9 Things My Kids Have Taught Me About Food

This is what happens when they pose for a picture.

This is what happens when they pose for a picture.

I like to cook fancy meals.  Lots of ingredients, lots of herbs and spices, lots of yumminess.  And my husband and I usually end up eating it alone.  At least the biggest boy in my life likes my cooking.  Mwuh, love you honey!

I swear, I’m not a bad cook.  I actually run a pretty successful real food blog which tells me I can’t be that horrible.  But the moans and groans coming from my dining room table would make you think I was the evil lunch lady serving Tuna Surprise.

Having kids has taught me a ton about food.  I had the delusion that I would serve a wide variety of vegetables and my children would love them.  Ha!  And the whole “eat or starve” thing?  Yeah, they actually might starve.  Stubborn little buggers.

#1 Be Careful About Sneaking Foods.  

Ask my kids about the liver hamburgers.  Yeah, I’ll never live that one down.  Adding liver to hamburgers works if you don’t use too much.  Heart is easier to sneak into ground meat because it doesn’t have as strong of a flavor.  They also can tell the difference between crushed spinach and crush basil.  When sneaking veggies in their favorite foods, be very careful not to over do it.  Here is an example of a successful sneak: Sneaky Spaghetti Sauce.

#2 Be Truthful About Sneaking Foods.

How is it sneaking if I tell them?!  I know, sounds counter-intuitive but here’s the deal, I want my kids to trust me.  I got in trouble for trying so many times to sneak things into their food that they don’t trust the food I put before them.  Even when I didn’t sneak anything in, they would interrogate me incessantly and not believe me when I told them it was sneaky food free.  I hate that I lost their trust.

So I made a deal with them.  I could still sneak food in their meals as long as I told them about it.  They would take two bites, one to taste and the second to decide if they like it.  If the sneaky food ruined the meal, they don’t have to eat it and I won’t make it again (at least not the same way).

#4 Keep it Simple (Stupid) 

I love adding herbs and spices and all sorts of yumminess.  I do but my kids don’t.  They like simple meals, nothing fancy.  In general if it has more than 5 ingredients, they don’t like it.

Grilled chicken with a simple salt and herb rub gets raves.  Mac and cheese, no fancy spices (I just add them to my own).  Pizza with cheese and maybe pepperoni.  I make my own with spinach, mushrooms, green peppers, sausage and sauerkraut.

#5 Keep Offering

What they turn their noses up at today might be their favorite food tomorrow.  Offer a variety of food at meals.  We have a 2 bites rule that I described above.  If they’ve tasted it and don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it.  I remember suffering through many meals when I was little over peas.  My dad and I would have a stand off that never ended pretty.  I love my dad but I still hate peas.  And he’ll never hear the end of it :-)

I find kids go through a period where they don’t like anything, usually between 3 and 8 (give or take a year).  Their tastes change like day and night during this time.  Try not to get frustrated but offer choices.

#6 Sometimes Bribery is a Good Thing 

I’m not above a little bribery.  During this quaint age of refusing everything, I do try to offer something I know they like at each meal but ask they try the other foods served with it before gobbling up their favorite. “Take another bite of broccoli and I’ll give you more grapes.”  Many times they discover the horrible food isn’t so bad.

#7 Food Can Be Fun!

We don’t eat chicken nuggets, we eat fried brains.

Those aren’t peas, they are monster eyeballs.

“Ooh, you have a monkey in your broccoli tree.  Don’t eat the monkey!”  They always eat the monkey.

Try making calamari for them and tell them it’s fried tarantulas.  Muwahahahaha!

Sometimes silly things like that make meal time less painfull.

#8 They Like to Be Involved

Even boys like to cook.  They always seem more willing to eat if they either help made dinner or had a say in what was being served.  Each boy gets a day of the week where they are in charge of one meal.  They pick the entire meal and it has to include a protein and a vegetable.  They can help mommy make it or have me make it for them.  I keep a list on the refrigerator of kid-approved recipes for quick reference.

#9 Be An Example

They take their cues from us as parents.  What we do is more important than what we say.  I used to get a soda when we went out to eat but I wouldn’t let my kids.  They decided that wasn’t fair and told me so.  I agreed that if I got a soda, so would they.  So I stopped getting sodas.  Ha!  Didn’t see that coming, did you boys? Not what they expected but it was fair. Since taking on this mind set, I started eating better.  If I don’t want them to eat junk, I can’t eat it myself.

What are some things your kids have taught you?

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