Tuesday, 8 November 2011

What to feed kids

Our three boys have been with us for just over 3 months now. We have lots of ups and many downs. Many of the downs can be attributed to "the adjustment period." After all, they're adjusting to us and we're adjusting to them. Like our case worker has said, George and I have been parents for 3 months while they've been kids for 6, 7 and 9 years. We're still getting to know each other.
Veggies from our garden

It seems that one of the consistent "downs" is around dinnertime. George and I firmly believe making two dinners (one for the kids and one for us) is completely out of the question. Everyone should have the same dinner. Fair enough, right? I mean, who has the time or inclination to make two dinners everyday? So George no longer uses hot spices and he chooses pretty basic foods kids enjoy (like chicken). But every night it's the same thing:
- one kid picks through the ingredients saying "i don't like this" even though he has no idea what it is.
- one kid arbitrarily saying "I hate tomatoes", even though he loves ketchup, pizza (with sauce) and other tomato related products. 
- one kid saying "I hate this" which is hurtful, even though it shouldn't be. 
- one kids saying "I'm not hungry" but 15 minutes ago he was running around asking "how much longer for dinner"

And the weirdest thing is how often the kids are asking "What's for dinner?" They'll ask that 5 minutes after waking up, and probably 5 more times during the day. This is just flat out irritating. 

We can't win. And it's trying on our nerves. 

And sadly, George is losing his passion for cooking. He is such an amazing cook. I mean, this guy can take leftovers from the last three nights and throw together a meal like something you'd find in a restaurant! 

My sister had a great suggestion that works (kinda) for us. Each kid can pick a meal for the week. The condition is that everyone must eat their selection as long as they eat everyone else's selection. Works most times. And they actually pick yummy stuff (like Sloppy Joes and Tacos)

We do the whole "no dessert unless you finish your meal" thing. That works sometimes. 

In the summer they got to pick veggies from the garden for dinners that were to be made that night. They seemed to get a kick out of that. 

My question is this: how do you get kids to eat consistently and healthily without bitching all the time? Or do you resort to giving them pop tarts because it's better than nothing? 

Any suggestions/advice/help would be appreciated. 


Peter On The Bruce said...

It was the Jesuits who said something to the effect of 'give us a child for the first seven years, and you can have him for the rest'. Many of our attitudes etc. are formed in the early years of our lives and your kids come to you pretty much 'well done' - sorry about that.
Dinner time is an opportunity for them to get attention and have some control in their lives, things that have been lacking in the past,and what they say may not always seem rational to you and George. Paradoxically meal times aren't always about eating and food, and perhaps you both need to cut them a little slack. What are you going to do if George goes back to work when his maternity leave is over?
Pop tarts anyone?

Anita O-K said...

I think Peter has a really good point about the boys using mealtime to assert some control. My parents were uber-strict when it came to dinnertime, and I swore I'd never be the same with my kids. Unfortunately, it does lead to extra meal prep, but it's really not that hard to whip up a 3 cheese grilled cheese with a side of raw carrots while I'm frying up some lemon rosemary fish filets for Mum and Dad on the other burner. Or making them quesadilla's with pureed yellow beans hidden in with the cheese ;) while our meal is roasting in the oven.

One favorite I have in my repertoire that the whole family loves, however, is a recipe adapted from Tom's Mum. It's a meatloaf made with 2/3 ground beef or turkey and 1/3 steamed and pureed veggies (cauliflower, broccolli and carrots work well), along with the standard eggs, breadcrumbs, and seasonings of your choice. Super yummy (can't detect the veggies at all), easy to make, and full nutrition in one dish.

Also (excuse me if I'm repeating myself here), we employ the "if you eat a lot of dinner you get a lot of dessert; if you eat a little bit of dinner you get a little bit of dessert" method (must eat at least some of all food groups on the plate). It works tremendously well for us! Especially when Melissa eats ALL her veggies and gets two little scoops of ice cream while her big brother, who only had one carrot only gets about a tablespoon's worth ;) He often goes back to finish them in order to get his fair share of the sweets!
And... Pop Tarts once in a while for dinner won't kill em! My two cents :) Good Luck!!

Jen B said...

Mealtimes are most parents nightmare so what you're dealing with is nothing new - and when you figure out how to deal with it - patent it - you'll make millions. A few things I have learned. Don't have dessert right after dinner. Kids should be full of dinner after dinner, not saving room for sweets. This also allows you to get more good stuff in - as well as a treat - at snack time. My kids have to have a yoghurt before they can have any other snack at bedtime then IF they have had a good dinner they can have a small special snack.
Only put on their plates what you actually expect them to eat. Be very reasonable with your portion sizes. They can alwasy ask for more and if they eat it all - celebrate.
I agree with you about the two meals thing. I sort-of do it sometimes - I will cook the adults fresh fish and the boys (as healthy as I can find) breaded fish. Pick your battles.
Use sauces and dips for meat and veggies. Kids learn quick that you can cover up the taste with lots of ranch, cheese cause, ketchup or apple sauce. Allow for a "no thank you" portion. They have to try everything on their plate. They say kids have to try some things up to 8 times before they "like" it.
Remind them - calmly - that it is hurtful and rude to say "I dont' like" and they are free to pick out the mushrooms/onions/chunks of tomato/etc.
Last but not least, have an incentive to get dinner done. When dinner is done we will...and when the first child is done get up and start whatever it is. I have friends who put a time limit on dinner - child has 30 minutes to eat dinner - and then the plate is removed and they are only allowed a healthy snack at bedtime.
This is a tough one because you want your kids to be healthy and eat well but the battle at meal time is unhealthy all on its own.
*sigh* As I said...let me know if you find the solution...I have these same battles with my 6 and 8 year olds and I have parented them their entire lives...and I agree - Pop Tarts won't kill them. :)