Monday, March 30, 2009

Food Battles and Choices

One of the biggest fight savers in my house is giving the children limited choices. If they don't like something I recommend...IE: outfit, activity, snack...I usually offer them two alternative choices. I specify that these are there only choices but they get to decide themselves. That way, I get my mommy 2cents in and they feel like they have some control over the situation.

Now with that said, over the last year I've lightened up at dinner time (or cracked down, whatever way you want to look at it) If the kids aren't showing an interest in dinner...IE: fidgeting, playing with food, throwing food... complaining that the don't like it. I give them the choice to leave the table or eat. Not a great choice for them..but frankly I'm not going to the extra lengths of making separate meals for everyone in the house. Dinner is at 6:00...clean up is at 6:45. If they haven't eaten dinner by then... they don't get it. AND, they don't get any snacks or a second chance later. I do give them healthy snacks in between meals... but I stop the snacking around 3:30 or 4 in hopes that they will decide to stay and eat.

My delima is...I don't want food to be a love hate battle for my kids because I choose to force them to eat when they aren't interested in it. I know that they will get what they need...and will eat when they are hungry. HOWEVER, with this dinner choice that I'm giving them... they will decide at 8 or 9PM that they now want dinner...and whine about how hungry they are. I say, well... dinner was at 6:00 guys... you choose not to eat it... now you must wait until breakfast. Think it would be a better choice to eat dinner when its served tomorrow night. Then send them to bed... feeling guilty that my kids are going to bed hungry. Maybe I wouldn't feel so bad if I had heavier children... but my kids are really skinny to begin with. Am I wrong... am I being a dinner Nazi??? What would you do?


Andrea said...

Hmmm...that's a tough they ever eat dinner after they miss it the previous night? In other it getting the results you want? Cuz if it is then they hopefully won't be going without food once they figure out that you mean business! :)

Madeline said...

I agree with you. You can't turn yourself into a short order cook. That being said, if I'm serving something that I know Levi doesn't like or has never tried before, I will give him something else as an alternative. If they aren't eating on a regular basis, you could try having something standard and easy that you offer them as a replacement-like a PB&J. Another thought, maybe you could start a bedtime snack routine--something light and simple like fruit or crackers. Just to tide them over.

Drea said...

so weird.. i was going to post abt food today 2! but my post got erased.
taite is going thru a no eat phase.. he wont eat anything!
only wants cereal, eggs and fruit snacks, and of course juice or milk.

taite is out good eater 2.. he loves veggies and health stuff... vs. our picky eater caleb who only wants breads.

(oh taite wont eat breads btw.. thats one thing we cant get him to eat, that and macaroni)

any how...
what i find with our kids is that if they snack after their naps.. they eat poorly at dinner.
so i try to only give them a drink after naps and MAYBE 1 pack of fruit snacks or tiny tiny TINY bowl of dry cereal.

Then they eat better... and they eat even better if they run around a lot.

I do not fix them anything special tho.. they have to eat what i cook or they go hungry.

We get lots of complaining and whines... but normally win them over with the "ice cream" promised after dinner or whatever.

(taite tho doesnt like ice cream much, so hes harder to work with)

Oh and one thing i recently discovered..
I got these 3 plates by gerber... they have lids that go on top of them and snap shut.. so you can travel with them or if at dinner the kids dont eat their food.. i put that lid on, put it in the fridge.. and tell them if they get hungry THAT is what they will eat :)

works great!! although sometimes they do go to bed hungry.. Im ok with that :) they arent lacking... trust me.

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting said...

I just spoke about this with my husband the other day.

I did daycare in NY, and when we had to take those classes to certify, one was about food, cooking, what we could and couldn't do, etc. We had a questionnaire to fill out in which one of the questions was "If the child you're about to serve breakfast to refused to eat unless it was cake or candy, what would you do? A) Feed him breakfast anyway, your way is the law. B) Give him the choice before serving him, breakfast or nothing or C) Feed him what he wants."

Any parent would've probably chosen A or B, because we know what's best, we know they should have 3 square meals, the trifecta of protein, carbs, vegetables or fruit, etc. Do you know what the Child Care Councils answer was? C

They said that they'd be satisfied that the child ate something as opposed to nothing.

I didn't agree at the time, and still don't at times "Mooom can I have chocolate for breakfast!?" "NO!" But if my son doesn't like the spice on his chicken "It makes my tongue hot!" (as my four-year-old says), I'm won't deny him a granola bar, either. But, we've worked out a deal that he at least attempt to finish everything else, first. And it works. Besides, having healthy alternatives helps. He's a granola freak! ;)

To help with the fight, you could incorporate their wishes into your menu planning for the week, or, if it might be something they may or may not like, get them in the kitchen cookin with you, which will instill them with so much pride they'll want to eat "their creation".

Ya never know ;)

Rebekah Gonzalez said... guys have some really AWESOME Feedback!!! Thank you so much! I also like the idea of including them in the menu planning that way there is less chance that they'll hate what I make.

Danielle said...

I think a lot of tings come into play including age of the kid. i know Eliza would not get the go hungry concept. She ios as good easter so i don't make a big deal if she doesn't like what i make I know she doesn't like lentils so if I make them I offer them to her along with something I know she likes. Sometimes she has teeth trouble or tummy issues thatkeep her from eating. I do try to make things she likes and let her help me cook. kids will usually eat something they helped to make. I also have some great BPA free plates with a lid and I sometimes offer Eliza the food at a later time. If not she gets a healthy before bed snack.

Unknown said...

I'm not a fan of making kids eat when they are not hungry, OR denying them food when they are. The reason is many-fold, but one main one is that I feel that children ought to be given the right to understand and trust their own bodies.

I would approach this situation by minimising problems. Perhaps bringing the last snack time forward.
If the child is under 5ish, they eat when they are hungry. Again, aiming for some routine by having smaller and/or sooner snacks.

I think we can balance retaining our sanity (not cooking separate meals), doing our job (offering only healthy choices) with giving the child respect. For me, I imagine it's horrible being made to eat when your body isn't ready or been denied food when your body is.
I remember being told to clean my plate. To this day I can't imagine leaving food. It has NOT helped me.

Just my take on it. :)

chelle said...

Eating is so tough. I agree I do not want food issues either but ugh. What we do is have dinner early. 5pm (I am lucky that hubby can make it home for then) we eat and have the same rule eat or leave however at 7pm right before we brush and do story time they are allowed to have an apple or banana. I found my youngest wasn't sleeping well because he was hungry.

So loving all your comments, great advice!

Renee said...

We actually have a similar rule at our house. What I put on the table is what there is to eat. Period. If my 3yo decides she does not want to eat, that's fine, but don't expect to get something else later. I do however keep the full plate in the fridge and that is what she gets when she is hungry later. So, basically the same thing, but she has to eat her food sooner or later. There is no getting around green beans and meatloaf. Good luck, I know it's hard.

Stephanie said...

My husband and I were *just* talking about this! I'm glad you wrote about this topic. The suggestions in the comments have been useful too!

My tip? I try to cook meals that I know our whole family will enjoy - and it always helps to have a few healthy "side dish" options (steamed veggies, mashed potatoes, french bread, fruit salad, etc.) so kids can fill up on those if the main entree isn't enticing.