I have to say that the title Food Wars doesn’t seem as appropriate. Well, it does and it doesn’t. Buggy is an excellent eater. His appetite is strong (most days), he is adventurous with flavors and textures (most days), and he is pretty awesome for being a toddler. So in terms of getting him to eat healthy – not such a war. Yes, there are foods and meals that go over better than others. But for the most part, we are on great terms.
His pediatrician said to me that most picky eaters come from lazy parents. I have to agree. (Please know that both he and I only mean this for healthy children, not those with medical or allergy issues that may cause picky eating – that is a completely different situation.) That is where the term war is appropriate. You aren’t so much fighting the toddler – you are fighting yourself. Fighting the desire to always give what you know will go down without a fight. Fighting the desire to always give what will end in a clean plate.
As I prepare for a meal, I think of what is easy, fast, and healthy. In “American” cuisine, there isn’t much that falls into all three categories. I feel the pull to do the simple, to do the quick, and the not so nutritious. Since beginning the school year again, I feel that pull even more so. I am doing a job that two people did last year. I have more work to do in the day than hours I am at work. I am EXHAUSTED when I get home. Before baby, we ate around 7ish. There was down time between coming home and making food. Now, Buggy expects dinner between 5 and 5:30. When you get home around 4:30, that doesn’t leave a lot of time. But I have an arsenal that’s stocked and that’s what helps me get through.
- FREEZE IT! I freeze leftovers. I freeze muffins. I freeze breads. I freeze vegetable purees (stock any and every meal). These can be reheated in minutes and enjoyed without guilt. If the fresh dinner doesn’t agree at all with the little one or dinner ends up taking longer, I have back-ups so he gets to eat something, and something good.
- Plan and Prepare. I learned from my mother to plan weekly meals. We even go so far as to design our grocery list in the same order as the aisles (saves time and money folks)! When feeding a toddler, I think about all 3 meals of the day as well as snacks. Do this for yourself too if you want to eat healthier. We plan dinners and weekend lunches that all 3 of us can enjoy – so we all benefit and life is easier. Planning avoids last minute decisions and unhealthy choices.
- Keep Staples On Hand. By staples, I mean fruits and veggies. I always have carrots, broccoli, and sweet potatoes so I can make a healthy side I know my son will eat if something doesn’t turn out right or we have to improvise.
- Prep Early. I have started prepping some meals the night before or even on the weekends. I may cut, chop, or mix the night before so I can quickly get the dinner in the oven or on the stove when I walk in the door. Some prep I’m even doing on the weekend if I can.
Don’t get me wrong, all of these things take up some time. Making hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and french fries most nights would be much faster and easier. However, I only want him eating that once a month – if at all. So I take a minute to revel in the glory of spending the extra time and energy to make a healthy, delicious meal that he gobbled up just as quickly, if not faster, than most children eat those other foods. Seeing his enjoyment makes it worthwhile.
I know a time will come when he will only want to eat certain foods. But if I can make sure that his picky choices are still healthy choices, then I won’t worry about that time in his life as much as I have seen other mothers worry.