, mid-western,regular farm food.

    That is, with the exception of desserts. My MIL cooked dangerously decadent desserts and my wife has inherited her talent. She very seldom cooks desserts now that we are trying to be healthful and there are only two of us, but at Thanksgiving, Christmas and on birthdays, she makes two or three desserts and drives everyone crazy deciding which one to have.

    That's where we use the "Taste it" rule.

    And we keep a serving or two of each dessert and send the rest home with our children. - 9/18/2008   4:55:09 PM
  • JMLEE509
    45
    When my daughter didn't want to try new things, I read her Green Eggs and Ham. Whenever she didn't want to try some veggies or a new dish, I would ask her would you, could you in a house with a mouse and she would try it! She now loves to try new veggies and foods from another culture. She even likes brussel sprouts! - 9/18/2008   4:41:54 PM
  • 44
    I grew up with 'eat everything on your plate' and a mom whose idea of portion control was to split the plate into thirds. One third veggies, one third starch, one third meat! Needless to say the plates were HUGE and the portions were way beyond what children needed. I still struggle with portion control. We use the No Thank You system although we don't call it that. They are allowed 1 food that they don't have to eat, but they still have to taste it if it's served. Saying negative things about a food is not allowed. My girls have helped in the kitchen since they were toddlers. They have helped with food prep and at 9 & 11 are both capable of making a full meal. They eat all kinds of veggies and one of their favorites? Brussel Sprouts - maybe because when they were little we called them 'baby cabbages'! We eat in restaurants every couple of months and they have never ordered off the 'kids menu' because they don't care for the chicken nuggets/finger, the bland mac and cheese or the cardboard-y pizza. We talk about nutrition and the lack of it in certain foods. Both have learned to read nutrition labels and ingredient lists. We talk about the fact that the food industry 'hides' things. They understand that 'sugar', HFCS (which we avoid), corn sweeteners, dextrose, sucrose, fructose etc are all sugars and if more than one appears in the ingredient list we don't buy the product (unless it's candy!). - 9/18/2008   4:21:45 PM
  • 43
    When I was a child growing up, my parents never heard about ENTERTAINING a kid. WE ate what was put on the table, and ONLY at meal time, and other than that, we could go hungry. My mother was NOT a "short order cook." I hated raisins and sweetpotatos as a child, so my mother left them out of a small section of the dressing so I didn't have to eat them. My son said "Well, mother you had tastebuds back then, so that is WHY you didn't like the taste." - 9/18/2008   3:28:37 PM
  • MJS505
    42
    I'm a fussy eater, my ex was a fussy eater, and now my teenagers are fussy eaters. I just never learned to eat my vegi's. - 9/18/2008   2:58:03 PM
  • 41
    this is such a helpful blog!! and discussion!! i NEED SUPPORT!! and i really got it from you all~~~ my kids are picky eaters as well but have gotten less picky by the rule of have to try it or dessert is out... recently my daughter figured out she LOVED grilled zucchini.... i almost didnt give it to her because i thought she might not like it..our kids can do amazing things if we give them the chance!! - 9/18/2008   2:44:01 PM
  • 40
    We also use a 'no thank you' serving in our house. And we love fresh veggies and fruit. We also have a "YUK" rule. If you see someone eating something and you make a negative or nasty remark or face, you have to take a bite. For instance, I was eating Lemon Yogurt one day when my daughter was little and I heard her go "eew that's nasty". She didn't think I heard but I did, so I dipped in and said open up. She complied to the rule and now LOVES yogurt! She'd never had it. Turn about is fair play though, I've been gotten by this rule too and had it turn out beneficial. My daughter was eating honey dew at the dinner table one day while I was reading. I caught a whiff and said "Ugh that smells gross" before I could bite my tongue my daughter started laughing and popped a bite in my mouth. I couldn't believe it but I actually liked it! Growing up I'd never liked honeydew. Just goes to show that tastes change over time. I still don't like cantaloupe though! LOL I also encourage my family to try someone they don't like at least once a year to see if they might change their minds. I tried cantaloupe every season... so far no change but that doesn't mean it won't. The YUK rule was put in place to teach the kids to respect other's food choices, also because if a kid says "Eeeeeew" to something and another kid hears it, then none of the kids will eat the 'eeew' food. So it's cut down a lot of picky eating because no one was saying anything bad about the food. - 9/18/2008   2:20:19 PM
  • GOAL142
    39
    I also use the "no thank you" serving, since my first child was a toddler. Now there are five of them and they know they are going to try everything at least once. Even my picky-eating son realized that he LOVES canteloupe and broccoli thanks to the NTU serving! I also have another rule, only eat until you are full. I DO NOT force them to clean their plates. Many of my mother's generation are obese/morbidly obese thanks to plates full enough to feed three adults. My kids, save just one, are healthy and active. One is losing some summer weight gained on vacation with her dad... - 9/18/2008   2:11:47 PM
  • 38
    Well this blog certainly brought up memories for me. I can remember the "You can't leave the table until you eat everything I put on your plate!" times in our family growing up. My father served the food in "appropriate" amounts. We had to eat everything. Since I loved just about everything, it wasn't often it happened to me, but I was still "traumatized" enough to not want to repeat with my own children.

    The rule my husband and I agreed to use was "Take as much or as little of everything served as long as you take at least 1 small spoonful of everything. Then you must eat what you took!" Desserts were rarely served to our kids--more of a special thing or celebration thing. I think the dog probably gots lots of little spoonfuls of things......Each of our sons have very different food tastes and none of them enforce any type of rules for the table. I am sure that is in reaction to how we brought them up.

    The study by Rutgers reminds me of the story of me an liver as a young child. If my father fed me the liver baby food, I ate it without reservation. If my mother fed me the same liver, out it came in a raspberry. Can you figure out which of my parents loved liver????

    Thanks for the memories and insights. - 9/18/2008   1:53:13 PM
  • 37
    We have a one bite rule in our house which has worked well. My 3-year-old will often quote Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess. This was a big read early on when we began introducing foods, and we still read it often. She will smile and say, "I do like them Sam I am." Then I , Sam I am, dish out more! - 9/18/2008   1:36:25 PM

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