In my years as a mother, I have come to find one thing to be absolutely true: trying to get your kids to eat healthy is not worth the hassle. As a mother who follows the 80/20 rule and eats clean Monday through Friday and guzzles beer and eats pizza on the weekends, I have made the decision to throw my hands up in the air when it comes to my kids. Yep. I provide them with the nutritious choices by putting it on their plate, but it's their choice whether they eat it or not. They no longer hear me utter things like "two more bites" or "no snacks before dinner." I am over it, and, oh, does it feel good.
If they don't finish their dinner because they're full, I'm not going to make them feel sick just for the sake of two pieces of broccoli.
You see, I grew up in a family with three hungry brothers. Our fridge and cupboards were always full, mostly of junk food. I'd race through the door after school and scarf down loads of processed foods. Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Doritos — you name it, I ate it. Yes, my mother tried to make sure we all ate the healthy dinners she prepared and didn't let us overindulge, but for the most part, she didn't hover over our eating decisions. And honestly, I think I became pretty content with my body image as a teenager because of it. I didn't have a mother constantly nagging at me, telling me to eat this and avoid that.
Of course I want my kids to eat nutritious foods such as fruits and veggies, but I also know it's not worth the fight (and there will be wars) to get them to do it. I try to make them understand what it means to be full by saying, "listen to your belly." If they don't finish their dinner because they're just too damn full, I'm not going to make them feel sick just for the sake of two pieces of broccoli. I also try to reward (aka bribe) their healthy eating choices by stealing my own mother's phrase "no eat, no treat." They know that if they eat a decent dinner, they'll earn themselves a small treat after. By not "forcing" them to do anything, they learn to make these decisions on their own. They learn about balance, portion size, and treating themselves without me having to basically shove any of it (literally) down their throats.
Lately, I've been letting my kids help themselves to snacks, too. I used to want to make those decisions for them, but it's much easier to just let them do it. No, I don't have the junk food in our cupboards like my parents did when I was a kid, but we do have Goldfish, pretzels, and crackers. And honestly, since I've backed off, my kids are opening the fridge more for things like oranges, apples, and cheese sticks. Maybe my not championing these foods as the best thing ever makes them seem appetizing, and even cool, to my kids. Who knows? But I'm not complaining.
I don't have any secrets or answers to getting my kids to eat healthy, but I know that my kids, like most, are just picky. And if they're anything like me, they'll learn to eat their vegetables on a more regular basis someday. My mom never stressed about the food we ate, and I am glad I finally remembered that. Because now our family dinners are much easier (and enjoyable!) knowing there's no pressure to finish that last bite.
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