Most mothers have had it happen: you have a great eater, and then suddenly, your kid will only eat peanut butter sandwiches or nuggets or pizza or only red foods or just boiled eggs…..and so forth (I can feel you nodding in “Been there!!!” agreement).
The food battles start. You try everything in your power to get a veggie into your kid, and it winds up on the floor, the ceiling, you, the dog – everywhere but in your kid’s tummy. Finally, in sheer exhaustion, you crack and give in and serve the desired food.
You feel ashamed in front of your health foodie friends. Their kids eat tofu, gleefully dig into chef salads, and love just water to drink while you’re trying to mask the smell of french fries from the drive thru and hope that Kool Aid can be passed off as juice.
Years ago, someone gave me this advice: pick your battles, and choose wisely.
I’ve been on both sides. I had a kid who preferred fruits and veggies over all other foods and a kid who would scream bloody murder for an hour if I took away his third cookie. I’ve also got four kids, and honestly, I’ve become way more laid back than I was 23 years ago with my first go around.
Here’s what I’ve learned: forget the food battles. Forget the shame. Your kid isn’t going to starve if you refuse to go through the drive thru, but is it worth an hour long ordeal and tears to get your kid to eat everything on the dinner plate? Is it worth the food issues you may be introducing by battling over food? On a simpler note, if you don’t like every food out there (no matter how much love has gone into preparing it), why do we as parents expect our kids to like everything we slap on a plate or in a bowl and have hurt feelings when they don’t?
Guess what? They eat. They won’t starve. Letting them have leftovers from last night that they liked instead really isn’t giving in or losing the dinner war. Also….should dinner really be a battle or a war? Having at least one item on the table that everybody likes isn’t that hard, and who cares if your kid only eats that one item tonight?
Here’s what my fourth kid has taught me: he is almost 8 now, and he tries new foods on a regular basis. He’ll taste almost anything I put in front of him now. He knows he can honestly say, “I don’t like that!” and that nobody will feel bad or make him feel bad. He loves all kinds of foods, and he’s starting to really like all sorts of fruits and vegetables again (he loved them when he was 2).
This week alone, he tasted and then ate fresh peaches, ripe strawberries, slightly grilled asparagus, and a Braeburn apple (he discovered last fall that all apples are not the same in taste and loves trying new ones to see which he likes – currently, he wants the tart and sour types).
Trust me. It’s just so not worth the battle to fight with your kid over food. Offer healthy choices and treat your child the same way you’d want treated in any dinner situation: as someone with unique tastes who is capable of choosing from a menu of foods and whose body knows what’s needed…..
…and just BREATHE, Mama. There are going to be battles where you must stand your ground to keep your child safe, but food just isn’t one of them!