Something New

June 22nd, 2011 · 26 Comments · Picky Eating, Posts by Andy, Rituals, Uncategorized

Here’s a question: how do you get your kids to try something new? We’ve deployed various methods over the years, including but not limited to: bribery (eat this, get that), blackmail (you don’t eat this, you don’t get that), begging (dear god, I am begging you, just one bite), guilt (but poor mommy spent twenty minutes making these fava beans for you!), rebranding (well, yes, if you want to get all technical about it: white broccoli is cauliflower, happy now?), and camouflaging (what? the pancakes taste weird today? Hmmm. I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the flax seed we put in the batter). Each of these techniques has its place, depending on your level of existential dread and desperation, but each always tends to leave us feeling a little cheap or duplicitious (but only for a second). Which is why, these days, we’ve been so into the idea of getting the kids to invest in their own food, and their own choices: if you involve them in what they eat from the beginning, they’re a lot more willing — excited, even – to give it a shot. I think there’s a basic management principle in here somewhere, which I could articulate if I knew anything about basic management. My best attempt: if you give your li’l employees a seat at the table, they’re a lot more likely to care. (more…)

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Vegetable Hater Special

September 13th, 2010 · 18 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Picky Eating, Vegetarian

My 3-year-old nephew Nathan is not a big fan of vegetables. Or the idea of eating in general. I spent a few days and many meals with him on vacation last month and watched as his dad — my brother — agonized over each crumb that did and didn’t go down the hatch. Annie’s Mac & Cheese is pretty much his only ace-in-the-hole option — that is, the only food my brother can be sure Nathan will eat when you put it in front of him. “Oh, and cake, too,” he said laughing. But I got the distinct feeling that he found it the opposite of funny.

For the entire vacation I had to force myself not to say what every single family member, friend, and physician said to Andy and me when Abby went on her Great Food Strike of 2004:  She’ll eat when she’s hungry! Why are you making yourself so crazy? Man did that prescription make me crazy. While of course there is something to the idea of not giving the kid so much power in the struggle — i.e. by not pushing, not hovering, not worrying — try putting this in to actual practice when your kid eats one raisin over the course of an entire week (February 9-15, 2004). (more…)

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Screw the Star Chart

July 23rd, 2010 · 6 Comments · Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Picky Eating, Vegetarian

We were up in the Berkshires last weekend visiting contemporary art mecca Mass MoCA and while we were there stopped in the museum’s “KidSpace” to check out an exhibit called “You Are What You Eat.” We didn’t stay long — the kids weren’t with us, we were away alone for the first time in three years — but we stayed long enough to catch a few works by Luisa Caldwell, a Brooklyn-based artist who turns fruit labels into these cool looking collages (like the one above). If I remember correctly, it was some sort of commentary on food marketing but the three concepts that swirled in my head for the days that followed — Stickers, Fruit, Kids — joined forces to form another idea altogether.  For parents who are having trouble getting their kids to eat fruits and vegetables — how about using those labels for a new kind of star chart? Every time they eat a piece of fruit, they get to add the label to their column. Once they hit a certain number, they get to pick out a book or a toy at the toy store. Or, for my Northeastern bretheren, they get to go to Mass MoCA!

I faked this chart just to show you how I’d do it if my kids weren’t complete angels who need no incentive to down their five USDA-required daily servings of fruits and vegetables. And anyway there are no fruit labels in my house because everything we eat comes fresh from the farmer’s market or picked right from our backyard organic garden. The garden to the left of our Shetland pony stable and behind the servants’ quarters.

PS: If you are headed to the Berkshires this summer, don’t go without first checking the area’s must-read website, Rural Intelligence. I used it to plan my entire weekend. It covers the goings-on in Berkshire, Columbia, Litchfield and Duchess counties.

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