Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Feeding Kids Real Food

I like to pretend that my approach to feeding kids is like this:

Weird, but also undeniably entertaining to kids.

But really, it’s probably more like this.

When my kids talk about me when they’re older I’m going to be the weird food mom. The one that feeds her kids green smoothies and acts like you won’t even taste the tofu.

I mean, I make cookies, but I make kale salad, vegan pizza, and veggie lasagna with marinated tofu and brown rice noodles or other similarly scary to kid items all the time, too.

Sometimes I forget. Say I took this vegan lasagna for a get-together dinner with kids that are not my own. Oops. Suddenly I felt like I am a bit of a food-torturer. I guess tofu mom should stay home behind closed doors. 

Food is strange. It has such an affect on the social atmosphere and vice versa.

I think it’s definitely a personal choice how important what your kids eat is to you. I totally get why some parents stick to chicken nuggets and white rice and quesadillas. My daughter would have been perfectly content to eat those things herself.

I think the question: “How do I get my kids to eat real food?” is a tough one. It’s something I’m thinking a lot about now that I’m on my second approach with the 2nd kid. He seems to be just as picky and stubborn about food as Amaya was. The most common answers are flawed. Cooking with your kids is great, but that doesn’t necessarily make my daughter eat anything. Hiding healthy food (i.e. Spinach brownies) is great for getting nutrition into unsuspecting kids, but it doesn’t help kids enjoy real food.

Here’s what I do to help my daughter learn to love real food. She’s pretty great now about eating everything without complaining. Usually.

Cook a lot of different food. I have a few meals that I repeat, but generally I am always trying new recipes. That’s just my personality. It’s easy to stick with a few foods that you know your kids like, but it can give them an expectation that’s hard to break. Amaya knows that rice is not only white or even brown and meat can be bone on or falling off the bone. I don’t have to play the “but this is something you like” game because she’s seen most foods cooked in many ways.

Take kids out to eat at places that have different foods than what you normally eat. Taking kids to restaurants is not ideal for a Friday night date, but it does mix that whole “this is special” thing with the opportunity of trying new foods.

Require them to eat new foods. So many people have told me this is a bad idea. There are a lot of people that subscribe to the “they’ll eat if they’re hungry” thing. I think this is true for many kids, but not for a picky one. Picky kids will wait until they’re hungry and cranky and still fight you.

This part can be painful. Amaya has actually convinced herself into gagging so many times. Fits and multiple time outs are something I hope you’ll find a way around.

My rules have to do with variety. Throwing variables into my cooking is exactly what has taught me to love different and new foods over the years, so why shouldn’t it work for kids?

I’ve had to repeat these steps for years. My daughter is incredibly stubborn. I guess on this issue, I’ve been more stubborn.

How do you introduce your kids to real food?



Anonymous said...

OMG, the Brobie is so my niece! Yay!

Anonymous said...

Heehee, I love Yo Gabba Gabba and Kid History! :) Yes, cooking a variety of yummy food sis probably your best bet!

a little food fetish said...

I love this post. Just watched Forks over Knives documentary, and would love to gear our eating more toward plant based. Obviously, due to our current eating style, a polynesian hubby, and little mouths, it will have to be a gradual transition. But yes, you can bring tofu lasagna to my house. :)

Katie Lewis said...

Oh, you mean Cheerios and Mac&Cheese aren't real foods? Uhh...

sophia said...

I don't have kids. Thank God. But I think even if the kid doesn't like "real food" when she is young, by exposing her/him to it constantly, there will be a time when she starts appreciating it by herself. Take me, for example. My mom used to scream at me every meal because all I wanted was white rice and fried stuff. When I ate a broccoli, I literally threw up. Now I love brown rice, vegetables and fruits. Broccoli is my favorite. Go figure!

Mariko said...

Katie: If you tell me Mac & cheese isn't real food, I will probably starve to death. :)

Sophia: Oh, good. So you're saying I'm not going to do any real damage to my kids by screaming at them for not eating? Cool. Phew. :)

Masayuki said...

I laughed so hard at that second video. Great post.

Robbie said...

Loved the video clips! How do you find things like that?

I think you're doing a great job introducing variety at an early age. I do let my kids get one other choice if they won't eat what I serve, but the other option is also healthy. Then if they refuse both, they don't eat and just get milk or something later. I can't do the fighting! But Amaya is not the pickiest eater I've ever seen, so count yourself successful in your efforts! :)

Your kids are very lucky to have you as their mom/chef! I miss your cooking so much!

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