In the recent months I have had a couple friends ask me about how we handle the food issue at our house. Let's start with the disclaimers. First, I want to say that I have been blessed with kids that like to eat and eat a lot. Second, we have bad food moments with our kids just like everyone else. Third, we are not perfect and we do occasionally feed our kids fast food and things that may not be "healthy". That is just life. Fourth, of course, these are not my original ideas, I stole them from friends, books, etc. Just a good combination that works at our house. Most of the time :)
Okay so here goes. My (our) take on food at the Wescott house. We never really talked about how we would deal with food with our kids, it just seemed to happen and worked so we went with it. I definitely did some reading while I was pregnant with Sam and knew that I wanted to start with breastfeeding. I was pretty sure that once we started solids, I wanted to make my own baby food. It seemed silly to me to buy the stuff in the jar when I could easily make it, without additives and preservatives. Now I can't say that I never bought it, food in a jar that is, but it was usually when we were in a pinch, traveling or just for a treat. Before all the new handy contraptions for collecting homemade baby food, I froze my kiddo meals in ice-cube trays. When they first started eating, I froze plain veggies and fruits. When they were able to eat a bigger variety, I combined foods, pureed them and the froze em' up in the ice-cube trays. The ice-cube trays were a perfect serving size for my little munchkins, and as they grew I just added cubes to their meals.
We tried really hard to give our kids alternatives to sugar before the age of two. By alternatives, i don't mean sweeteners, I mean natural sugars. Whole fruit, honey and natural applesauce were nice ways for my kids to get sweets without the refined sugar. One thing that was always a given was that our kids had to eat all their food before getting their sweets. As they got older, that turned into eating everything before dessert. I was definitely more strict with this rule when Sam and Alice were babies. Paige lucked out as the third child and got a bit of refined sugar before two. Mason was almost two when we brought him home and well, with three older siblings, he hit the sugar jackpot :)
We don't eat dessert after every meal. Maybe once a week or less. That way, it is a treat and not something that they expect. I hope that this helps them regulate their sugar when they are older and have to make those choices for themselves.
A pretty typical dinner at our house looks like this....
A meat like chicken, fish, turkey, a veggie or two, a carb like brown rice or whole wheat pasta and sometimes salad or applesauce. My kids get a small helping of meat (size of their fist), spoonfuls of veggies determined by age (Sam gets 3 or 4 spoonfuls and Mason gets 1 or 2, depending on veggie), the same for the carb. I give my kids less food than I know that they will eat so that when they finish their meal, they feel like they have accomplished something. They can have seconds on anything they want as long as they have finished everything on the first round. This way they don't eat up all their applesauce and think that they can keep going back for more applesauce without eating anything else on their plate. Nope~ doesn't work with me.
I do limit our red meat consumption. We eat mostly vegetarian, chicken and fish. My kids like to call themselves carnivores so a good burger every once in a while works for all of us! We live close to a really good burger joint, if you are ever visiting. Their burgers are made with locally processed all-natural beef.
Our pediatrician gave us this great advice and we definitely took it. Don't ever make food an issue. As long there is a meal served three times a day, your child won't starve.
When my kids come to the table, take one look at their plate and say I don't want to eat this. I come back with, Great! I bet you will eat a good breakfast in the morning. Usually they sit down and start eating because they know that I will not make them something special or feed them later. I know that sounds really harsh and mean. However, I don't expect my kids to eat everything I make either. Not a fight I want to have. I know that they will come to the next meal hungry and choose to eat. Never has one of my children gone on a eating strike for more than one meal. It is okay with me if they choose not to eat, I just don't make it an issue.
Snacks. Hmmm. I love to snack. My kids get a snack at school in the morning and then they get one when they get home from school. One healthy snack, like a banana, apple, dried fruit, nuts or a granola bar. They are hard workin' at school and they burn a lot of energy. In the summer, we have a couple healthy snacks a day. If the kids want an extra unhealthy (or healthy) snack at the pool, they have to buy it with their own money.
My kitchen is not a buffet and is not open for business all day long. I am not a waitress just a chef with one meal on the menu.
I think that I am sort of going backwards but lets talk about breakfast. My kids have the choice of what they want for breakfast. Almost every morning they each have a banana, two helpings of instant oatmeal, juice or milk and some yogurt. If we are out of that, they have a bowl of cold cereal, usually Ch*erios. If I have fruit I will throw that in with it. Breakfast is the meal where our kids eat and eat and eat. Sometimes I have to cut them off so that they aren't late for school.
We haven't had a ton of issues over food. Most of the time our kids get it and understand.
I am not saying that our kids never get sugar. Believe me, they eat plenty of ice-cream, cake, cookies and candy. When at home, we try and limit it. Ultimately, we want our kids to learn to eat healthy and responsibly.
This summer we have joined a farm co-op and are buying our veggies and fruits locally. Since this is our first go at it and all we have received so far is quite a variety of lettuce, I can't give a thumbs up yet. I think that I will at the end of the growing season because it seems that it will work nicely with what I already buy and prepare for my family. Right now, we are eating lots of salads.
As the CEO and head-cook here at the Wescott Inn, I try my best to feed my family with organic and natural foods. I read labels and buy organic when I can. With four kids, it gets pricey. We try and eat as naturally as we can. Once in a while, a box of mac n' cheese tastes really good and that is okay. If you know what I mean.