Lovely reader Ami asks:
You might have written about this before, but how did you deal with food struggles when your children were younger? Mine are three and one and a half. It's difficult to get them to try new things, but my husband and I keep offering everything we eat to them. Most of the time, if I know I'm making something for dinner that they just won't try, I'll fix them something else. A lot of moms would say that is incredibly stupid, or, as someone has told me before, I'm being too nice. However, it's the path of least resistance at the end of the day that I don't want to turn into a bad. Does that make sense? The end of the day can already be stressful, and I don't want to add a power struggle to that at dinner. I guess my long-winded question is, at what age do I finally say, "Sorry kids, but THIS is what is for dinner."
Now. You say that now.
I know. It's a tough thing to do. The longer you go on making different meals for every member of the family, the more entrenched they will be to eating only certain foods - and the more difficult it will be to stop this habit. I've got one kid who would be totally thrilled to eat pasta for every meal and almost nothing else.
Unless, of course, you really don't mind making separate meals for each person several times a day/week - and I did it for a while - but I have the feeling that you aren't enjoying this display of domestic tranquility. It doesn't have to be a power struggle though - think of their arguments as a knee level thunderstorm and just - step over it. Remain calm and repeat yourself if necessary - "This is what's for dinner tonight."
The way it works in our house may not work for you. In our house, dinner is served. You can eat the dinner, or you can eat the dinner. If I know it's something that someone just despises, they at least have to eat a few bites. Then they can eat the other parts of the dinner. We always have something that everyone likes. One example of that is raw carrots. All of my kids like baby carrots, carrot sticks, or sometimes they just want a peeled, whole carrot. If I serve steamed green beans, I know that one of my kids hates them. She's allowed to eat a few green beans - while making faces and groaning - and then she can get some carrots.
Last week - she ate every one of her green beans without any comment. I was *stunned*.
I also serve a very small portion of something that I know a kid doesn't like - one of my kids hates tomato sauce - and I know that my mom is reading here and matching up kids with the descriptions, it's too funny - and so when I give her pasta, she gets a smaller amount of sauce on the side. She has to eat some of it.
Chili is a good example. Two of my kids HATE it. They can add cheese, chips, sour cream - whatever they want - to their (very small) portion. They have to eat at least half of it, plus a fruit and a veg. If they are still hungry, they can make a sandwich or have a yogurt or more fruit/veg. But they can't have anything else if they haven't had their (very small) couple of bites. I've been really happy with the fact that sometimes, their taste buds change and they end up eating the former despised food.
One of my boys once said, "This isn't nearly as awful as I remember it to be!"
Everyone loves chicken nuggets. I refuse to buy them. I make them. I make a lot of foods that I know that they like, but I make them healthier. We talk an awful lot about why McDonald's chicken nuggets taste so good but they aren't a great choice - and that's not to say we never have them, I bought a 20 pack for three of them to split (we brought carrots and apples with us) when we were in a terrible rush to get to a concert last Friday night - but I don't think I've bought them for a couple of years.
Like I said, this is what works for us. I've got some pretty good eaters here, although the list of likes and dislikes is really, really long - but with this many people to feed, there's absolutely no way I can make them all happy. I know that not everything is going to be their very favorite meal, but I tell them, "just wait until you are an adult - you can only make the foods that you like!"
Which is why I will never ever ever make beets. Or cooked carrots. Or *shudder* venison, or organ meat.
Just for kicks, I'm going to list my kids and the foods they don't like. I'm completely mixing it up - Child #1 isn't my oldest, etc, because I don't want anyone to get teased or such - but just because I've never written it out and I am curious to know what it looks like.If I had to consult this every time I made a meal, I'd go crazy - and I'm CERTAIN I've forgotten something.
A - Doesn't like milk. Loves seafood of any type. Will eat just about anything else but doesn't like green beans. Has an allergic reaction to fresh pineapple, peaches and broccoli and so can't eat them, but loves them all. Loves chili and lasagna.
B - LOVES milk and orange juice. Hates juice of any other type. Doesn't like pork, beef, or fish, except for tilapia. Loves pasta. Loves cereal. Loves soy butter sandwiches, fruit and veg of almost every variety. Loves vanilla greek yogurt but hates any type of flavored yogurt. Doesn't like Mexican food at all.
C- Loves milk and OJ. Won't drink other juices. Loves peanut butter. Loves chocolate chip cookies. Loves chili, lasagna, steak and pasta dishes.
D - Hates milk. Loves junk food of all kind. Loves Mexican food, Italian food and hates seafood of any type. Loves hummus, red peppers, subs and PB oatmeal no bake cookies. Baked potatoes are a particular favorite. Loves broccoli with cheese sauce and alfredo on anything. Loves mangoes, especially the ones from the Asian market.
E - loves shrimp and crab. Loves pizza, baked ziti but not lasagna. (I know, really??) Loves strawberries, figs, oranges, bananas, carrots, broccoli, and mangoes.
F - Loves crab legs. Hates tomato sauce. Loves soy butter sandwiches. Loves steak, alfredo sauce and hates pizza. Loves carrots and cries when we have broccoli.