I know, that’s an odd title for one of my Friday posts, but he did! My three-year-old son Jack, who can be a bit of a picky eater, just ate Japanese food – and then asked for more. Now, this may not be a big deal to you, but for this daddy, this is HUGE!
Kim is due to have third child any day now. So, I thought I’d be a good husband pick up some dinner to bring home. (Nobody wants me cooking in the kitchen. Tried it once. Bad idea.) She had been craving Japanese food, so I dropped by our favorite local chopstick-toting restaurant – Joy of Tokyo – and ordered steak and chicken teriyaki with steamed rice. Even as I was placing the order, I thought, “There’s no way that Jack is going to eat this.” Oh, he loves chicken and rice, but mostly the fried kind. Which, it turns out, are not the most healthy of foods.
So imagine my surprise when, after fixing the kid’s plates, praying over the meal and spending a few minutes eating and catching up with one another, I looked over and his plate was clean. Not only was it clean, he was trying to get more food off of my plate. I was really happy and pleased. I gave him more food, and he ate it too.
This was a huge milestone for our family. It is something that we have been working on for a while. You see, I not only believe that children should eat healthy food, but they should eat the food that the rest of the family eats unless they have an allergy to a certain food.
I remember hearing that my parents had a similar battle with me when I was a child. My mom would make supper for the family, which normally included foods that I didn’t naturally or normally like. But, there were some rules that were enforced around my parent’s table. First, everybody in the family ate what was cooked for the rest of the family. There were no special meals made for anybody – unless you were sick. You didn’t have to eat everything, but you did have to try everything at least once. (I have a story about a egg sandwich that I promised my mom I would never tell again.) The other rule around my parent’s table was that you couldn’t have “seconds” of anything until you’d first cleaned your plate. I do have to admit that this rule ensured that me and my brother’s learned how to eat an entire plate of food very quickly so we could have “seconds” of the mashed potatoes or biscuits. This is a habit that I still struggle with overcoming today.
So, since we have been “blessed” with a somewhat picky eater, we came up with and have started following some simple rules that I believe helped to get us to tonight’s victory and will help ensure that we are able to enjoy many more such meals together as a family. If you have the daily battle with a picky eater, let me share some simple suggestions that I pray will be a help and encouragement to you as you too seek to instill healthy eating habits into your child.
Don’t worry if they don’t eat as much as you think they should. Remember, they have small stomachs. Sometimes our adults eyes don’t realize how much they do eat, so scale down your expectations. You might also consider starting off with smaller portions. You can always give them seconds.
Cut back on morning and afternoon snacks. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give them anything to eat in between meals, but keep their snacks small and healthy. Our kids love fresh fruits and nuts.
Don’t let them fill up on drinks. Looking back, this was one of my problems as a older child and younger teenager. I couldn’t gain weight no matter hard I tried. (Oh, to have that problem again.) Sure, a large part of my not gaining weight was a turbo-charged metabolism, but that wasn’t the only thing that contributed to my lack of weight gain. I would drink so much tea or milk or juice that I wouldn’t want anything to eat. One of the things we do at the Whitt house is we try to let them get started eating before we put a great big glass of milk or juice in front of them.
Make sure everybody sits at the table together during meal times. This was a non-negotiable at my parent’s house. If you were on the property you were expected to sit at the table while everybody else was eating. Today, as a daddy I’m so thankful for those times around my parent’s table. I remember our family devotionals and the scripture memory that took place there. I remember the lessons on life that were shared. It was invaluable and is something that I intend to pass on to my children.
Don’t fuss and fight at the table. This is not the place to deal with the “issue” you’ve been wanting to discuss all day. This is not the place to criticize or complain about what they have or haven’t done. Make your family table a place of encouragement and discussion. Use this time to catch up, compliment, share the joys of life together as a family. If there is some issue that needs to be dealt with, do it later and away from the table.
This isn’t “Burger King” – don’t do it their way. Make sure to prepare the best, most healthy, meal you can and then expect them to eat what you have cooked. If you begin serving as a short-order cook, serving up their favorite fried or high fat food, you will create a monster and set them up for a life time of problems. Serve good, tasty, healthy foods and expect them to eat it.
Keep the “Big Picture” in view. The important thing is to teach and instill healthy eating habits into your children. As your children change and develop, their likes and dislikes will change and develop as well. I can look back over my life and see how my tastes have change. I like trying and eating new and different foods. I’ve been overseas and love trying local cuisine. I thank my parents for not being so shortsighted that they sacrificed my future for a fast, easy, fuss-free meal one evening.
Today was not the end of the table battle, but it was an encouraging and reaffirming victory. While I know that this was just one meal, it was an important development that has come as a result of consistently following some very simple rules. Tomorrow…well that’s tomorrow. But, since Jack did so well eating his supper, now it’s time for dessert.