I have 3 children, ages 9, 7 and 5, with that being said, dinner time is never a dull moment. My oldest and youngest are pretty open minded to trying new foods and they both enjoy most of what I cook, even the vegetables. My oldest has a dislike for most breakfast foods (which I cannot relate to at all, breakfast is one of my favorites), eggs...forget about it, pancakes....nope, bacon, sausage, french toast....nope, nope, nope, even orange juice is a big no way. My youngest decides on a frequent basis that foods she normally enjoys eating are suddenly something she doesn't like any more. She also has a love/hate relationship with tomatoes (kind of like her mommy). Ketchup is great, marinara sauce is great, she will even eat a mozzarella, tomato, basil sandwich, but sneak a tomato in her salad and forget about it.
The middle child, well, he is our biggest challenge. His idea of a great meal involves anything with cheese, preferably deep fried, with a side of cheese. He actually looks at the broccoli on his plate and proudly declares it his "arch nemesis." Three years ago, the serving of vegetables on his plate was minuscule and when he forced a bite in his mouth, he would gag, sometimes vomit and meal time was ruined. So, here is the challenge...how do I get him to eat vegetables without the vomiting and without becoming a short order cook catering to everyone's specific tastes? Knowing that eating vegetables is important I have made attempts to get him to not only eat his vegetables, but enjoy his vegetables. I tried and still use the "Sneaky Chef" method, mushing vegetables up into undetectable pieces of nothing and mixing them into something he will willingly eat and it works, but I don't feel like I am teaching the right lesson. I feel it is necessary to put the vegetable on his plate and tell him he needs to eat it. Why? Because I want to teach him good eating habits for his future. I want him to see at dinner his plate should have a protein, a vegetable and a whole grain.
In the "Don't pick on picky eaters" article, it mentions feeding kids food they WANT to eat, if I did that, my son would never eat anything of nutritional value and he would most definitely never willingly opt to eat a vegetable. So, instead of always making chicken nuggets with a side of macaroni and cheese, I make Teriyaki Chicken & Pineapple with some fresh steamed broccoli and a side of whole grain rice. I don't want to eat hot dogs every night for dinner, so I make things I want to eat that is tasty, nutritious and adult-kid friendly. It's not as if I am serving up Escargot with a side of Foie Gras and forcing the kids to eat it, but I do want to expand their taste buds a little.
It also states, "Don't make meal time a battle ground." Well, I declare war and I am the General. So, I put the "arch nemesis" on his plate and simply tell him, "You have to eat it." It might not be his favorite part of dinner and typically he will use whatever chaser he can find to mix the vegetable with, but the bottom line is: he eats it.
I am proud to report that over a year's worth of work, we have broken down many barriers. We started with all the basic vegetables (broccoli, carrots, green beans, cauliflower) and served him small portions. I also make it fun by serving things like vegetable tempura or sweet potato fries. He now actually eats vegetables with little to no protest and we have also increased the portion we put on his plate. So my advice to moms (and dads) trying to get their kids to eat their veggies....just make them. Let's face it, doing things we don't always want to do is part of life and rewarding (or bribing) them with a scrumptious dessert afterwards doesn't hurt with the life lesson!