Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How to Get Kids to Eat Good Food

Jon Deutsch just asked me this intriguing question, and I thought since I have already spent the whole day writing about seaweed, algae and edible cyanobacteria, I would post my response here for kicks.

To get my kids to eat good healthy food: first I put on my spiked helmet and parade around the house muttering obscenities. Then I brandish a pistol and ask who wants to spend the night in klink?

Actually I don't get my kids to eat good food with flavor. They eat mostly crap, and get away with it because their mom is very picky and wont eat what I cook anymore. So it rubbed off on them - they get whatever they want mostly. I must have done something really bad in a former life.

When it does work it's usually because they have cooked with me (sometimes they will cook something and then not want to eat it though!) or because they know a friend eats it. Or it will just be some bizarre arbitrary dare. Like when I dared my older son to try soy sauce, and he got addicted. Or the younger one who loves goat cheese. Somehow they never got addicted to natto or durian though. But he is a real conoisseur of pickles, actually both sons are now. (Must be "Bubbies" - older son insists they be sliced lengthways, younger one in rounds like spongebob does it.) And they do eat some foods that few people in their right mind would eat - like super sour candy for one. Which actually I like too. I think the dare factor is underrated, but you have to be a dad with a fifth grade mentality to pull it off.

So there's my advice - never coax or chide or threaten. Dare.

8 comments:

Erica said...

When I'm cooking, I make whatever I like (but there's almost always plain rice or noodles as a side). I put a little of everything on everyone's plate. Then (ideally) we talk about our days and ignore what other people are eating. People get more of whatever they want more of. No one has ever gotten a vitamin deficiency, though sometimes it does seems as if a week may go by without the kids eating a green vegetable. Works for our family.

Ken Albala said...

Thanks Erica, That strategy sometimes works here, unless someone throws a fit at having a particular item on the plate in the first place. So instead of plating everything in sensible portions, like I used to do years ago, there's basically a wide array of anything that someone might eat (i.e. noodles and rice) plus something requested (hot dogs or chicken), then a green veg maybe only I'll eat (like collard greens last night), and maybe some flesh only I'll eat (lamb, pork, duck beef etc. only I eat usually)- or beans (ditto).

I don't fear they they are eating, although my youngest is small and thin, but that they wont be introduced to good food - i.e. that tastes good and is good for you. But they sure wont ever if I never put it on the table. The only downside, is I feel like a short order cook most nights.

Actually last night was unusal: buttered papardelle, pounded breaded chicken thighs (everyone usually insists on white meat - blech, but I snuck this one) and then greens and beans for me, carrots for the kids. Not too bad.

Except that they scarfed it down in about 10 minutes.

Ken

sweetscarlet said...

I send my kid to a Polish friend's house and hope they make something exotic that he likes, then I get to try something new after I get the recipe. If the friend eats if, he will too.

The dare strategy is definitely worth a try.

sweetscarlet said...

I send my kid to a Polish friend's house and hope they make something exotic that he likes, then I get to try something new after I get the recipe. If the friend eats if, he will too.

The dare strategy is definitely worth a try.

Erica said...

ken wrote:
>>> or beans >>>

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I don't expect the kids to eat my historical research for dinner! :-)

>>> they wont be introduced to good food - i.e. that tastes good and is good for you.>>>
I think the best you can do is just model it for them. And, of course, cut down on the junk food available for snacks (My big battle, as I can't stop my husband from bringing it into the house)

Melissa said...

I agree. The best that you can do is model it for them. Our house rule is that you don't have to like everything, but you do have to try everything.

I am a "recovering picky eater." I actually took the same things to lunch at school for nearly 10 years. I decided when my daughter was born that I didn't want her to be a picky eater, so I pretended to like everything. Funny thing happened along the way. I stopped being a picky eater! Albeit, my husband might disagree a little with that statement. My daughter is almost 11yrs old and is an unabashed foodie. She started to turn her nose up at the childrens menu when she was 3. She thought a mixed green salad was a normal brown bag lunch by kindergarten. At 10, she can hold an intelligent conversation with a chef, as she did last week on our behind the scenes tour of Boma, one of the African inspired restaurants in Disney. He started to point out the kid friendly foods and she quickly let him know how boring it was.

Ken Albala said...

Oh Malicious Monster, So nice to see you're reading my random babble. For anyone else who happens to see this, the above epithet is a term of affection from, what, 30 years ago??!

The hilarious thing is, we went to that same restaurant in Disney, and my kids ordered the kids crap, and still pitched a fit.

Want to trade childen??

Jennifer said...

Loved this post. I have two incredibly picky six year olds and your post made me chortle with glee.

And they seem to get pickier with every passing year. Although my daughter does love salmon roe sushi and fish eyes...

Jennifer