I also picked up some frozen breaded tilapia. Maybe for me the fat content is a little high, but I don't worry about that for them. They always seem to like the taste and the crunchiness. I have always fed them fish but, looking back, it really was good fish (it helps to live on the coast where we can get it, as well). I bring this up because recently, while traveling, I ordered fish sticks for my daughter. They were shaped like fish and stars; very cute. We gave her ketchup for dipping and thought she would like it. When she took a bite, she turned her nose up and scrunched her face. Well, then I tried one and realized I probably wouldn't eat it either. It really had a fishy taste and a funny texture. I learn so much from just watching my kids. Yes, maybe it's because this is what she's been exposed to but I just thought it was funny that she wouldn't eat something that was breaded, fried and covered in ketchup. She really does care about the taste.
So, back to the other night. I didn't say "What do you want for dinner?" which the answers could be "cookies", "french fries", "pizza"...you really need to be careful of open-ended questions with children. Instead, I said "Do you want lasagna or fish?" My daughter said lasagna and my son said fish, with sugar. My first reaction of course, when any child asks for sugar is no. But, I thought about it for 2 seconds and thought, well I could put some maple syrup on the side. If he wants to dip it in that, that's fine with me. At least he's eating fish.
While everything was cooking, I found some carrot sticks in the fridge and leftover spaghetti. I ended up giving them each the lasagna and the fish and put a little bit of maple syrup on their plates (I like to use those divided plates for dinners like this). And you know what, they polished off their whole dinner. My son ended up getting some of his spaghetti in the syrup which he didn't like too much; oh well. I can't even remember if he dipped the fish in the syrup or not. My daughter ate all of her fish (it tasted good) and gobbled the lasagna.
It's times like this when I reflect upon their eating. Why did they eat that? What are some of the strategies? Here's what I think works for my children:
- To be successful at anything, you have to have the right tools. When I food shop, I buy the foods that I know they like. I keep things in the freezer and pantry for those times I'm not going to cook from scratch. It keeps me sane.
- Hungry children tend to be less picky. I try not to give them big snacks.
- I use specific language about food. It's not "Do you want dinner?" It's "We are eating now."
- I try not to say "No". I don't mind if they have a cookie or ice cream if they eat something healthy first. They are learning what that means.
- The food they eat tastes good. Knowing how to season and prepare food really helps. This is why I started teaching people how to cook.