Wednesday, August 14, 2013

That time I forgot to buy chicken...

Almost a month ago, a perfect storm came about...

I'd been feeling like I wasn't doing enough to keep healthy veggies on the menu for the kids...

Jay's 3 year checkup and encouragement from our doctor to get and keep Jay eating new fruits and veggies....

I totally flaked and forgot to buy chicken nuggets at the store.

So, I thought this might be a good time to force us to eat different things instead of going back to the freezer to ol' faithful night after night.

I'm happy to share that we survived a month without chicken nuggets for dinner.

Not to say the kids haven't had their fair share as in a few trips to CFA and a couple of dinners out with grandparents, but we have only had them out and in moderation which is a win in my book.

We've tried lots and lots of new foods, not had a single fit or meltdown and no one has had to go on a hunger strike. I'm proud of this little accidental experiment.

And, in full-disclosure I bought some nuggets today and will probably serve them to the kids for dinner tomorrow.

Here's what I've learned--

1. If you don't ask, you won't receive. On the first night of my attempt to "get Jay to eat more veggies" I just cooked some steam-in-the-bag-with-cheese frozen veggies, put 1/2  cup in a small bowl for him and 1/4 for Lizzy. I just asked Jay to eat them and explained that we'd be trying new things like Dr. Malone said. He proceeded to eat his veggies right along with the rest of his meal and was proud in the end. Don't ask why this was surprising to me, it just was.

2. Asking a toddler to try something new is not the same as asking him to pretend he likes it. I had to remind myself that my request to the kids each day was "try it". They did it!! They did not, however, always have a good reaction. Its important to realize they are toddlers, not 5th graders and they do not have to clean their plates or use polite compliments. Nor do they know how. If something was gross to them they let me know.

3. This is not about me. Its my job to offer the new experience and encourage them to try new things, it is not my job to force feed them things they do not like in the interest of saying "My kids eat all of their veggies." or "My kids eat anything I put in front of them." A rejection or acceptance of food is just that. It is not a reflection of my parenting, cooking or care for my kids. It just isn't.

4. Getting them involved helps. This is true with Jay at 3, not so much with Lizzy at 16 months. We've taken more trips to the grocery store and Whole Foods with Jay on foot rather than in the cart. While it is more expensive to go this route, it has proven to get him interested in the produce department, paying more attention to what he sees people eating (in real life and on TV), and tasting things.

5. Samples are your friend. I'm sure this is not always true, but it has helped me to buy things I ordinarily wouldn't have and would keep me from buying things the kids won't like if we try then at the store first. Again, probably not the best tip if you're trying to manage your grocery budget to the penny, but for this it worked. We discovered cherry tomatoes, cherries and guacamole that we liked by doing this. I never would have bought the tomatoes or the cherries. It also provides good conversation points to go back to later.

6. Hide the veggies. Some things we've tried outright and others have been hidden. Chocolate Chip (Zucchini) Muffins are a good example. We've also tried Sweet Potato Biscuits. Both are yummy.

7. There's a place for everything. Yes, I am going back to keeping some nuggets on hand. Why? Because my kids do really like them. They will try new things, eat some fruits and vegetables and sometimes eat chicken nuggets and applesauce. I want them to try new things and find new favorites, I also want them to enjoy mealtimes and treats from time to time. That's what we do as adults, so I see no need to set a false set of expectations for my kids. We're just a real family, not a commercial for "clean" eating.

This month has forced me to cook creatively and rely of some tried and true family favorite recipes. I'll try to share some more this week to help me remember what worked and what didn't  keep handy here on the blog.

We've tried new meats, veggies, fruits, breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinner. It became more of an all around "shake up the menu" than an attempt to try every veggie under the sun. Maybe you've been here before and can share some tips with me or maybe you're on this journey yourself and we can all learn from each other. 

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