I was asked by someone how old my children are and how do they get their children to eat like this.
Keep in mind, last school year I was a coupon queen. We had a pantry stocked full of processed food items. The favorite cereal around here was cinnimon toast crunch, followed by recces puffs. A normal lunchbox was a pb&j on white bread with whatever was the cheapest peanut butter and jelly, some fruit snacks, maybe some fresh fruit, and then chips or crackers geared towards kids.
I slowly started looking at labels. I slowly switched to 'wheat' bread. Later finding out that I thought I was doing good with the word wheat, but when it is preceded by the word enriched, I really wasn't doing as good as I thought....
I cut out fruit snacks items and usually added a yogurt instead--again whatever was cheapest with a coupon, not neccesarily the healthiest.
But this past summer, I had a 'hit me like a ton of bricks' moment. you can read more about it here.
I did a lot of research. I have always been confused as to what is 'healthy'. But just about every 'healthy' diet leads back to the basics - fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains, natural 'from the earth' items.
It became clear. I can't control other things, but I can control the food in my house.
I digress..... but the point is that this was a switch for all of us. We have not always made the best food choices so switching, as abruptly as we have done, is still a gradual process. I am still buying vanilla yogurt instead of plain because, well... it tastes better.
My son is now 7 and my daughter is 4.
Find what they like and roll with it! I ask what their favorite food was on the plate at dinner time and then either add that to their lunch the next day or try to come up with another meal involving that food. Or I will ask "what vegetable would you like in your lunch tomorrow?" and give a few choices making sure they are ones I know they like (or have claimed to like in the past). You may notice a lot of feta cheese in my son's lunches - on pizza, on salads. He has recently discovered that he loves it! So, why not add it!
Don't categorize them. If someone hears something over and over, they will hold that as being the truth. If I say "he doesn't like broccoli" that is they way it will be! Instead, I try to reintroduce the food in many different ways. Who knows, broccoli covered in feta may be wonderful! ha.
Reintroduce and reinvent - The stuffed mushrooms was a great example. We waited a while since the last time they were choked down by the under 5 foot club around here. I really did not think they would be a hit at dinner last night either. I even heard groans and moans as little ones walked by the stove and saw what was cooking. I didn't win over the girl last night, but the boy has proclaimed that he loves stuffed mushrooms!
I had to hide the look of shock on my face!
The one bite rule. In our house, you have to try everything you are given. One good bite of everything. I give small portions and let the children have more of whatever they would like as long as they have taken a good sized bite of everything on their plate. If you choose to put it on your plate (seconds) I prefer that you eat it all.
They really like to be part of the process. We have been going to the farmer's market as a family and let the kids choose a fruit or veggie they want to try. Right now, we have eight ball zuchini in the fridge that my son picked out. We plan to stuff those with meat and cheese and zuchini.
At the grocery store, If I am buying apples, I let them pick out the apples that go in the basket. As cheesy as it sounds, they feel more connected to that food when they help pick it out.
If you have more tips to add, please feel free to comment!