I have started planning meals that I know could be mediocre. Essentially I am trying to teach my girls to eat meals that are not their favorite. Eat something that you don’t love and sometimes, you may not even like. Kind of a weird message in a world of social media and everything is labeled as BEST meatloaf-lasagna-casserole EVER. But I found that the pressure to make these AMAZING meals was just too much and also my girls were becoming used to eating ONLY their favorite food.
Dinner is dinner is dinner in our house. Sometimes that means my daughters eat just bread, a bite of meat, a bite of vegetables, and fruit for dinner. And sometimes it’s just bread. It is not well balanced. Please don’t call child services, I am pretty sure they are not malnourished. They are picky. And I realized that unless I did something, I was going to be trapped making the same three meals over and over.
So I allowed myself the grace to pick out meals that could be flops, just okay, or possibly kinda good. Then, and this is the important part, I vowed not to get upset when they didn’t turn out great. It’s a work in progress. I am a perfectionist, but going into week three of this grand experiment, I feel a lot more daring as I pick out meals knowing that if they don’t turn out, the world will not stop turning.
I have also developed a formula for meal planning that I can just plug in different types of meals.
Monday: a ‘real’ meal: some type of meat and vegetables that actually requires cooking at dinner time and produces leftovers
Tuesday: slow cooker meal we can eat after dance
Wednesday: ‘real prepped’ meal: some type of meat and vegetables that requires cooking AND prep.
Thursday: Soup day
Friday: Pizza night
Saturday: leftovers or take out
Sunday: Something that can get us into week for lunches: soup, chili, tacos, roasted chicken, etc.
So in addition to planning just okay, hopefully not terrible meals, how else do we manage two picky eaters at meal time?
Holding our ground.
And wine when things get rough and the screaming starts.
Here are some tips/rules that do help us hold our ground on dinner is dinner is dinner:
I alway serve something I know they will like. When dinner is very daring, aka something new, I make sure to serve Naan bread which the girls love, and a fruit they love.
Try everything to get more. They inevitably want more of the thing they like but to get that, they have to try two bites of everything else. And sometimes they don’t. So sometimes they don’t get more.
Dessert is not a rule. We are trying to teach them that dessert happens when you eat all of your meal AND you are still hungry. So unless a meal gets eaten, there is no dessert. Spoiler alert: this means we rarely have dessert. Which kind of bums me out because I love dessert, but I trust it will return.
No rules about dips. Ranch and ketchup abound at our house. I have no judgement about what they dip and how much dip they use. We will work on fine-tuning their palate later in life. Because my girls have hummus coursing through their veins, I do limit their hummus intake if it has appeared at snacks and lunches, but I am not above having it for dinner.
We have two sayings at the table: You don’t have to like it, you just have to try it. And of course, dinner is dinner is dinner.
Here are somethings I have heard (and wondered) and how I deal with them.
What if my kid doesn’t get enough to eat? If they are hungry, they will eat what is on their plate and there is always something they do like on their plate. If I truly think they are hungry and truly hate what is on their plate, the only snack we offer is a banana or apple after they have a bath. I can tell if they are hungry if they accept it or not and we do not do this every night (kids are smart and will figure out they can get a snack later). It is seriously ONLY when we think they are still hungry and truly didn’t like the taste.
On a side note, I used to save dinner until I made my daughter eat some (now famous) hummus mashed potatoes and she threw them up all over me. Sometimes they truly don’t like something and you can’t force it.
What if my kid doesn’t eat a balanced meal?
My MIL gave me the best advice that she heard when she was raising her six children: One in four meals should be a solid, balanced meal. Beyond that, don’t sweat it. My youngest generally eats one good meal a day. Other parts of the day, she’s just not hungry. I have accepted it.
The last piece of advice I will leave you with is something I read years ago: You can control what you give your child, but you can’t control what they eat.
So, how do you meal plan? And how do you deal with picky eaters?