Monday, May 16, 2011

Show & Tell: Please Tell Me There's Life After Macaroni & Cheese

Before I had kids, I worried about the fact that my favorite restaurants didn't have changing tables in the bathroom and when I thought about it, I don't know that I ever saw babies or small children at those restaurants. Deep down though, I knew I'd make it work. My kids would grow up on pesto fettuccine and be able to appreciate the subtle flavorings of a good reduction sauce, even if I did have to take them out to the car to change their diaper. It's kinda cute, just how naive I was.

My first clue that my kids wouldn't be as culinarily adventurous as I'd hoped was the time I took my daughter to Baby Loves Disco. She was just over a year old and they had some vendors there, sharing their goods with babies and moms. Among them, was a gourmet baby food company that produced products like "Baby Borscht" and "Baby Dal," which were designed to cultivate wee palettes. I was delighted and thought this would be the perfect way to introduce my little girl to foreign flavors. As the vendor and I eagerly looked on, she took her first bite. Then she spit out that first bite in the most dramatic way possible, giving a withering look that was most impressive for one so young.

I began to accept that my kids would be eating a more traditional toddler diet primarily comprised of macaroni & cheese and chicken nuggets. Now though, I'm once again changing my tune. I'm sick of all of the unhealthy, processed foods that my kids eat and want them to start branching out.

Thus, today's Show & Tell is more of a Show & Plead. As you can see from the photo to the left, we have a LOT of macaroni & cheese in our pantry. That's because it's the only food my kids are guaranteed to eat. You will note that it's Kraft - they tend to get a little suspicious if I mix things up a bit and try to give them, say, Annie's White Cheddar Shells. If it's not a traditional elbow noodle produced from a blue box, forget it. Grilled cheese sandwiches are usually a safe bet but quesadillas are a no-go, what's that foreign-looking tortilla and why would they put that in their mouth?! Their one gourmet indulgence is prosciutto - they are big fans of the cured meat. I actually had to convince them to try bacon by promising them it was kind of like prosciutto.

So, back to my problem. My kids are textbook picky eaters. I'm desperate to move beyond the blue box. Will you please share with me some of the recipes your kids love and willingly eat? How did you get your kids to branch out? Any recipes, ideas, suggestions would be gratefully appreciated - by me, probably not by Kraft shareholders who do so love the annual dividends my family helps supply them with.


  1. It's not about the recipes. The recipes are irrelevant.
    The way I see it, D you actually have a few questions to ask of yourself.
    You have a terrible two and one hitting the "Mommy's an alcoholic and you made her that way" years (ok 18 months). THAT you can do nothing about short of walling them both up in their rooms until they are 5. Food battles are one of the preschoolers favorite ways to exert their author-i-tai, and they do it with a vengance.
    So questions for YOU to ponder just how big a battle do you want to make this? What is the end goal here- and this is a two part question. What is your short term goal with their eating? Eating enough of what you put in front of them so you are no longer a short order cook? Widening their palate? What is your long term goal? Are you content with them ultimately just being unafraid to try new foods? What are you envisioning here?

  2. I gotta say, sadly I'm a little with you on the Mac and Cheese although my kids will eat pretty much any kind of pasta put in front of them. It's a tough battle but one that I'm willing to fight because I'll be damned if I have picky eaters!!! It is one of my biggest pet peeves of anyone, any age. Basically, I cook, I put the food in front of them and that's it. It is tougher with the 18 month old....I tend to cater a little bit toward him and I did the same when A was his age. If A complains that he's hungry at bed time (because he refused to eat his dinner) he will return to the heated up version of what he was served. Half of the time he will eat it. Basically the moral of the story is: starve them. Until they eat what you put in front of them.

    I apologize. I'm no help am I? :(

  3. Check out "Child of Mine: Feeding with love and good sense" by Ellyn Satter. Recommended to me by a dietitian and has worked really well for me.

  4. The only real suggestion I have is to not make a big deal out of food. When mine say, "I don't want to eat that. Blah, blah." I say, "Okay!" and then I keep eating. I don't make them anything else. I don't get up. I basically let them know I heard them, I accept what they said, and then, pretty much ignore it. 99% of the time, they will eventually decide to try it on their own during that meal(and like it). (I don't put up with rude behavior though - that earns a time out.) When they say, "I like it, Mommy!" I say, "Okay!" in pretty much the same voice. Or sometimes, "Oh good!" then I leave it at that. I will not bribe my children to eat. If they don't eat what I make, that's okay, but I'm not making anything else. That said, if I'm trying something they've never had or something I think they might not like, I make sure to serve something they do like too, and there are nights they eat something completely different because I know they are not going to like steak (for example). But most of the time we all eat the same thing, and I'd say a big part of the reason my kids are such adventurous eaters is because I refuse to allow mealtimes to become a battle. (And yes, I know I'm going to be eating these words when Baby #3 comes and proves me completely wrong! :-) ) Good luck!!

  5. I never made a big deal out of them eating something, but I never made them something different either.

    We had a "one bite rule" and that seemed to work okay.

    I never made it a battle and kept introducing new things.

    One of my kids has special food needs, so I'm glad I never made it a power struggle. I would have felt guilty later.

  6. I don't know what to tell you. I've lucked out and have 2 good eaters. Sort of. Honestly, at mealtime I present them with a plate of whatever we are eating (I'm not a short-order cook!) I cook what Husband and I like, only keeping heat (like red-pepper) at a minimum. Sometimes the kids eat it. Sometimes they don't. The only rule is no snacks for 1 hour after a meal. Lots of the time, they might not try a certain food the first few times they see it, but might try it after a while. Seriously - the first time my Preschooler saw salad, she claimed "That's not food, that's a leaf!" But now she eats it. Oh, and also - ketchup. Even with things you don't think would go with ketchup. My kids like to dip things.

  7. One thing I learned working at a child care center while I was in college: kids can control two things - inputs and outputs. You will never win a battle over food or potty training, so don't even try.

    We all eat pretty much the same thing at our house (no steak for the kids yet). If the kids don't eat what's put in front of them, they either get it reheated for snack or have a healthy snack. If we have something that's new for the kids they have to try an adventure bite. Kids who eat a good dinner (all veggies, take the adventure bite) are allowed one treat at bedtime (one piece of candy or a cookie). They know the rules and they make the choice. My oldest has said that it wasn't worth a cookie later to eat her veggies now - and ended up with something healthy later.

  8. Thanks so much for all of your helpful advice everyone! Sounds like I just need to put an end to my days as a short-order cook and let them eat or not eat as they see fit. Watch out kiddos, life's about to get a little big hardcore for you now ;)

  9. Hi! Do you know Elle at ThisIsMommyhood? She just posted about this same thing. You guys should team up!

    I don't have kids, so my advice just came from my perspective as a picky eater (when I was a kid). I suggested trying stuff they can help make. Like mini pizzas.

    Good luck doll!

  10. Hi Marianna -

    Thanks for stopping by! I don't know Elle but will check out her post right away. My kids do like to help in the kitchen, so I'll have to find a few more recipes they can help with.



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