>>You make a lot of interesting and exotic foods. Do your kids eat all of it, or are they picky eaters? What is your policy in terms of if kids don’t like a certain food? Or if they’re not picky eaters, how do you ensure that?<<
Yes, my kids eat what I make. I don’t see any reason they shouldn’t! I try to make foods that my kids will enjoy, and they have the ability to enjoy a wide variety of foods, so that makes it easier to make foods they like! None of them are picky eaters at all and it’s not because they were born with a genetic tendency to eat what is put on the table.
The reason they have the ability to enjoy so many foods is because they’ve been given the opportunity on a regular basis without any emotional overtones attached to their eating habits. I remember years ago a good friend used to always tell me how picky her children were, and how ‘lucky’ I was that my kids weren’t picky. One day she was at our house and since it was getting late for our young children, I served an early dinner for all of them. It was egg pancakes, something my kids always enjoyed and her ‘picky’ four or five year old daughter was gobbling it up. My friend started exclaiming to me, with her daughter sitting right there, “I can’t believe she’s eating this! She never eats anything. She’s so picky, I can’t get her to eat anything. I can’t believe it!” And right on cue, her daughter suddenly stopped eating and told her mother she didn’t like it. It was so obvious that the problem wasn’t the child or the way she ate, but her mother paying too much attention to it; the child got a lot of attention as well as a feeling of power because of her ‘pickiness’.
Here’s my general approach to food: Don’t make a big deal of it and neither will they. Food is just food. Kids learn very quickly when the mother has a lot of emotion invested in their eating habits. I serve the food, and if they’re hungry, they’ll eat. I rarely insist on them eating if they don’t feel like it. (They do have to sit at the table with everyone, whether they’re choosing to eat or not, since mealtime isn’t about just the food; it’s a time for family togetherness and connection.) If they don’t want what I’m serving (and don’t think that they absolutely love every single dish I make – nope!), that’s fine with me. We have three meals a day and if they’re not hungry right at that moment, then they can eat when the next meal comes along. I don’t make a second dinner for someone who doesn’t want what everyone else is having, and they don’t have the alternative of making themselves a sandwich or eating a bowl of cereal. What I serve is what the choice is.
Does that sound harsh? I don’t think it is. It’s a simple biological reality – the body gives a person signals as to when to eat. Hunger is the best spice. If they don’t feel like eating, I understand that’s not what their body needs right then. I don’t like every food, and I don’t expect them to. I don’t put food on my children’s plates except when they’re small – we put out serving bowls in the center of the table and everyone takes as much or as little as they want. I’ve sometimes suggested that they take just a small amount of something new that they’re not sure they’ll like. I don’t insist they finish everything on their plates, but I also want them to learn not to be wasteful, so I don’t want them to heap their plates full and then end up throwing most of it away.
I categorized this under frugal strategies because the willingness to eat a wide variety of foods means you can utilize whatever ingredients are affordable at that time, without worrying that someone will turn up their nose at it. I so often heard people say they could never cook like I do because their families are so picky that they wouldn’t eat beans, or they have to have meat every night. Picky children weren’t created in a vacuum and it’s a situation that can be changed.