Today, my friend Melissa commanded me to write a blog post about feeding kids. What, how much, when, why.
I can do that.
But before I do, let me just tell you that we really are a typical family. Aside from the whole six kids deal. By typical, I mean my kids (and husband) have likes and dislikes. Some of them are deeply rooted in "I cannot eat that or I'll be sick" mindset. Not one of my offspring have ever, ever expelled any food at the table.
I'm kind of old school in this area. There are some modern child experts that say forcing children to eat food they don't like will cause them to have food hangups later on. Baloney. Serious baloney. Ask your grandmother, she'll set you straight. If mom cooks the food, the family eats the food. Period.
What does that look like at my house? It looks like "everyone has to taste a bite of everything, even if you don't like it." It also means salad is eaten by every child, each time it is served. It means vegetables are eaten. Meat, potatoes, the whole deal. Eat it up, it's good for you, it cost money, dad worked for it, mom bought and prepared it, you can eat it.
Do we have battles? Nope. We start very young with introducing lots of different foods. We've hit a few roadblocks and stalemates, but generally we try to persevere. A BITE. Is a bite a big deal? It really should not be.
As kids develop, we allow for a few dislikes. A FEW. Some don't like raw tomatoes. That's ok. But an all-out boycott on tomatoes in general? Nope. Pizza, pasta, salsa, ketchup. These are tomato products! I don't force funky things like eggplant or anchovies on my kids. However, if they make an appearance at my table, the little people have to taste them ONCE. After that, they can politely refuse the more extreme food items.
My 15 year old dislikes olives. Only olives. He will eat everything else. My 10 year old dislikes too many things to count. Too bad, kiddo. No PBJ alternatives for you. Eat a bit of the dinner, even if it seems horrid to you. Before bed, you might get lucky and have a piece of toast or a banana and some milk. No child has ever starved or been harmed when offered food three times per day by their parents.
So what do we feed our kids to make them healthy?
Everything. Fruits, vegetables, meats of all breeds and manner, dairy in various forms, oodles of eggs, grains (whole whenever possible, but white won't kill them here and there), fats in the form of butter, olive oil, etc. Sweets.
Yes, the Sassy family eats sweets. Probably more than you'd imagine. The way I see it is that if you are eating plenty of the good stuff, sweets are just part of the deal. I don't have any qualms giving my children home made brownies for dessert if they've eaten some chicken, brown rice, veggies and a green salad for dessert. Life is sweet. Sweets are a part of it.
What about "junk food?" What is junk food, anyway? My opinion is that it is highly processed, full of chemicals, nutritionally worthless food. Do we eat it? Here and there. Do we notice a difference when we do? Oh yeah. Behavior, to some degree, is affected by sugars and dyes and preservatives. Sleep can be altered as well. Junk is addictive, and when they have a weekend or holiday binge, most kids will beg for more and more. And, since we're being polite, we won't talk about the whole issue of gas.
I touched on this concept above, but I'll tell you this one major, blanket-y statement: PARENTS MAKE PICKY KIDS. How many times have you heard a mom (or dad) say "My child will only eat peanut butter, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and bananas."??????
Hey mom - who does the shopping? Who brings that food into the house? Who lets the child decide what he will and will not eat?
I am not a doctor. I'm nothing but a mom. But I will tell you that children eat when they are hungry, and most of the time, they'll eat what's there. Nip it in the bud, mama. Every single day, every week, offer a variety of nutritious foods. VARIETY. What a child refuses today, if offered again tomorrow, he or she might gobble it up. Never give up.
My oldest is 15. When he was 3 I thought for sure he would starve to death. He hated everything. Poor kid. We kept making regular human food and giving it to him at every meal. Along with kid foods, here and there. Today, he is a huge, strapping, starving, eating machine. This is the boy who doesn't like olives. Only.
If you make roast and potatoes and carrots, with a salad and some rolls for dinner, but have the mac and cheese or peanut butter jar ready to go, your child will win the game. It's true! Like I said, ask your grandmother.
Tomorrow is a new day. Make some delicious and nutritious food for your family. Serve it with a smile. Sit down and eat together as a family. Talk and laugh and eat and enjoy life together :)