Wednesday, January 21, 2009

FAQ's - Do Your Kids Really Eat This Stuff?


When you have a tight grocery budget there is very little room for convenience foods which seem to be the first choice among anyone between the diaper stage and the I-can-vote stage. Our diet consists mostly of home cooked meals which rely heavily on beans, rice, pasta, veggies, fruit, dairy products and small amounts of meat. There are no frozen pizzas or burritos in my freezer unless I’ve made them myself and stuck them in there. And I’m often asked…

“How do you get your kids to eat this stuff?”

So I thought I’d share some of the house rules.

The first is that there are no complaints about the food set before them. We are one of the few countries that make eating a recreational sport. No wonder we have such a high obesity rate. We eat purely out of desire rather than to feed our bodies and we are training our kids the same way. I know, I do it too. In most of the rest of the world eating is to fuel their bodies and they are grateful to have it no matter what it is. I need a little bit more of that perspective in my life. So no one is allowed to say “Oh yuck” at our table or “I’m not eating this” or any form of “What is THAT?” asked with disgust in their tone. We practice being grateful for what we have. Sometimes we practice a lot.

Second, They must try everything set before them by taking one bite. A lot of times they judge it by how it looks but as soon as I instituted this rule they realized that at least half of what they thought looked yucky was really actually pretty darn good. I really don’t make anything disgusting like cow tongue or fried grubs. Most of what I make is nutritious, good for their bodies in some way and tasty. And I don’t feed them anything I wouldn’t eat myself. Plus I don’t set them up for failure or for waste either. If it’s something they might not like I give them a bite size serving. If they want more after that they are welcome to it.

Third, If they choose not to eat it that’s fine by me. As long as they give it a try and don’t waste (see #2) and aren’t rude about it (see #1) then I’m not going to force them to eat it. They just aren’t allowed to replace the rejected food with snacks. They can eat again at the next meal. That usually gives a little extra incentive to look at their food with a better attitude. And again, I’m not feeding them anything disgusting or that I wouldn’t eat myself. If they are choosing not to eat it, it’s purely out of preference. Although there have been times that they have still chosen to skip it but it doesn’t happen very often.

And Fourth, Chris and I follow these rules ourselves. I really can’t expect them to try strange foods and not complain unless I’m doing the same thing. So Chris and I have resolved to have a good attitude and be grateful for what we have too.

But all this made me wonder what the kids thought about some of my meals. So I temporarily removed the no complaining rule and asked them this question….

“Is there anything I’ve made that you thought was totally disgusting?”

They had no hesitation in reminding me of a few culinary disasters. And of course I have a house full of boys (and one girl ) so they tried to top each other in their gross assessments.

“The tofu soup thing you made once tasted like toe jam dug out of a belly button” (Yeah, I didn’t really care for that one either.)

“That polenta thing tasted like puke” (Hmmm, I really liked that one.)

“Even I didn’t like the pumpkin oatmeal, Mom” (From my kid who will eat anything.)

“Remember the time you were out of milk and you used mayonnaise to make waffles? Now THAT was gross. ” (Ok, not my most shining moment.)

So there you have it. The food rules of the house and the true thoughts from my kids. All wrapped up in one tidy blog post. You can’t get much more real than that.

43 comments:

Simon said...

Dear Gayle,

Cooked low and slow, beef tongue can be sublimely tender. It is also really inexpensive most places. Don't judge a cut (of beef) by its cover.

Health and happiness to you and yours.

Katherine said...

Those are a good set of rules! We are having a problem with our 4 year old not wanting to eat anything other than PB&J and junk. He is getting better, but I think adding a more rounded set of rules would help (we already have the one bite/try everything rule). Thanks!

Jackie said...

Gayle, very insightful...and funny. I do the same, except it's the husband who gives me the hardest time : )

He doesnt' like to try new stuff...says I mess with plain old food too much. Where's his sense of adventure, I say!

Leslie said...

You are too funny!! We apply these same rules in our house and I have to say the same goes for the 16 month old. If we can get just one little nibble down her throat then she ends up liking it!! ;)

Dusty said...

Wonderful! Now, if only I could get my hubby to follow those rules, we'd be all set! lol.

two_blue_one_pink said...

We have the same rules at our house. You have to try it before you can say you dont like it. But if its green you have to eat it.

Terri and Bob said...

This is so honest and hilarious!!

Shoebee said...

I agree with you...eat what I make or don't eat. I agree with that too. I also have the rule of, you have to at least try one bite before you say you don't like it. Many a times my youngest says that he doesn't like something (because of the way it looks) and I remind him that he has to try at least one bite, one bite later turns into a plateful of food later. I also remind the youngest that he can use katsup on anything (he LOVES katsup...even ice cream), that usually gets him to eat anything. I am not going to make something different for everyone, I do not own a resturant.

Terri and Bob said...

I didn't mention that my family can't forget my Invent a Casserole that I did every week while Ashley was in elementary school. Maybe I'll do a post on it!

Debbie said...

Chicken Breasts were on sale for $.99 lb. Bought 10 lbs, froze 2 for future use, oven roasted the other 9, picked off the meat (about 10 cups). I made 20 chicken enchilladas (cooked 5 for dinner and froze the others in 3 foil containers for future dinners). used the Rescue Turkey Stock recipe and made stock from the breast bones. Then made 2 large pots of soup. One was a Southwest Chicken Tortilla (husband really liked this one)and chicken noodle. This was the first time I had ever made stock or soup and was surprised at how easy (although time consuming) it was.

noelle said...

We roll that way here too. And we have a CSA so sometimes we have weird veggies that I won't waste so we need to eat them.

Another thing I do? If I know there is something that may not go over well, I try to make sure there is something on the table that is a favorite like corn, broccoli or even brown rice or ww pasta.

~yolanda said...

Oh how funny. We have similar rules in my house. My kids are not allowed to call food nasty or disgusting. We simply say, "I don't care for it or it doesn't suit my taste" :)

People ask me all the time how I get my kids to eat things like asparagus and avocado. It's because we don't eat a lot of junk, but fresh foods instead. Your body develops a taste for what you put in it. The idea that by beholding we become changed applies to food as well. :)

Kate said...

I REALLY enjoy your blog...but today you outdid yourself and I love it even more now. Very nice to see another Mother trying to go against the norm and feed your kids healthy stuff that didn't fall out of a package. Thank-you for this post!!! I usually let my 4 year old son have some kind of special snack for preschool (2 days a week) like yogurt tubes, cheese sticks or granola bars. This post really reminds me that I could tighten up the budget even more by not splurging on those unnecessary items. There are children in the world who don't have food...my son can take my homemade granola to school for his snack! :0)

Gina said...

I'm curious as to the rationale behind the mayonnaise substitution. was it because they are both white (sort of)??

Bobbi Jo said...

Great rules! Mine are close to that but every once in a while I get the yucky face of disgust with something,usually from my 16 yr. old boy who does not like most green veggies. Thank you for sharing those. Hugs, Bobbi Jo

Heidi said...

Oh you make me laugh! I love the picture... and the comments from the kids! My little guy (7 yrs old) is the worst at providing feedback I never wanted, so our new rule is he has to say something nice about the meal before he even sits down. :)

Latte said...

Girl you are so hilarious! Truly that picture made me bust up! Well doing all this frugal stuff made me realize I need to have a second blog just for frugal posts. So my frugal posts are at http://www.theorganicfrugalfreak.blogspot.com

I of course added you to my blog roll!

Well stay frugal,
Latte

newlyweds said...

Great set of rules and lifestyle you are teaching your children. I also believe if you start them early eating healthy foods they will continue to eat that way, and be more open to new kinds of foods. Great job!

Love the mayonnaise in the waffles!!!

the purple plum said...

I've always wanted to ask you thet question !

Kari said...

we have very similar rules. I've heard some call the one bite rule, a "no thank you bite" kind of cute. In our house, they have to take the number of bites as how old they are. So right now, it is 4 and 5 bites. It seems to work fine. I figure if it takes anywhere between 20 and 100 exposures of a flavor to adjust, at least I'll only have to serve it 5-20 times, instead of a hundred! works for us.
I love that you don't allow the complaining, isn't great when they learn the self control, to be polite with new food?

gail said...

that's great! we have similiar rules, tho i'm probably not as hardcore. you're an inspiration.

Melissa said...

We have one ultra picky eater in our house. Two nights ago my hubby had had it, so my hubby decided our son had to make dinner the next night (which was last night). Of course I helped a tiny bit since he's 8, but he had to pick it out what he was cooking and did most of the work. He chose Sloppy Joe's (which he's never had in his life). He was getting pretty freaked out in the kitchen about it because it didn't look too appealing, but I had him do a little test taste while we were preparing and he learned he liked it (wow, Mikey likes it!!!). He scarfed his down licky split last night, but hubby & I know that if he hadn't cooked it himself, he would have totally turned his nose up at it before giving it an honest try. So our new rule in the house is if you turn your nose up at the meal, you're cooking the next night. Kids!

Beth said...

My girl won't touch polenta with a ten foot pole. But the other 4 of us love it!

Some_Area_Gal said...

we have similar rules around our house. I have people that say that's too harsh for children that age (both under 4), but it works! They still don't eat some foods, but they know they don;t get something else in place.

Another thing we find useful: They have to eat there Veggies before the main dish (me and hubby do this too, just to set example). The still get plenty to eat, but they don't have the excuse of "I'm too full" to eat the veggies.

Jennifer said...

My sister has let her kids be extremely picky, i.e. brand specific on almost everything, including milk! It drives me insane. I will not let my kids be so picky. They have the foods that they don't like, but for the most part they all eat whatever I fix. I let them each pick one food that they never have to eat. That has really helped with the complaining.

LOL, last night I made porcupine scramble and it finally came to light at the end of the meal, that none of the kids like it at all. dh and I could take it or leave it, so I guess I won't be making that anymore. Oh and I can't imagine putting mayonaise in waffles!

hmsclmom said...

All of my boys are grown up now and eat a wide variety of foods. Our rule was that everyone may have 1 "hated food" ;) a year that they did not have to eat. They could only pick what their hated food was on New Year's Day and that was it for the year. No changing their choice until the next New Year! ;) They were expected to eat everything else put before them. I did not force large portions on them. If it was a new food, I had them try a small portion and most of the time they ended up liking it and getting more for themselves. If not, they would finish what I had given them and fill up on something else that I served with the meal. They also helped me cook and somehow, having helped make something themselves made it even more appetizing. ;)

Jodi said...

LOL--I used to eat tongue as a child (it's a common Kosher deli meat). But not anymore now that I know what it is! There are few foods I won't eat, but my children are very picky. And stubborn, too. I envy you that your rules work and wish I could really stick with them!

Melissa said...

We have a "3 Bite" rule for our 3 year old before she can have seconds of whatever it is she wants (milk, rice, noodles, etc).

We aren't quite as tough on the "you can eat at the next meal". If you have given an honest effort and you just plain don't like it, well, there is oatmeal, cereal or yogurt. Go nuts, but clean it up yourself! (and this applies to everyone) The chef only cleans up HER mess!

rachelg said...

LOVE IT! We have the same rule(s) in our house as well. You eat what is put in front of you. You must at least try an "adventure bite" before you can chose to not eat something on your plate. If there are things I know my kids do NOT like I just don't fix them or make sure there is something else that night as part of the meal they do eat (there is very little they won't eat). I have also found that if you have them help make a meal including things they claim to not like, they are more willing to eat it and find they like more things than they thought!

BEE said...

We have similar rules in our house for our 4 year old and 21 month old....um and for Daddy too! :)

I am not a short order cook and they either are grateful and eat was is set before them or they don't. That simple.

My preschoolers teacher gave me a great idea for when they don't eat. If they are hungry later, which they will be, give them the option of having a "snack" which is leftovers from dinner.

I was doing a great job of enforcing the "I am not a short order cook at dinner time". However, it just slipped my mind that they were filling up on granola bars and popcorn during their before bed snack. No more! It they don't eat dinner that is ok, but before bed snacks will now consist of what was for dinner!

Love reading your blog everyday!! Thanks!

malm said...

WOw! we also have those same rules (really) it's not always easy but I know I can go everywhere with them and they will always find somethings they like on the menu! And those were the rules we had since they were born and 1st started to eat. But it help a lot if mommy and daddy eat the same stuff as them and at the same time!

gloria said...

My favorite rule was that you and hubby can't complain either. lol

Good eating habits have to be instituted as soon as solid food is introduced. I made my own baby food so I children where already used to fresh vegtables. My children where not crazy about meat and where it isn't all that good for you and full or hormones I rarely made them eat it.
Our house rule and still r (even though the kids only come for Sunday dinner)
No one starts eating until we are all seated.
You must try it before you say you dont like. The one one bite rule.
And you must eat 3 out of the 4. In other words I 4 things per meal. We seldom eat dessert I save that for Sunday due to watching our waistline.
I also had the rule take a little; you can more; cause if you take it your eating it.
My husband and I Italian and as you know we love our food...so truthfully there wasn't much my kids didn't like.

Great rules; once again you impress me Gayle
Gloria in MA

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

We have most of the same rules here!

I loved hearing your kids' thoughts on the food! :)

Teeter said...

We have the almost the exact same rules at our house. Except, I will let them tell me (nicely of course) if the don't like something. If the majority of the family doesn't like a meal, then I won't make it again. We are still stuck with it the first time though.

Anonymous said...

I have the exact same rules in my house. I am often told how "lucky" I am that my kids are not picky. Another mom once asked me how I got so "lucky" to not have picky eaters, and I told her the rules. She must not have liked them, because she said to me "well, I don't want to make eating a power struggle" But, there's no power struggle. Ever. Just eat it or don't. And don't complain. I was allowed to be picky as a child, and I didn't think my mother did me any favors by allowing it, so I made sure my kids would have a different experience than I did. I spent a lot of years not eating good stuff because I thought it looked icky.

I wish more people would teach their children to not insult the food that is placed before them.

Oh, and we also do not start eating til everyone is sitting down. :)

$5 Dinner Mom said...

Yeah for you! We follow the same rules and I have the same attitudes about eating as you :)

Erin

Halfmoon Girl said...

My kids would love to share some of their thoughts too, I'm sure. We have the same rules. I think that it really eliminates picky eaters if such rules have always been in place. I have one child who detests fish. I have made him try it- he barfed on his plate- that is quite a funny story. Anyways, if it is something they truly don't like, we don't push the issue with him on those nights. I think that one day he will just start eating it- he mamy be an adult by then, but one day...

Carrie Thompson said...

We have the same rule, you must try it, no complaining, you must eat it or have it the next meal (if it is rewarmable) no snacks if you dont eat. ETC.

I am not the best at enforcing the no snacks rule with my youngest. I am pretty sure she is hypoglycemic so when she gets cranky I feed her a little something even if she hasnt eaten her meal. But she is really good at just eating a few nuts or a peanut butter cracker or even an apple.

I know I need to buckle down even more but HUBBIE is so not on board so I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place!

Kelly said...

Your rules are almost identical to the rules in our house. My kids are not picky eaters and they love to try new things, and they love their veggies.

By the way, I am offering you an award. You can pick it up by visiting my blog. It's not a blogging award. It's a loving mother award.

Thank you for all of your advice and recipes and tips. I have implemented many of them and am able to live on our newly acquired smaller income (my husband lost his job of ten years and had to start over somewhere else).

Shanna said...

We have the same rules. I've always said, that if I won't eat it myself, I will not expect someone else to eat it and if served something I am not sure of, I'll at least try it.

However, our once, I'll eat anything baby, has turned into a "I don't like it!" broken record. I try to enforce these rules, but for him, he doesn't care. He just won't eat. Everyone, including his twin sisters who are only 11 months younger will still eat what everyone else eats. I hope he turns around soon before I have three detesting what is prepared for them. He, if forced, will try it and 7 times out of 10 will like it. The other three times he either really doesn't like it or he likes it but won't admit it (I can tell by the look on his face).

So frustrating.

Mom on the Verge said...

GREAT POST!! We truly do eat for recreation. We also shop for recreation, but that's another story.

But how, oh how, do you get them to eat BEANS?! I cannot for the life of me get anyone here under the age of 45 to eat beans -- not in black bean chili, white bean soup, baked beans, no way, no how. Help!

FromThe Creek said...

This is one area that we have been continually working on in our home!

Michelle in Orygun said...

We try to not cater to picky eaters, although after they've had their token bite they may make themselves pbj--nothing else, just boring old pbj so it's healthy but not that much of an incentive to turn their noses up at dinner. But my youngest will still sometimes absolutely flat out refuse to eat even her token bite (especially if it's potatoes in any form other than fried or chips). She will choose to be hungry until breakfast the next morning rather than eat one little bite! She had sensory integration disorder when she was younger, particularly with odors and textures, so sometimes I wonder if she tastes things more strongly than we do, even though she's mostly outgrown her other sensory issues. But sometimes I just shake my head at her stubbornness! Our older kids are all good eaters now (they were picky as youngsters), so I'm sure she'll eventually come around, but wow--what a ride!