Thursday, February 26, 2015

13 Ideas for Getting the Good Inside 'Em

When I was a little girl I remember my mother making Brussel sprouts...once. I gagged on them. 

I took small servings of salads. Peas and corn were favorite "vegetables" (known today as "carbs") and I did eat whatever we had, but squash? Oh my. Thankfully, my mother didn't serve mushrooms very often!

Fast forward an untold number of years--veggies are some of my favorite foods. While I'm not especially a squash fan, I can find ways to make it good that don't involve excess quantities of butter and sugar. But I do love vegetables and have taught myself to fill up on salads until I liked them.

But how can we get those good things into kids without threatening ("You will eat this or else") or bribing ("if you eat your broccoli you can have this triple chocolate brownie with ice cream and whipped cream.")

Here are some ideas that have worked in our family:

  1. Dress it! -- when our kids used to come home from school sometimes the snack was bread or crackers with some peanut butter and a small pile of raisins and a few pieces of cereal to create their own design. Most popular design: a smiley face.
  2. Dip it! -- My grandkids will eat just about anything if they can dip it in something. Veggies can be dipped in a bit of ranch dressing; bread in a bit of jam; quesadillas in yogurt with a touch of salsa.
  3. Name it! -- A "tree" is much more fun to eat than broccoli. Carrots can be called, "bunny food." How about making "blocks" out of bits of cheese? Or the special food can be named after the person who made it for them first: "Aunt Matty's stew" and "Grandma's Toast."
    Photo Credit (name added)
  4. Puzzle it! -- I can remember taking quite a while to cut an apple into two zigzagged pieces to have my kids put together. Time to cut: 3 minutes per apple. Time to solve: 10 seconds. But they ate the apples! You could do 4 pieces to make it a bit more challenging. Or cut a sandwich into various shapes and have them put it together and then eat it piece by piece.
  5. Choose it! -- Have them help decide what will be for dinner. Guide them to have a balanced meal and they will probably eat happily what they chose.
  6. Buy it! -- If they are given money for a meal to make for the family, and buy their own, they will want to eat it.
  7. Grow it! -- My kids happily ate radishes that they grew in our tiny front garden. They had planted, watered, and picked them. Of course they were going to eat them!
  8. Prepare it! -- When they do the work of putting a meal together they will want everyone to eat it all and not waste it...including themselves.
  9. Mess with it! -- Let your kids have fun while they eat. Don't hyperventilate about messes. Sure you want them to learn to not be sloppy, but so long as it's not deliberate, be willing to clean up small messes.
  10. Alphabetize it! -- Try having a meal where everything starts with one letter of the alphabet like chicken, corn, cauliflower, and croissants.
  11. Colorize it! -- Go for a color theme. Like red meat, peppers, beets, apples, cranberry sauce, and cherries for dessert.
  12. Internationalize it! -- Learn about another country and try some food from there. We used to do this to teach our kids about missionaries. We got letters, pictures, recipes, a few words in their language, and prayer requests from a missionary family and then after dinner we prayed for them and then wrote them letters. 
  13. Try it! -- My grandchildren have to eat a "No Thank You" bite of new, grown up type foods. If they don't like it after one bite they can say, "No thank you" to more that night. Knowing they don't have to eat more helps them to try that one bite without protesting. I'm not certain of the rules in their house for the second time, but when I was growing up I had to try two bites the second time, three the third, and from then on a small portion.

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