Kids and Food – Four Things I Believe

By on February 11, 2012

When the little one presented herself, instructions weren’t included.  So we read a lot and spoke to relatives/friends/doctors.  And aside from some fairly basic (mostly safety-related) tenets, turns out nobody agrees on anything.   Let cry vs. don’t let cry.  Crib vs. your bed.  Antibiotics vs. no antibiotics.  So you take it all in, and just go with what seems right for your family.

There’s plenty of conflict and angst in the food/kid area too.  Here are four things I’ve come to believe about kids and food (complete with sepia-toned father-daughter hand shot with mirepoix):

  • That’s What’s For Dinner
Soon after she started solid foods, the little one ate what we ate. No special ‘kids meal’. We’ll separate a part of the dish for her before I add something spicy.  But if she doesn’t want it, tough luck.  That’s what’s for dinner. This exercise isn’t about eating or not eating, it’s about kids trying to preserve optionality for something fried. Shut it down.  There’s one choice, kid, unless you make something for yourself.  And in case you didn’t notice, you’re too short to reach anything.

  • Be the Change

Don’t expect the tot to eat healthy while you pack doughnuts down your neck.  Kids see, kids learn.  That’s how they roll.  Make the good habits by being the good example.  And if it’s anything in a box or a can, try for better.  Yes, it’s more expensive to eat fresh, local, non-processed.  But we all just get one body.  So open the wallet and take care of it. Also, everyone’s got to keep moving — particularly in this house of foodies.  The gym and SoulCycle for the grownups, jazz dance, ballet and swimming for the little one.

  • Train the Help

Good relationships with food are crafted by actually making and enjoying food.  Enlist the kid early. Between ages 2 and 5, that’s the investment period where the ‘help’ ain’t so helpful.  But around 6, it starts to turn, and by 7 you can really integrate them into productive prep.  Mine peels onions (she has goggles so she doesn’t cry), seeds and cuts cucumbers, mixes stuff, measures, whisks, etc.  Cooking develops planning and organizational skills, and provides tasty rewards.  Plus it’s good uninterrupted time together.

  • Don’t be a Militant Loser
The tot needs some wiggle room.  So there is a time a place for greasy fries and a burger, dessert before dinner, and those cinnamon buns in the tube.  Just not all the time.  “That’s What’s For Dinner” has its exceptions too.  Maybe she’ll have something different if she’s not feeling well, or if her little friends are over.  I don’t feel compelled to impose my benevolent food dictatorship on others’ offspring.  And if she’s busy and happy with a little art project, I can peel my own onions. All of this is really just an exercise in balance.

The Takeaway:

These are four things we do, and it all seems to be working so far.  But who really knows.

p.s. –  too much with the sepia?
  1. Julie

    February 11, 2012

    Amen, bro-thah! I love this post and completely agree wholeheartedly! We leave the spice out, serve them, then add the spice but other than that…dinner is served, period! Good luck reachin’, buddies!

  2. Pam

    February 12, 2012

    Love the post. We do wish we were able to do what you do – our girls eat differently than what we eat, but at least what they do eat is healthy/organic/local etc. It’s just something that we started and can’t get out of. Our older one is finally branching out but its taken some time. BUT, definite high-five to points 2, 3 and 4! Next post has to include The Little One helping you out on the recipe!! As for the pic, perhaps a bit too staged 😉

    • GHT

      February 13, 2012

      thanks! everyone has their own way, it’s all good. And on the pic, you don’t know the half of it. That took like 30 minutes to get together, she was cranky and I wasn’t in a good place either. But you can’t tell that from the wrist down….

  3. Scott Wallask

    February 13, 2012

    I’ve started eating more fruit and vegetables since having kids because my wife has been fairly insistent that if we want the boys to eat well, they have to see mom and dad eating well. I never ate a pear in my life until 2010, and ironically, I actually like pears quite a bit now. Also, we go by rule #1 in our house. One of my wife’s good sayings is, “This is not a restaurant.” That being said, if a kid wants ketchup on broccoli or something like that, it’s no problem if it helps them eat it.

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