Picky Eaters: How I Reversed My Cooking Strategy and Brought Peace to the Dinner Table

in Simplify,Your DIY,Your Parenting

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I have friends who have trained their kids to eat what’s in front of them. This is not my life. There are a few things that they don’t HATE and I can pull the whole “you sit there until you eat it,” but there are many foods that even if I force them to eat it, it won’t stay in the tummy long. Since the first bites of solid foods, my boys have been gaggers. I draw the line at gagging. We all have our weaknesses. Mine is vomit.

I asked myself, how did my mom get REAL food into us?

My mom cooked from scratch, or at least the “Semi Homemade” version with a can of this and that and a real meat and frozen vegetable.  There might have been a bunch of refined flour in it or a canned cheese sauce, but it had enough REAL nutrients to make it worthwhile.   But, all this food has been off my radar for almost 15 years.  Atkins, personal digestive issues, whole food eating, and the like, eliminated those recipes as anything I would ever cook long before my kids got old enough to have food opinions.

I re-examined my cooking priorities.

  1. Keep out as much refined crap as I can.
  2. Variety for me and hubby.
  3. Get enough good nutrients in the kids.

I rearranged those:

  1. Get enough good nutrients in the kids.
  2. Keep out as much refined crap as I can.
  3. Variety for me and hubby.

If my number one goals it to never soil my children with inferior ingredients, I look for certain types of recipes—things my kids won’t likely eat. If my top goal is to provide variety for me and my husband within our dietary restrictions, then I look for other kinds of recipes—things my kids won’t likely eat.   But if my number one priority is to get a particular nutrient down the gullet come hell or high water?  I end up with recipes that THEY like.  Heck, I would totally wrap grass fed beef in a refrigerator crescent roll and douse that asparagus in canned cheese sauce.  But what would Jeff and I eat?  I would just NOT WRAP some of the beef in crescent roll and leave off the cheese sauce.  How easy is that?

I started cooking normal American carby stuff for THEM and adapting for US.

Jeff and I could eat peanuts and greens for dinner.  We aren’t the picky ones.  But I WAS cooking for us and trying to adapt for the picky people.  THAT IS HARD WORK.  Now, I’ve reversed the formula.  Now I make lasagna…with WHITE noodles (GASP!), because that gets a whole lot of grass-fed, hormone-free beef and pesticide-free veggies into the kids.

When I make the sauce for the kids’ lasagna, I triple it.  Jeff and I have the pristine sauce over homegrown zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.  A while back, I might have PLANNED spaghetti sauce over zucchini noodles.  But cook an extra lasagna with CRAP in it for the kids? NO.

Somehow altering my focus and making Lasagna with White Noodles for dinner, mine and Jeff’s adaptations seem like they don’t require any work.

Nowadays, I plan spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, nachos, awful stuff that would kill my digestion and my waistline and make a side version for us with some weirdo crust or vegetable noodle that only impresses people who can never again eat real flour.

But, I still have standards.

I require a certain proportion of protein in a food before it passes inspection. I don’t care how whole grain something is, if it doesn’t have enough protein involved, it’s out the window. Conversely, I tolerate a certain level of refined crap if it gets something high quality in the tummy.  But, goal number 3 is still on the list.

From time to time, I *try* to sneak in healthier versions to see if I can get a away with it.  Sneak whole grain flour in the pizza dough, buzz veggies in the spaghetti sauce, trade out white rice for organic brown. I can dream.  But, if people gag, I retreat to the refined crap to get the rest of the good stuff in the tummy.

And, I set limits.

You don’t get refills until the healthy stuff is gone. It comes as a set. If I give you a small serving of homemade bean dip and a small stack of refined, crappy chips to dip for lunch, know that once those chips are gone, you’re on carrot sticks for dipping. But once you eat the dip, if you’re still hungry, I’ll give you another serving of both chips and dip.

You “buy” the privilege to eat your food like a traditional refined-grain-loving American by showing me that the healthy stuff will disappear. If you cheat and only eat the bad stuff, trying to wait me out till the next meal, you lose your bread privileges at subsequent meals until the healthy stuff disappears.

Now dinner is simple.

It take no creativity to plan dinner.  There’s no digging through recipes for “something brand new.”  I do still peruse for a nice adaptation here and there for me and Jeff.  And interesting spice mixture, a different way to do the greens, but not full recipes.  And if I want to cook something wacky for me and Jeff, there’s always leftover lasagna or tacos or chicken pie for the kids.  And best of all, I can totally make them sit there until they finish without running for the towels, because I *know* it’s something they CAN eat without vomiting, they just don’t WANT to.

I know this flies in the face of all kinds of WHOLE food theories, but we moms do what we have to so we can get nutrient in the tummy, right?



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