You know that scene in "A Christmas Story" when Ralphie reminisces that every family has a kid who won't eat? I have one of those. I posted this article on my Facebook page (like me like me like me) the other day in gratitude for its great tips for getting kids to eat healthier foods and my gratitude was sincere - I'm losing my touch! I've got everything I need to raise a healthy child: the know-how, the commitment, even the willingness to secretly mix pureed vegetables into his food. But I'm missing one vital ingredient: a child who will actually eat.
My kid is very health-concious, and I love that. He always wants to know whether what we're eating is good for us. But lately, that information seems to just be "good to know," cause when it comes to actually eating, he pretty much hates everything.
Not just the healthy food, either. The list of what he will eat has dwindled down to the point where it's become a family joke. He says he hates it, and we say, but of course! You hate everything! If it were up to him, he'd live on bagels and cream cheese for the rest of his life. It is very tempting to let him do it.
Blueberries are too juicy. Blackberries aren't juicy enough. Strawberries make him cough. Peaches are just plain yucky. Oh, and don't even mention vegetables. That's an Oscar-worthy performance. Even pizza and hamburgers get an upturned nose. This week he is eating apples, but only apple halves, not slices.
I still think these tips for raising healthy kids are spot on, and I've used them to great effect in the past:
1. Include kids in grocery shopping and meal preparation. We're all more aggreeable when we get to vote! My son and I often bake muffins on the weekends for school snacks and it's really fun. Of course, then he won't eat them but he does a great job of leading me to believe he will.
2. Don't use food as a reward. This is a BIGGIE. Food is fuel for our bodies, not a reward. It is so so so hard to not promise a cookie for good behavior or go out for frozen yogurt to reward a job well-done, but this is a very slippery slope. We still eat cookies and frozen yogurt at my house, but not because we deserve them. Instead, reward with small splurges like dollar bin items, trips to fun playgrounds, or family experiences.
3. Don't restrict food groups. So many people think that I deprive my child of sweets or candy because I am a clean eating fanatic. Well, it's true that we don't eat these things frequently because they're just plain crap. But, there are no forbidden foods in our house. Instead, I try to be very frank about what foods are good for us and what are not, set standards, and remind that there is a time and a place for everything, and the time for dessert is not every day. That being said, I do not buy candy or stock my pantry with sweets! We will come across those things at parties, restaurants, and other places and that's where I'd rather have them stay!
Until then, I'm managing what I can: the quality of the three things he will eat is the best I can buy, and I am relying on that old-school parenting perspective that when a kid is hungry enough, he will eat what you give him. Even if it is something as offensive and cruel as strawberries. I know, I should be locked up!
I'll be glad when this phase of kid-power-over-mom is over. Until then, get out there and get healthy...even if your kid fights you hand over fork.