Before I was a mom, I declared that my children would never be picky eaters. Cue laughter from moms around the world. I love food, and I assumed that trait would pass down to my children as well.
At first, my husband or I would prepare our family’s plates. Mine and my husband’s always looked the same, but for the little ones, the same meal looked slightly different – smaller portions cut into tiny bites, plastic kids’ plates versus breakable adult plates, maybe a little less spices and seasonings. My kids would immediately begin to eye my plate, refuse to eat their food, and beg for my food instead. But you see, I love food so much that I don’t like to share it. Here is where our dinnertime downfall began. So many tears, so many tantrums. And years later I asked myself, “Why won’t my kids eat foods outside of the pizza-tacos-macaroni trifecta?”
Then, number 3 came along. By this time I was so drained from the food fights every night that I didn’t even bother making her a plate; she just ate off of mine. And lo and behold, she ate everything! She loved all the food!
Pro tip: To avoid picky eaters, let your kids eat off of your plate.
I can’t really say I have scientific evidence and hundreds of case studies to back that up, but I do know this: I did not share my food with #1 and #2 and they are picky eaters, but I did share my food with #3 and she is not a picky eater. Results don’t lie.
One day, my husband and I decided to initiate Operation Try-New-Foods, which failed immediately. The older boys apparently weren’t hungry enough because they boycotted dinner all together and refused to eat. We needed to find a way to outsmart these strong-willed children. That was when we decided it was best for everyone for us to just lie about what we were eating.
There’s nothing wrong with a little food lie if it feeds my stubborn children.
Here are our top 4 favorite food lies:
What kids don’t like hamburgers? MINE! But they love them some brownie bites! Here is our secret: brownie bites are actually hamburgers about the size of a chicken nugget. Simple, yet brilliant! Dip those brownie bites into red, yellow and white ketchup (see the condiment rainbow below), and my kids will eat the equivalent of three patties.
Shhh, don’t tell my kids, but the cupcakes they eat are actually meatloaf! We prepare the usual meatloaf, but instead of forming it into the normal loaf shape, we put it in muffin tins. Bonus: the smaller portions cook a lot faster than the loaf! We top the “cupcakes” with mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn! My kids get a kick out of it when we stick a few green beans out of the mashed potatoes as “decoration!” And if your kids don’t like their food to touch each other, just put all of the extras on the side, and call it a muffin.
A food by any other name would taste as good. But my kids don’t know that. So, if there is unfamiliar meat being served for dinner, we don’t just say it tastes like chicken. We say it is chicken. Fish? Chicken. Fried shrimp? Chicken. Pork? Chicken. Alligator? Chicken. I’m not sure my kids know what actual chicken tastes like, but if we call it chicken, they eat without question.
The Condiment Rainbow
I think my kids are more afraid of new names of food than they are of the new foods themselves. There’s, of course, your standard red ketchup. Then you have yellow ketchup (mustard), white ketchup (mayonnaise), white ketchup with sprinkles (ranch dressing), brown ketchup (gravy) and … honey. Because honey is so delicious and sticky (kids give all things sticky an extra gold star), it doesn’t get a moniker. Credit for the condiment rainbow goes to my oldest who when he saw mayonnaise for the first time, excitedly said, “Is this white ketchup?!?” To which we replied without hesitating, “Yes. Yes, it is.”