As a mother of three, I’ve developed effective strategies over the years for how to get them excited about eating what I make. As any mom will attest, preparing three meals a day for your family is no small feat and since kids’ food preferences go through stages, exposing them to a variety of foods can be challenging — yet I believe it can happen daily. I never thought it wise to attempt to convince or bribe my kids to eat what I made. Nor did I subscribe to sneaking or being a short order cook, catering to everyone’s wants. Rather, I wanted to educate them about making good choices while making eating fun. Here are 5 ways to help get your kids to eat what you make.
1. Two choices: Since adopting this method, I encounter significantly less negotiating and get way more interest in what ends up on everyone’s plate. Instead of announcing what we’re having for dinner, which often leads to someone feeling the need to assert control or, worse, asking the vague, what does everyone want to eat? (make your life easier and never ask that), I give a choice. For example, would you like chicken or salmon tonight? or would you prefer broccoli or rice? In reality, I’m offering two options that require the same amount of effort on my part, however my kids hear it as me giving them control over what’s for dinner. If you don’t have two good options, offer an alternative you know they won’t choose because odds are…they won’t.
2. Keep it upbeat: Berating your child about being fussy or picky in regard to what she will and won’t eat will get you nowhere and, if it becomes a recurring conversation, could turn into a larger issue down the road. If your children see you being positive about different foods, it will make mealtime a lot more fun, relaxed and successful in the long run.
3. Be a good role model: It’s tough to ask your child to eat their Brussels sprouts if you’re not. I avoided olives for years until I saw my daughter, Chloe, devouring them at the ripe old age of two. While I’m all about being open about food, children’s tastes take time to develop. So, when Chloe asked me if I wanted some olives I didn’t have the heart to say I didn’t like them, especially when here she was happily trying so many foods. I ate a couple, resulting in Chloe offering me olives every time she had them after that! Much to my surprise, I actually started to love them. Five years later I still remind Chloe that because of her love of olives, she turned me into an olive lover too! Ultimately, as with most parenting, good modeling and patience is a recipe for long term success.
4. Get kids involved! When I started my organic meal delivery service, One Potato, part of our mission was to make kids better eaters by shipping meals easy enough to prepare that kids could help make them. It’s pride of ownership: when kids help make a meal, they’re excited to eat it. You can start at any age, involvement in even the smallest task pays big dividends.
5. Menu plan: I like to give my kids a few cookbooks and sticker tabs to mark the recipes they want to see at future meals. This way we plan a menu for the month together and everyone has a special night where their choice is featured. Alternatively, give your kids a list of dishes from your own recipe arsenal and have them make their choices. Aside from being a fun, inclusive family activity, it helps you organize your schedule, shop more efficiently and cost effectively and get kids excited about what you make!