True Parent Struggles: FOOD Battles with Kids (Episode 94)
In this "True Parent Struggles" episode, we address food. Like the comedian Jerry Seinfeld says, "you can't really spoil an appetite...it always comes back!" So why do we get into food battles with kids? What can we do to not make the dinner table a battlefield?
Food battles with kids can be a waste of energy, time, and create a negative relationship with food from the get-go.
The Clean Plate Club
We love to be a zero-food-waste family. It is rare we have leftovers. Hey, we live in a 29-foot travel trailer with the equivalent of a "beer fridge". So it's not like we even have space for them! Between a tiny fridge and no garbage disposal, we have become pros at eating every little thing we make...even down to that last little nugget of rice.
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It's not about heaping plates and force-feeding your children.
It's about learning at an early age to only take what you need...which is a pretty great life principle.
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It's not about force-feeding your children
We aren't talking about force-feeding your children - we are talking about giving your children a "survival portion" - not a heaping plate of food they can't finish.
We live in a culture that likes everything "super-size". However, it's not necessary. We would rather allow our children to get seconds or even thirds vs. piling their plates so high they can't finish what they get.
This really helps set the precedent of abundance - that we can get more when we need it, not just hoarding what we may get to later on.
What is Your Relationship With Food?
We definitely live in a culture that oftentimes believes fellowship and food always go hand-in-hand. Yes, community can be around food, but that doesn't mean it has to be the center of every thing we do.
Look beyond meals and food for your next get-together. Can you simply gather and connect and leave the food out of it? We've found park playdates a great way to allow parents to talk and kids to be entertained with no food on the agenda.
And for those picky eaters, ask yourself if it's truly worth the battle. Are you looking at a scenario where your child is going to starve if they don't eat? Can they skip a meal? If our children are thriving and healthy, them choosing to miss a meal will not ruin them forever. And eventually, they will eat what options are placed in front of them when real hunger actually hits.
Quick Tips for Eating out:
When you go out to eat, there are a few easy things you can do to keep the food waste (and kid craziness) to a minimum:
- Order family style - instead of individual meals, look at sharing plates.
- Know your staples - meals your kids are always good with. For us, oftentimes that may even just be a side of beans and rice.
- Prepare in advance - if you know you're doing a late meal or something pricey, think ahead. Maybe you go ahead and feed them food before you go. Like Jerry Seinfeld says, "you can't ruin your appetite; it will always come back!"
- Think outside the box - maybe you feed your kids ahead of time and let them just get a fun dessert. Or grab appetizers. Oftentimes you don't get every course when you go out to eat - you're too full, it's too expensive... so have some fun with ordering different things vs. the entree.
You can always order more. Don't waste.
Think about this - if you run out of food and are still hungry, you have to really think - do you want to wait for more food? This allows your body to settle and really determine how hungry you are anyway, and oftentimes we'll make the call that we aren't that hungry to wait around for it, and we may just have a snack at home instead. So we save our wallets and our waistlines.
Want to explore more around these food concepts? Check out these additional pages:
We only have one tree blooming right now
Think about before we were able to ship food all over the world. What is available at that moment in the place you live? If you are in Maine in the wintertime, you're not going to even get blueberries, much less pineapples and bananas.
And yet, people lived through this. They ate what was in season when they could get it. The insane variety of foods we have now wasn't an option.
So we have this philosophy in our own home - what we cook is the one tree blooming for this "season" (or meal). You can take it or leave it, but that's all there is. We aren't short-order cooks. Our children won't starve. But they learn to roll with it, to appreciate food that is offered, and to recognize the hard work that was put into making it.
And if you have a picky eater...welcome to
"No Thank-You Bite BootCamp"
Ah, “no thank you bites”. My aunt pushed me to try new things by simply requiring one bite of new things.
First off, it can take many, many introductions of a new food before tastebuds acquire the taste.
Second, we did “no thank you bite boot camp” when our children were little, using a food we knew was a sweet treat that didn’t look so great. We wouldn’t force or beat them into submission; we simply only had one thing to offer.
And eventually each one tried it, and discovered they really liked it! It opened the door for them to try new foods, and we've created some pretty adventurous eaters who also recognize that their tastebuds do change over time, so they've even ended up liking something they hated a year before.
Food is not the center of your world
Look again at what your relationship with food is. Does this need to be a consistent battle in your home? Food is food - it doesn't have to be the center of every experience. Maybe you need to even let go of traditional mealtimes and let people eat when they are hungry. Maybe skipping a meal, or having an "a la carte" or snack buffet can be an option vs. a full sit-down meal.
Your Weekly Challenge:
For picky eaters:
Do a "no thank you bite boot camp" - try it as a family! Get something fun that is different, and everyone try it together. Maybe it's "new food Friday"!
For food wasters:
Try to do minimal servings and create a family challenge to clear your plates - think back to kids camps!
Instead of getting reactive and frustrated as you've prepared yourself for a battle, approach food with a little less heaviness and expectation.
The uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
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