It’s Not All Mary Poppins


Everyone knows that a good way to get children to try new food is to involve them in its preparation. We know that. We don’t necessarily do that.

But you know? It’s winter. If the temperatures are at least -15C (without a wind), we go outside. But as you can imagine, at -15, the tots don’t last neeeearly as long as they do at +15C. And in January and February in Ottawa, we get more than a few days a whole lot colder than -15. So. A lot more indoor hours to fill, and, I know you may find this hard to believe, but even crafty Mary gets tired of crafts!!!

Why not, I thought, fill some of those hours with food preparation? I have a weekly menu. I know what’s on the list for that day and the next. This could be fun!

Very often, even when we do involve kids, they’re baking, not cooking. They’re making cookies and muffins and cakes. All fine for teaching a certain set of kitchen skills, but nothing to do with familiarizing them with foods they might not otherwise choose to eat. What kid needs to be coaxed to eat cookies? (And if they do, why on earth would you?? If you’re coaxing your child to eat cookies, stoppit right now!)

Now, I’ve done real cooking with the children before, but sporadically and infrequently. It’s time, I decided, to get systematic about this!

So as of this week, in the hour between arrival and our outing, I thought we’d hit the kitchen. On Monday, we made muffins, of course. Yes, I know it’s baking, not cooking, but Muffin Monday is a tradition, thanks to Hannah! No messing with tradition!

Tuesday: They helped make the green bean dish, because apart from chopping the onions, it’s simple, simple, simple.
Wednesday: Baked apples! They can drop the goodies down the core of the apple. Also, because Thursday’s tofu needs to marinate, they’ll help me mix the marinade and put the slices of tofu in the pan.
Thursday: They can help make the cheese sauce for the cauliflower. (Shall I send them home knowing the word ‘roux‘, just to show off??)
Friday: Veggie frittata cups. They can choose one veggie each, I’ll chop them all up, they’ll spoon the veggies into the muffin cups and pour the egg mix over top, I’ll put it in the oven. Teamwork!

I like it. What are the advantages? It…
– keeps us busy
– fills in time we can’t be outside
– it’s companionable
– familiarizes the tots with their food
– making it more likely that they’ll eat their food
– gives them kitchen competence
– and builds a sense of teamwork…

all in a happy atmosphere of relaxed camaraderie.

And if they’re really, really good? I’ll let them do the dishes, too.


February 20, 2013 Posted by | food, health and safety | , , , , | 6 Comments

Menu Tuesday

This past weekend was a long one here in Canada, so this is a shortened week. (Love that.)

Tuesday: Tofu-garlic linguini (from this year’s Milk calendar, except, lacking shrimp, I switched in fried tofu cubes instead)

Wednesday: Grilled bread salad (from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day, though I don’t follow the recipe too precisely)

Thursday: Meatloaf, green salad

Friday: Lentil-dill salad. Veggie Venture is a terrific source for all manner of vegetable-strong (though not necessarily vegetarian) recipes. I love searching this site for a specific seasonal vegetable, to see what fun new thing I can do with it this time!

July 3, 2012 Posted by | food | , , , | Leave a comment

Devious? Changed my mind

I once wrote a post on getting your child to eat their greens “The Devious Way“. In fact, few of the ideas in the post were truly devious. Mostly they were simply indirect: rather than making an issue of it, you assume that vegetables will be eaten. After all, you eat them. Why? Because they’re good!

Your child may not believe that yet. Some veggies are definitely an acquired taste. Moreover, if you’re dealing with a power-struggling two-year-old, they’ll say ‘no’ just because they can. Their refusal has far less to do with actual likes and dislikes than it has to do with Control. I’ve seen tots at this stage refuse cookies. (My lovely eldest was one!) However, they very quickly learn that you don’t care if they refuse a cookie, but you reeeeally care if they refuse their cauliflower. Wahoo! Cauliflower it is! Or … isn’t.

With persistence on your part, they will come to enjoy their food, all of it. Well, with the occasional exception. No one likes everything. Most people, however, like almost everything.

So I titled that post, “The Devious Way”, and now I wish I hadn’t, because it gives the wrong impression. You don’t need to sneak veggies into your child. In fact, you shouldn’t. It’s a short-term gain, but fails for the long term. If your child remains blithely unaware that he has been eating broccoli for years, then, as far as he is concerned, he doesn’t like broccoli. You may be getting the nutrition into him now, but you are not teaching him lifetime habits by which he’ll keep himself healthy. When there is no one around to sneak the greens into him, he likely won’t be eating them.

Provide vegetables as you do all food types — with the assumption that they taste good and that everyone wants to eat them. Consider this: Odds are good you don’t go all angsty when your child, in a fit of contrariness, refuses pasta. No, you shrug and say “whatever”. You don’t beg and plead, you don’t hide or camouflage it. You don’t fall over yourself coming up with alternatives. You just figure, “Eh, she’ll eat it tomorrow.” And she likely will.

The same holds true with vegetables — well, with all the food groups. Toddlers are faddish eaters. What they loved one day, they will refuse the next. If you’re concerned about your child’s intake, keep track over a week. You will probably find that over the course of a week, he does indeed get a balanced diet. It’s quite likely that, though it appears he’s refusing an entire category of food, that was only on Tuesday and Friday, but the rest of the week, he made up for that lack just fine. You remember Tuesday and Friday because he kicked up such an almighty fuss, or because you stressed out so much over it. The days he ate everything without complaint, you don’t notice so much.

So, most of the time, your teaching is indirect. You model good eating habits. You provide healthy food at sensible intervals. You make sure any snacks are healthy. You allow the occasional treat, but you make sure they’re occasional and portions are modest. Desserts are usually fresh fruit, only rarely gooey, cups-of-sugar extravaganzas. You are just as likely — more likely! — to rave about how delicious strawberries are, or those fresh-off-the-vine peas, as you are to rave about the hot fudge brownie sundae.

If the food culture in your home is “healthy is normal, healthy is DELICIOUS!”, your child will absorb this in time. Now, our culture does not support parents in their efforts. It is possible that you may have to change your own eating habits because you want to do better for your child than was done for you. It is possible that you have allowed poor eating patterns to develop, and now have the daunting task of retraining both your child and yourself. Thus, it is possible that once in a while you will have to play hardball.

Generally speaking, though, your own cheerful enjoyment of healthy food, your firm refusal to provide alternate meals (and certainly not nutritionally inferior alternates!), your calm willingness to let your child choose not to eat, and your ongoing providing of healthy food will produce children who enjoy their food.

All of it.

And mealtimes will be happy, social, friendly, conflict-free events.

June 5, 2012 Posted by | food, health and safety, power struggle | , , , | 3 Comments