If you are finding it difficult to get your child or grandchild to eat anything, you are not alone. Sure, he would eat chips and cookies all day long to his heart’s content. However, I have this lofty goal of not turning my almost-3-year-old into a diabetic by 5.
Luckily for me, he loves vegetables for some reason — cucumbers are his favorite food. Worst comes to worst, I just cut up some cucumber and call it good for lunch. But as a food column writer, it drives me insane. Like pulling my hair out insane.
I make some pretty great stuff on a weekly to daily basis that might as well be poison to him.
Homemade macaroni and cheese? Nope. Braised short ribs? Dreaming.
We have this rule that he has to try at least one bite of everything, what he does after that is up to him. Growing up in a household that made you clean your plate gives you some weird issues with food control, and I don’t want to push that stuff on him.
It comes with some caveats, however. He can’t have any snacks later on before bed, no desserts or anything like that.
He still chooses starvation most nights. It’s really wild.
I have discovered some tips though trial and error to get him to eat at least some of his food before he is off running around.
Take them shopping
A good starting point is to take them shopping with you. For a long time food just appeared in front of him. He had no understanding of where it came from and who made it. Taking them shopping at least shows them at a basic level where all that comes from.
In the market for a green pepper? Let them pick out the one they want. If its not a complete dumpster fire of a green pepper, bag it up and let them plop it into the cart. That puppy dog pals-branded macaroni and cheese catch their eye? Go for it. If it is the gateway macaroni and cheese that gets them to eating your high-end stuff, it will do its job.
The only drawback I have found is they start getting bold, asking for gummy bears and other things they have no chance of getting.
Let them help out cooking
This might be one of the most important steps. I have found if they feel like they have a big helping hand making whatever they are about to eat, they will chow down. It doesn’t even have to be a major role. Pull up a chair and let them sit at the counter with you, watching how you make and prepare things. Measure things out you need and hand the measuring cup to them to dump in, let them break things up, mash and pull. Just don’t hand them a big knife or demand they clove some garlic and you will be good to go.
Toppings and dips are your friends
Personally, my kid is a parmesan cheese addict. He wants it on everything. Won’t even touch most items unless it has a nice dusting of Kraft parmesan cheese dust. He won’t touch the real stuff from Italy, just the run-of-the-mill stuff from the dry foods section.
Ketchup is also another staple in his diet. I can’t really blame him on that one, I’m a ketchup-with-grilled-cheese kind of guy — but he takes it another level. Ever dip your broccoli in ketchup? He has, and loves it.
Every kid is different but they all think they know best. Experiment and see what works best.
The worst thing you can do is to just give up and let them live off soda and snacks.
My kid has never tasted soda and only gets apple juice as a dessert. I am guessing that’s why he still enjoys vegetables as his preferred food. Good eating habits start young and stick with you your entire life.
So make them try at least one bite of that amazingly juicy steak you made and let them decide from there!