This is my kid in a nutshell: the other day I bought a bag of sugar snap peas from Trader Joe’s (my second home, no, third after CrossFit Bayside). I like to sauté them with garlic and oil and throw in some protein – chicken, shrimp, etc. It’s a healthy and yummy meal. But I know that O likes them raw. So I whipped up my dinner (he was with his Dad that night) and saved him some raw ones. When he came over I told him I had a surprise for him and showed him the peas. Now, most kids would not greet veggies with any enthusiasm or deem them worthy of the “surprise” moniker, but not my kid. His eyes got wide, he grabbed at them and hugged me, saying “thank you, Mommy.” Yes, my son is a champion eater.
I should have known when at his 1-year birthday party he took a bite of cake, but wanted, and took down, about half a cantaloupe. I’ve always been of the mindset that my child should eat what I eat. I’m not going to make something for myself that likely is fresh and homemade and then open up a box of nuggets or pizza for him. That makes no sense and honestly, ain’t nobody got time for that.
So the rule in my house has been and always will be, you need to try something 10 times before you tell me you don’t like it. I’ve read this many places and since our tastebuds change over time, it makes perfect sense. So O had to at least try what I made or had at a restaurant, no matter what it was, and yes, he’s allowed to spit it out, but more often than not, after the battle to put it in his mouth, he realized he liked it. This was how he discovered a love for Miso soup, Indian food, mussels, hummus, rare steak and more. And how he currently doesn’t like olives, butter (!), goat cheese or grape leaves.
This means he can and does go to nice restaurants, since birth, and mostly orders off the adult menu because he would rather have calamari than chicken fingers. Not that he doesn’t like “kid” food. I stock and serve chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and pizza but I try to limit consumption and buy the organic versions. When I cook dinner it’s for both of us. This means seared salmon or shrimp, quinoa, spicy chicken, chili, grilled broccoli, sautéed mushrooms and onion (his new fave), Brussels sprouts (yes, he eats these too – Trader Joe’s to the rescue again with a pre-seasoned version that just needs to be sautéed in olive oil), etc. There are no separate meals. I’m not a personal chef. I’m a mom with two jobs and limited time. And now I’ve even got some help in the kitchen as someone has discovered his love for making salad.
Raising two eaters myself, I’m not sure I would call them champions just yet, but they’re certainly getting there. My girls drool whenever I announce that we’re having broccoli or Brussels sprouts for dinner. Yes, Brussels sprouts. Peach even likes them raw (or slightly sautéed) but the pleas for seconds (and thirds!) come when I roast them to within an inch of their lives and finish them with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. Andrew (credit where credit is due) found this recipe from Ina Garten and we make this just about once a week. We alternate between Brussels and broccoli and it hasn’t shown signs of wear on the kiddos yet. Another way I love serving Brussels sprouts is with a bit of tofu caramelized with brown sugar and a few pecans thrown in. Super simple yumminess and the girlies love it.
Typically, I’m not a fan of “hiding” veggies in food. I’d rather be transparent with kids. But I’m not opposed to “dressing them up” a bit. And that’s what I consider the Parmesan and brown sugar in the examples I mentioned above. Whatever gets them to eat their veggies, right?
Danielle’s belief that her kid should eat what she eats is one I wholeheartedly agree with. But Andrew and I don’t always get home in time to prepare a homemade meal so even though I say “Amen!” to the sentiment, sometimes I’m making myself a sandwich while I open up that box of chicken nuggets or pizza for the kids. We call those nights “scrounge nights.” But when I DO make a meal for all of us to share, you’d better believe that no nuggets are coming out of the box that night. We have a saying – two actually – “This isn’t a restaurant” and one coined by Peach’s preschool teacher: “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”
My girls have learned pretty early on that what we’re having for dinner is what they’re having too. If they don’t like it, then they just don’t eat that night. I’m not about catering to their every desire at the dinner table. And much like Danielle’s rule about trying something 10 times before declaring it’s not for you, our rule is that they need to try two bites of something before saying they don’t like it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set a new recipe down in front of them and before even lifting a fork, the first thing out of their mouths is, “Ewww, I don’t like this.” They’ve scrunched up their little noses at dijon-panko crusted salmon, beet and lentil hummus and gourmet fig and radicchio grilled cheese sandwiches, and those have all turned out to be among their favorite meals ever, thanks to the two-bite rule.
For me, it’s all about getting them to be adventurous eaters. I don’t mean they have to become gourmet foodies, but I do want them to try new things whenever possible. Just because it may look strange doesn’t mean it won’t taste amazing. Besides, there’s more to life than chicken nuggets and pizza!