Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fussy Eaters

People always ask me why my kids are not fussy eaters…or the say to me, “Kelly you don’t understand, your kids are not fussy they will eat anything”.  The fact of the matter is this is far from true.  All of my kids were, at some point, fussy to a degree. My oldest son Matthew was by far the fussiest of them all. There were several years of his life that the mere thought of anything even resembling a vegetable would send him into tears.  I even went so far as to bake cookies, muffins, sauces, meatballs…all with ground up ‘hidden’ veggies in them.

Now however, my kids will eat (or at least taste) just about anything….why? Well I attribute this turnaround to several factors.  First and foremost I never catered to them. I made one dinner, you ate it or you were hungry. I was not mean about it and tried to include a variety of things at each meal so there was a choice.  Our rule was you needed to at least TRY everything even if that meant 1 single green bean or 1 bite of casserole. Trust me they gagged, made faces, acted as though we were awful, awful people because they had to taste a pea or a piece of melon.  I know they will tell you I have said more than once that “you can’t not like something you have never tried”.  If they truly did not like something, I did not make them eat it and I did keep that in mind when I planned menus (If 1 child despised green beans…I made an alternate veggie or I dressed then up differently.  Another rule was you were never to “yuck” what mommy (or anyone else for that matter) cooked.  Someone made an effort and worked hard to make you food…and “yucking another person’s yum” was rude and could hurt someone’s feelings.
The biggest thing we did for our children was to expose them to different tastes and textures. We modeled that we were willing to try something exotic and new and see if we might like it.  We let them do a lot of this exploration of tastes by letting them do the choosing.  Some of the more fun ways we did this was to take them shopping and let them choose a fruit or veggie that they had never had, that looked weird, that had an odd name. When we got home we would look up what to with it on the internet.  Choosing the food, learning how to prepare and serve it made it so much more exciting for them. We found many new favorites this way! We also played a fun game…I let each child pick a country and for 1 week we would look at maps, pictures on line, read books, AND cook authentic foods from that country.  Some of the countries I was familiar with the food (Italy, China, Ireland) so it was a lot less research for me…but they thought it was fun. Other countries were more difficult and really made me stretch my cooking wings a bit and I learned a lot about flavors and techniques and ingredients . When oldest (and fussiest) son chose Egypt I was at a loss!  I knew NOTHING about Egyptian food. This country experiment turned out to be our most fun and most memorable. We had our first couscous and I still laugh when I remember my husband’s face when he asked me why I was putting cinnamon on the beef! 

Lastly we let them plan themed menus for their family birthday parties ….this is a lot of people when all of your extended family lives close by!)  We have had some odd menu combinations…but no matter what they pick we add it to the menu.  As they got older they began to understand the work behind the food, what types of food go together, and they had the power to have their menu take shape.

So, although they are much more open to foods then they were – they all of course have their dislike (who doesn’t?)….this is fine with me.  I just did not want them to discount a food without trying it first….I want them to be open minded when it come to the wide world of food….I want them to have NO FEAR!!!

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