Getting your kids to eat their food

I’m going to broach a bit off topic tonight and post something I don’t generally. Advice. Usually, it comes back to bite me in the arse. However, we’ve all seen the gorgeous plates served as fancy restaurants, set before the judges on Iron Chef, or even the commercials of fast food salads look artfully arranged. They know something that most of us take for granted: good looking food will make you want to eat it. From the time I was allowed to use a knife I was given the chore of making my dad a salad in the summer. Now I suspect that my mom just didn’t want to deal with the cucumbers, but it was something I could do.  Anyway, I always tried to arrange things a bit on his plate. I’m not sure he ever noticed. It probably came from the fact that my mom used to draw faces, our initials or whatever in ketchup or what have you on our sandwiches. Nothing like going to school with a smiley face baloney sandwich that was made JUST for you! My husband also gets sandwich de arte or salad le’ Picasso and seems to appreciate it a lot. He may not be an artist, but he knows what is appetizing, and apparently I plate a good salad. Anyway..

Littler kids are  a specialty. They’re not likely to scarf broccoli just because you put shaved cheese on top.. You have to melt it and hide it in rice and all that other stuff. Right? Every kid, once they start saying no, just quits eating right?

Well, a few weeks ago I realized Halloween was coming up. I’d been inspired by the Bento lunchboxes. You’ve heard of those right? Well if not, go look them up.. I’ll wait…. ready? Okay then, if they can make fancy lunch for their kids, then so can I, even if it’s just a hot dog on a plate. You don’t have to serve all organic in order to get your kids’ attention. Nor does it have to be a special day or reason. The fact that you went to a little effort is going to make a huge difference and MAKE the day special. Enter the ‘monster face’.  Eating pasta? Make a devil with toast ears, a scary red face and demonic meatball eyes with olive irises. Get it? I just want to show off a few of the things that have crossed my kid’s plate. By the way, don’t be confused by the lack of one food group or another, if it didn’t ‘go’ or I ran out of room, I left it off the plate. Sometimes, we even SKIP vegetables if I know we can make it up later in the week. Terrible? Maybe. However, I have a toddler. She is in diapers. Digestive systems get upset when overloaded. Need I say more? Nutrition in, no matter what order, is good. On days when a dish or two is running behind, we cool off some veggies and give them to her first. She’ll eat them because she is hungry and fill up more on good stuff. We do that with fruit, too. Good calories = no problem which order we eat it in! Even if that means ‘dessert’ first! Most of these are lunches with pre-cooked veggies, by the way. Eating leftovers ensures little waste, better diet during lunchtimes, and hey.. it sure beats a cold sandwich!


Spidy senses

I don't know what to call it, but she ate the leftover macaroni, and that doesn't ever happen!

They dead the meatloaf mash--extra ketchup for that 'bloody' look

Topping a questionable 'goal item' like chicken and noodles with fruit, and surrounding it with a favorite like cheese, can be a win-win

Dipping sauce, in the right quantity, can be a great bargaining chip. Eat 2 bites of veggies, get more sauce for your chicken.

Pickle demon--the mandarin orange in the center means she had 1/2 can right before this.. toddler math hotdog + fruit =good

Trick or treat

Wanted for scariness: related to the muffin man--he's got egg on his face

I just noticed that it says ‘they dead the meatloaf mash’. It’s supposed to be DID. Apparently I was taking it a step further in my subconscious. Love my brain! We pretty consistently get 3 food groups on a plate. The most common contributors are meat and vegetable. Sauce substitues for a food group now and then. We literally do go ‘by the week’ as well. Did she get in enough vegetables for the week? Enough fruit? Typically the answer is yes. A small child, 1/2 piece of fruit is a serving. 2 tablespoons of vegetables is a serving. Not ‘TABLE’ spoons, but a literal tablespoon measurer. Get that out and look at it. You’ll feel better instantly. Several days my kid ate a banana at breakfast, a whole apple for a morning snack, and asked for some other fruit. Those days (scary psycho fear inducing music here).. I was scared for the diapers to come.. The rest of the week, then, I let her have the banana, but shared the apple with her. Not only is it good for the parent, it’s bonding time, it’s good modeling of behavior, and you might even get a slobbery kiss of joy out of the deal.

All in all, you need to have a sense of humor. Also, a sense of real parenting. Parenting your great grand mother could recognize. If we want our daughter to eat something and she asks for more of something, then we’ll tell her 2 bites, or 1 bite. If you have all 4 food groups on your plates and all you got out of it was cheese being eaten, and they want more cheese, don’t just give into that. I’ll give you an example: Tonight she shoved 4 bites of chicken in to get a sought after treat. We told her 2, but she was enjoying counting, I guess. I told her to stop and chew (normal for us now and again). She did, and got her treat. It happened to be something bubbly in her glass. Yup, our kid drinks soda from time to time. Feel free to drop the bad parent bomb, I’m okay with that. Because guess what? Her plate, which she had pushed away half eaten? Got scarfed down completely. Veggies included. I’m not saying to bribe your kids. It does work, though 😉 Don’t make a rule you can’t take back, and follow through. If you say 2 bites, make sure it’s 2 bites. Our daughter learned VERY quickly that we mean business. If she doesn’t do what we want her to, she doesn’t get anything else. Like I said, your great grandmother would recognize that as a viable and sensible option. Our kid doesn’t always have to clean her plate, and we always offer her plenty. She might go for the fruit stuck to the green beans, and then enjoy the green beans for 3 handfuls before going back to the fruit. A lot of it is wait and see, too. We might ask for 1 bite of potato and end up talking to each other and counting 2 bites of potato, a bite of meat, and a couple mouthfuls of fruit before she realizes, hey.. I asked for a drink and you told me one bite! Kids are motivated to eat, you just have to close the loopholes. We even trade forks with her from time to time. Great food still tastes great with a toddler fork! If this doesn’t work for you, go back to hiding the vegetables in the sauce. I do — carrots in the spaghetti sauce, ground in the food processor– she has no idea! Frozen fruit bar = 1 serving of fruit (I like Del Monte fruit chillers).

Until tomorrow.. have a great extra hour of sleep.  Unless you have kids. Then please grumble along with me about how farmers aren’t even in the fields right now, and why does everyone else have to change their schedule, why can’t the farmers just get up an hour early?

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