Monday, March 11, 2013

An Experiment for Picky Eaters and Fed-Up Moms

I have many talents, but cooking isn't one of them.  I can't tell you how many times I will make dinner, try to feed it to them, and then inevitably about 10 minutes after we're done they will say, "Mommy, I'm hungry!  Can I have some cereal?"

My kids have always been picky eaters but lately things started to get really out of control.  Here are some of our bad habits:

  • They snacked often throughout the day, and I let them, as long as it was healthy like cheese, fruit, or yogurt.   
  • Since I'm not a great cook, I knew they wouldn't want to eat what I made.  Instead, I often just made them chicken nuggets or frozen lasagna.  Plus, they often had to eat before Daddy got home since he got home late, so I would just wait and eat with Daddy too
  • They often wouldn't even try what I made if it looked bad
  • I didn't exactly make them eat enough vegetables.  Fruits?  Yep!  Vegetables?  Not so much
However, I was at the book store, and I noticed that my favorite author came out with a new book.  On a whim, I decided to spend the money and I'm so glad I did.  The French have a whole different perspective on food.  

I won't get into too much detail, but it's totally worth reading and the book basically talks about how French kids don't snack.  Period.  They get breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner.  Nothing in between.  She says that it's much more peaceful, knowing that all day long isn't an opportunity to eat.  Amen, sister!  I hate having to stop what I'm doing to pour out a bowl of healthy cereal at 9:45, one hour after breakfast.  The French have a totally radical view on food that is completely different than ours.  They let them help cook, even from a very young age.  I mean, they really let them.  There is a story in the book about a four year old ladling out the muffin mix into the pan.  The beauty of this is that kids are more invested in what is prepared so they are more likely to try new things and actually like them.

I kept thinking:  She hasn't met my kids though.  I'm sure they won't want to help me cook, and plus I kind of hate the idea of their hands in my food and them making a mess.  But, I decided I would embrace this concept and see what happened, because first of all they hardly eat any real meals, and second of all, I detest cooking, so I thought if I could make the whole thing more fun, my life might improve.

The results were so extraordinary that I am going to have to break this into several different posts.  But here is the result of my first day:

First, we made spaghetti.  I allowed my daughter (age 4.5) to get up on a stool and help me stir the raw hamburger meat.  At first, she was reluctant to help, but I kept telling her what a good Mommy she would make one day if she could learn how to cook and she quickly got on board:

Then she helped me pour the sauce into the pan with the meat and she stirred it all up for me.  As the French do, I advised her to smell the different smells and really appreciate the process.  I explained everything to her along the way and she was fascinated.  Then she helped me clean up and even thought that was really fun.

After we got the dinner all ready, we decided to make blueberry muffins for dessert.  I decided to really go the distance.  I allowed her to actually spoon the batter into the cups, just like it says in the book.  I was amazed.  It took her a long time and she did make a little bit of a mess, but she was meticulous and she did every single one:

So, when it was time to eat, I held my breath.  Sure enough, she ate a ton of spaghetti, which she usually refuses to even try.  My little guy ate all of his spaghetti too and then they got to have muffins for dessert!  And best of all, I had a great time.  The afternoon was fun and cooking dinner was enjoyable for once!  So, day one of my experiment was a huge success.  Now it's time to move on to the 2nd part of the experiment...snack time...stay tuned!

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  1. Hmmm... this is definitely 'food' for thought. :) I usually let my 2 year old help when I am making baked goods, but I haven't really let her help make dinner. But, that is something I may have to try, tonight. I can see how getting them more involved would help.

    One thing we almost never do though, is make a separate meal ahead of time for her. We have always at least tried (assuming the food was age appropriate) to get her to eat what we are eating with some surprising results. Her favorite meal is her daddy's chili.

    1. I'd love to hear how it goes! Keep me posted! :-)

  2. Great post! I could have written it myself. My kids snack all day, too, because they are so darn skinny, I feel like I need to encourage eating whenever possible. But like you, constantly having to get things drives me !@#$%^& batty.

    My ongoing project right now is getting our lives on a schedule (or at least a "rhythm"), so maybe I'll work pre-set food times into it.

    1. As usual our lives are in sync! ;-). I'm looking forward to hearing about your new schedule!

  3. I'm excited to hear the rest of your experiences! my daughter is an AWFUL eater, like chicken nuggets or mac and cheese EVERY night! :(

  4. I guess I'm of a different generation. I got 3 meals and a snack as a child and that's what my kids got. I can't imagine my mother stopping what she was doing to make me something to eat when it wasn't mealtime. Nor would I have done it for my own children. I always tried to have one thing I knew they'd eat, but what's for dinner is what's for dinner. As I often told them "this isn't McDonald's". I think your idea of having them help cook is a great way to encourage them to try new things. And it will be oh so worth it in a few years when they're older and can cook on their own!