Over the course of the last 6 years, I have strived to find the best ways to include more whole foods in everything I make. It gets to be hard when you are hearing “I don’t like that”, “do I have to eat that”, “that’s not good to me”, and the barrage of other things small children say.
We have a 2 bite rule here and for the most part, it helps. They continue to have to try things for 2 bites and if they don’t like it, they can go ahead and stop eating. I don’t make them something else to eat. I don’t change our eating to suit their’s. I think that comes from some of the ways of my own childhood household. My step-dad was really only a meat and potato person. My brother was a very picky eater. And typical of an Italian household, I needed to put meat on my bones or at least according to my step-dad’s 100% Italian mother (she even used to emphasize what regions of Italy she was from; Naples and Sicily).
It was not until I was an adult staying with my mom while Aiden was a baby and Adrian was possibly being deployed that I realized my mom can really cook. I hadn’t remembered her really cooking much more than grilling chicken, steaks, burgers, hot dog, kielbasa… Lots of mashed potatoes with creamed corn. I remember a lot of Mac’n’cheese and things like lasagna, spaghetti. And here she was making things like blend of Bayou which is a casserole with shrimp and crawfish, eggplant Parmesan, turkey vegetable chili, Mexican stuffed shells, and a variety of other things filled with bright, beautiful vegetables she would find in her 10-15 cookbooks or cooking magazines. Honestly, I had no clue! This is what triggered everything though. She cooked for us not how she wanted to but how she felt she had to because of all of us. We missed out on the good stuff! And that’s not her fault. We were in a meat and potato era in our house. That made a “balanced meal”. We were in the time that if a child doesn’t clear their plate, they will get sick.
I got to thinking about all the stigmas presented and habits that are formed in the early years of life. We feed our babies the best way we can; providing breast milk or formula. Then we slowly introduce vegetables, fruits, cereals, meats, and dairy. We take such precaution with their early development. I have seen friends post pictures of nibbled on cucumbers and bell peppers by toddlers from the store. These kids are not screaming for cheerios, goldfish, and gummy snacks. They’re eating what they have been taught is good food. I am by no means shaming giving kids those other foods because I do it too. Aiden could be found eating containers of the baby food cheese puffs, fruit snacks, and yogurt melts. Now though, I am just trying to keep veggies and fruits in the mix too to make sure they have all they need for their little body’s to grow and they grow a healthy curiousity/love of God’s food, not man’s food.
And as for the thought to it all. They may be “forced” to eat 2-bites, but the reasoning we give… You cannot say you don’t like something unless you try it. This has led to the discovery that Aiden loves lettuce, tomato, corn, potato, and oranges. Lilli loves a variety of vegetable soups, salads, asparagus, tomato, and a variety of fruits. Isabel loves carrots, oranges, and grapes. Hannah will feast on raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and apples. I encourage them to taste the foods as we are cooking. I want them to learn the taste of fresh ingredients, the smells of spices, learn how to cook things the best way so the flavors come out naturally still.
And I must add, they have dessert every night. We have nightly sweets with purpose. The kids make it through the day hearing “grab a healthy snack” or “if you are hungry, grab a salad, soup, or sandwich to actually fill your belly instead of a bunch of snacks”. They know that whatever I am cooking, they have to try it. If they don’t like the entire thing, they are told to go ahead and pick out what they do. They know that I am not making them something else. Afterwards, they hear me say that we cannot have anything else right away because the body needs time to process what you just ate or you’ll feel full and sick. They know that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to know that you are full! And finally, at the end of the night, we have a small cup of ice cream or hot cocoa. It’s not a treat for good behavior. It is simply our sweet treat for the day; small and controlled. After that, we quietly go about watching a show together, read separately or play for a little while longer. Bedtime is 1 1/2 hours later so their bellies have time to process the sweets.
I am by no means saying that my way is THE way. It’s just the practices we follow. It was hard at first to move away from always making mac’n’cheese, hot dogs, spaghetti, and frozen pizza. The older kids were a little resistant because that is all they knew. I keep reminding myself when they are digging their heels in…I am not here to make them happy. I am here to raise them and prepare them the best before they leave the house.
One-Pot Sausage Ramen Soup
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- 3 Garlic cloves
- 4 Stalks Green Onion, chopped
- 1 Cup Mushrooms
- 1 Cup Shredded Carrot
- 4 Cups Beef Broth
- 1 Cup Water
- 2 Tbsp Coconut Aminos
- 2 Cups Kielbasa, sliced
- 1 Block Ramen noodles
- In a large pot, heat olive on medium high heat
- Add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes
- Add chopped green onions (reserving 1/4 cup for topping), carrots, and mushrooms
- Reduce to medium heat and cook for 3-4 minutes
- Add coconut aminos, beef broth, and water
- Heat to high and begin to boil
- Add ramen and sausage
- Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 6-7 minutes
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with green onions