Several friends have asked me countless times how I get Little One to eat her school lunches every day. The truth is, I have no tricks or tips.
We’ve just been very lucky that Little One happens to have an adventurous palate and a voracious appetite. Seriously. That is all.
I was thinking about how all kids are different and have different tastes. What works for one family may not work for another. This could have gone a completely different way for us. Despite all efforts parents make to ensure their kids are offered a variety of healthy foods, sometimes kids just don’t like certain foods, tastes or textures.
I don’t subscribe to the whole idea of hiding fruits and veggies in sauces, baked goods, smoothies, etc. Little One learned early on that those foods were good for her and she actually really liked the taste. Many parents tell me “your child is weird“, because she really likes greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, Swiss chard, zucchini, and cucumber. I don’t find that odd or that she is weird. It’s just food.
This said, I believe that if one must find ways to incorporate fruits and veg into their kids’ meals without kids knowing, then a parent must do what they have to do. Every kid and every family is different and no one can dictate what works for your family.
I also believe that little kids won’t starve themselves. We’ve had the odd occasion of Little One not wanting to eat. I didn’t force her. I told her that the curried lentil soup was the only thing I was offering and that she could take it or leave it. I thought it was odd, because she is a soup kid. She loves soup! She left it, but when she got hungry, she decided it was a good idea to eat the soup.
Alyson Schafer wrote a great article: Panicked Over Picky Eaters. In case you haven’t read any of her articles, books or haven’t taken one of her workshops yet, she covers all aspects of parenting and helps lower the stress of parenting one tip at a time.
Alyson Schafer is a Therapist, TV personality, columnist, spokesperson, educator and consultant. She is one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. Alyson is the resident expert on these national outlets: HuffPost Parents, The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CanadaAm.
In the picky eaters article, she mentions the following:
Picky eaters don’t usually get a chance to experience true hunger – their parents jump in too fast and save them through catering to their preferences or compensating with big yummy snacks.
My friend, Jelly Jules has a great quote. “I like to say I don’t get all of the credit, or all of the blame”
So true! A parent can do all that they can to offer their child healthy food and a great meal, and their child may still just not want to try what is served. This is why I believe part of Little One eating all her meals is just luck for us.
Little One loves trying new foods and this makes world travel so much easier for me! She said that her favourite airport is Narita Airport in Japan because there are so many amazing food options there!
I’ve been to many countries in Asia, the Caribbean, Indonesia, and I’ve been all over Canada and the U.S., so being able to eat whatever is offered makes life easier when traveling. Friends and family worried when I took Little One to the Philippines when she was three years old, because they didn’t think she would eat the food there.
Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what to expect either.
When I took Little One to the Philippines, she ate everything my family in Batangas offered her. I was in shock, because she was even eating things I wouldn’t eat. That fish she was eating in the middle photo? I didn’t eat that. I also have a photo of her eating Dinuguan and puto (pork blood stew with a sort of sticky rice cake. She LOVED that. That was another thing I didn’t eat.
From an early age, Little One always just ate whatever we ate. When she was a toddler, when we were having stew, she’d eat stew. Butternut squash soup and kale salad for dinner? That’s what she’d have too.
No tips or tricks. Just luck and some things that work for our family.
One thing I’m fortunate with is that Little One wants to eat what I eat. For example, I really love a good “green smoothie”. In the morning, I make myself a green smoothie with kale and spinach, and whatever fruit I have around (sometimes berries, sometimes pineapple or mango or apple). I add in some flax and for myself, protein powder or greens+. To my surprise, Little One is crazy about the green smoothies and wants them too! In our case, it’s a lot of “monkey see, monkey do”. I find it really unusual, because I have yet to find many other kids who run off with a mason jar filled with liquified spinach and kale.
Then again, I grew up in a Filipino/Chinese/Trinidadian household and my parents were world travelers (part of Dad’s job as an international credit manager). Dad would come home with recipes he loved from his business trips to Argentina, France, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong, Bali, and Singapore. I remember him getting back from a trip to France and serving us les cuisses de grenouille and escargot! My brothers and I were a bit grossed out by frog’s legs and snails, but we actually enjoyed the snails cooked in garlic butter! I guess we also enjoyed trying new foods because we were given the opportunity to try.
Too many choices = Too complicated
Just from our experience, if we give too many choices, it complicates things.
I told myself that life on the farm and working full-time from my home office and then having lots of activities off-farm kept our family very busy and I was not going to be making several different meals to suit and accommodate every member of the family’s cravings or tastes. I would make one meal and Hubby and Little One could either eat it or leave it, but I wasn’t going to make anything else or anything special for either of them. Either that, or they cook their own food.
Growing up, it was the same thing. My parents took turns cooking and we either ate or went to bed hungry. I don’t recall ever going to bed hungry.
Get Little One involved in making meals
What’s helped us is that Little One is involved in our meals. She helps with every aspect of our meals. She helps me plant our seeds, grow our vegetables, harvest the vegetables and fruit, and prepare, cook, and serve our meals.
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when Little One’s “help” hindered the dinner-making process. Everything took so much longer to do and the clean up took even longer. It was easier and faster for me to just do it myself. Then I realized that if I did everything, A) she would never learn, and B) she would expect me to do everything.
If Little One has an input, she’s likely to want to eat what she chooses
I mentioned earlier that when Little One was very little, she ate whatever we were eating. She was a toddler, so she ate what she was given. She never had any issues. We did the “try it at least three times and if you still don’t like it, at least you tried it.” To this day, she doesn’t like the texture of raw tomatoes, yet she loves it in salsa, stews, soups and sauces. Raw tomatoes are the only things she isn’t a fan of. That and overly greasy and overly sweet foods.
Serve what I know she loves
Little One has a say in what she would like us to have for dinner. Her favourites are butternut squash soup, Filipino BBQ, Tortang Talong, stew, borscht, okonomiyaki, sushi, fish, wonton soup, split pea soup, Chicken Adobo, Sinigang, lasagna, spaghetti bolognese, leek and potato soup…and, the list goes on.
Little One loves all of the above, so I make those dishes quite often. She really likes taking leftovers to school for lunch.
Let her do it
“Never do for a child what a child can do for themselves” – Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs
Well, I admit that sometimes I do things for Little One that I know she can do for herself. I do, however, get her to pack her lunches. She’s accountable for what she puts in there. I do have two things I ask of her though. I ask that she makes sure she includes food from all food groups and that she adds fruits and veggies of all colours. When she was very little, we did the “eating a rainbow” thing. She had to eat fruits and veggies of all colours, and she loved it! This is carried through today.
For the lunches, putting her food in either her Bentology Living lunch box or her Planetbox helps her see what’s in there without having to open different containers. Everything is right there before her eyes and easy to access. It also helps her with making sure she puts different food groups in different compartments.
Every day, she chooses a different Funkins eco-friendly cloth napkin. We have about twenty to choose from. Yes, I’ve got a bit of a cloth napkin/litterless lunch obsession here!
I also include a special Lunchbox Love note in her lunches. She’s always excited to read the sweet notes that let her know I’m thinking of her and she also enjoys the Did You Know? facts and the jokes and riddles on the back of the cards.
In case you’re wondering, this is not a sponsored post! The above companies are just companies we love.
So, there you have it! I have no magic spells to cast for getting kids to eat their food. I have no tricks or tips. All I have is a bit of luck and some things that work for my family.