Getting the Kids to Eat Well

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Brandon used to eat buttered noodles as a separate dinner from the rest of his family. I was of course a darling, perfect child who ate the same thing as the rest of my family: pizza/burgers/hot dogs. So yeah, when I became a mom, I wanted to do better. We’re not perfect at all, but Brandon and I have done a pretty good job when it comes to getting our kids to eat well. Here’s what worked for us.

  1. They eat the same foods we eat. Sometimes they don’t want to eat much of what they’ve been given (even when it’s something we already know they like) and that’s fine, but they don’t get a separate meal.

  2. The kids drink a lot of water. They like their milk and juice too, but I offer water more often than not. I even gave up soda a couple of years ago so I’d be a better role model, and Eleanor likes to “cheers!” with me and we clink our water glasses.

  3. We do insist that they at least try everything. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it, but they have to give it a fair shot. And we gladly enlist the help of Yo Gabba Gabba tunes on this one. (“Try it. You’ll like it!”)

And yeah, we still do the pizza/burgers/hot dogs thing sometimes too. But hey, I get some water in there for the girl at least!

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  • Crystal
    August 30, 2012 at 8:55 am

    I totally side with this! My baby is 12 months and she’s such a great eater already.

  • Brianne Joy
    August 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

    This is one parenting tool I hope I stick to. I’m not a mother yet, I’m a newlywed and enjoying every minute of this phase in my life. However, I do often think (or take a mental note) of things I’d like to instill in my children. One is good eating habits. Like you, I ate what my parents gave me – even though it wasn’t always healthy. But, my siblings formed these weird habits of only eating mac ‘n cheese or insisting on eating something completely different from the rest of the family. (I hate this. It’s such a nuisance and really bugs me when I’m home.) I want my future children to eat what we eat – which means modifying my diet now. I drink lots of water (it’s the only thing other than milk & OJ I ever offer my husband) and I hope I continue the habit. Although, I must confess that I really love french fries….
    It sounds like you’ve really nailed this tool – so congrats on healthy little eaters. :)

  • Bethie
    August 30, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I just recently finished reading “French Kids Eat Everything” and it helped our decent eater become an excellent eater! She is 1.5 and eats whatever we eat (aside from anything requiring mad chewing skill like a big steak). We cut out snacking and there are no second meals if she doesn’t like what she’s been served. It sounds strict, but it has made mealtime a much happier and more peaceful time!

    • Azra
      August 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      I think I will try that book. :)

    • Making it Lovely
      August 30, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Everyone seems to have good things to say about that book!

  • Allison
    August 30, 2012 at 9:14 am

    My brother and his wife have instituted the “Thank You Bite” with their kids (mainly their 4 year old, the 2 year old is in a difficult picky phase). But the thank you bite is that she has to eat at least 1 bite of anything as a thank you to whoever gave it to her. So far it has been working quite well!
    A non-food tip is that if they are in a toy store, she can add items to her wish list. They don’t like her to say “i want that”, but rather encourage her to say “I wish for that!”

    • Making it Lovely
      August 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      I like the “Thank You Bite” concept. The want/wish thing is a good idea too, though maybe I’m odd for that language not bothering me. The kids “want” a whole lot of things – doesn’t mean they’ll get them all!

      • Sherry
        August 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm

        When my daughter says she “wants” something, we just say “Thank you for letting us know.” She’s never thrown a fit for not getting what she wants at a store.

  • Christina W.
    August 30, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I wish my mother had instilled good eating habits in me as a child. She gave in easily and I think I spent the majority of my childhood eating only cheese sandwiches. She tried that thing where you forbid children to leave the table until they clear their plate? It never worked on me because I would sit there obstinately all night if that’s what it took to avoid green beans haha.

    • Gena@BakeAllTheThings!
      August 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      Are we the same child with the same parents? This was sooo my family, only I had a peanut butter sandwich, yogurt and an apple.

    • Making it Lovely
      August 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      I had to sit at the table until I cleared my plate too, and it was awful. I remember getting all worked up a few times and actually throwing up all over the table. I think my parents eased up a little after that (but not by much).

      • Fiona
        August 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm

        My mom did that, too, and I had to sit there and eat cold, mashed squash after hours. (My mom did not give in.) Personally, I don’t think that is worth it. I ask my daughter to try one bite of everything, and slowly, new things are growing on her. Green beans took a few tries.

  • Janae @ Bring-Joy
    August 30, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I too often forget about the water issue, especially with my 18 month old. I need to do better at offering it to her more frequently, I know she doesn’t get enough.

    Right now we’re dealing with a very picky 4 year old. That seems to be the age of pickiness in our family, as I discovered with my two older boys. It’s hard because all they want to eat is cold cereal, hot dogs (we’re vegetarian, so that would be “veggie” dogs), & sweets. It’s a battle, but one I’m not willing to lose.

    • Making it Lovely
      August 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      I do wonder if the kids will get more picky as they get older. (I hope not!)

      • Azra
        August 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm

        Just stand your ground. :)

  • Gena@BakeAllTheThings!
    August 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    I was THE pickiest eater ever [and still am pretty finicky!]. My parents did NOT have most of those rules, and they were very inconsistent with them. Funny though, my little sister was/is not a picky eater at all!

    I’m currently reading French Kids Eat Everything – sometimes it makes me want to cry and call my mom and get upset that she messed me up. But then I remember that once I was old enough, I just enabled myself too. I feel a bit silly, but I’m slowly incorporating some of those rules into my adult eating habits in hopes I’ll try [and like!] more foods!

  • Erin
    August 30, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I’ve followed all of these rules with my son practically since we started solids with him at 7 months (we did Baby Led Weaning). I still have an incredibly picky 18-month-old on my hands who refuses to eat dinner nearly every day. I’m not giving up, but I’m sure looking forward to the end of what I really hope is just a phase.

  • Erica { }
    August 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    My brother was definitely a picky eater and I think my parents catering to him was the worst thing they could have done! I don’t have kids yet but I anticipate the food struggles that will come … looking into that French Kids Eat Everything book now!

  • Azra
    August 30, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Good for you, Nicole. I’ve failed with this one.
    We have a good eating habits but my kids are just really picky. I’ve contributed to this, by offering them
    a choice and sometimes choices. :( I think a good rule is not to give them a choice and make them believe food is for eating and not a power games. I wish I could undone this somehow.

  • Julia [life on churchill]
    August 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Great post! This is a struggle in our home. Our oldest was recently diagnosed on the autism spectrum and he is extremely particular. About mixed foods, no noodles (not even mac and cheese) very few fruits. No veggies. This is a good reminder to encourage them to try things.

    In ot therapy they taught us a system: kiss, lick and a mouse bite. Its a method thats stuck when encouraging the kids to try new things.

  • Quiana
    August 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I just have to say I saw the Culver’s logo in the photo and am suddenly craving one of their fish sandwiches! We don’t have Culver’s here in NYC, but had it in my hometown of Columbus, OH. I miss it!

  • Jenn
    August 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Every midwestern girl needs to have some frozen custard in her life :) thanks for the info, our little one will be here in a few weeks!

  • Ammanda
    August 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    This Canadian girl is seriously craving some Culver’s now, thank you very much :D
    Balance and moderation. You’ve got it, sister!

    • Ammanda
      August 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Oh, and from the parenting perspective, my 2 kids are very similar to yours in their eating habits. It’s nice when they are good eaters.

  • Amanda Fellers
    August 30, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    That is a duper cute picture of your daughter. Good post. We have a lot of the same food ideas. I also find with my 4 year old, that the less of a big deal I make about the food, the better. And if I suspect she is refusing some of the food b/c she has her eye on goldfish, a granola bar, etc, I let her know that if she wants a snack later, she will be eating some of her re-heated meal first.

  • Audrie
    August 30, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I ate terribly as a child… basically anything laid in front of me would get eaten. I’ve had to learn proper eating habits as an adult and it’s quite difficult to break the habit of eating as recreation. If I do have kids, I’d like to teach them to make healthy choices.

    Also, the way Eleanor’s holding her straw is making me die of cuteness overload.

  • Brook
    August 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    It’s been hard, but we’ve basically been doing the “this is what we’ve got, eat it or don’t, your problem” thing for breakfast and dinner. Lunch is generally left out on a low table so that he can graze while he plays in the afternoon (he’s such a slow eater, I’d be at the table all day if he did three sit-down meals.) Fortunately, my kiddo (1.5 y.o.)eats pretty much anything without pepper on it, but when he doesn’t want to eat anything it’s hard for me to not keep offering him food. Especially at dinner time, because I know that if he doesn’t eat well then, he’ll be up at 2 A.M. asking to nurse.

  • Catherine
    August 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    “There’s a party in my tummy, so yummy, so yummy” works for us, too! And my boys tried the chicken strips at Culver’s recently for a treat, and were not impressed, though I thought they were pretty light and fresh. My older son informed me that they didn’t make the chocolate milk the right way. ;P

  • Erin Plemon
    August 31, 2012 at 11:21 am

    When my 2 yr old daughter saw this picture she had to run and grab her sippy cup that has a straw in it. Then she had to hold her hands up on the straw just like Eleanor! It was pretty cute:)

  • Teresa @ wherelovemeetslife
    August 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    It’s so good to see a post like this. I feel like I am in the minority sometimes with how we feed our kids. We have a rule in the house on food they don’t like though, if they don’t like (not don’t want) what is fixed they can have a peanut butter sandwhich. The middle boy doesn’t like spaghetti or pizza (yea, I know, weird lol), so we give him options those nights.

    Other than that, we stick to eat what is served, drink lots of water, the plate method (dividing plate into half and qtrs). :)

  • Tena
    September 1, 2012 at 10:20 am

    My children are a bit older, 16 and 12. Our children have always eaten what was provided for the main meal. Sometimes there have been negotiations as to how much of something they had to eat but they have always seemed willing to try. The only exception to this is rice. My 12 year old cannot stand it, which is strange to me because rice sort of takes on the flavor of whatever else you are eating with it. I really believe that for him it is a texture issue. I think a lot of children get hung up on the texture of certain foods. Scrambled eggs was 1 my oldest couldn’t do because of the texture. Now she cooks her own!