I have a little boy who will eat cucumbers, celery, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, lentils, beans, hummus, most fruit and green olives, watch out! He is not yet 2. At some point he will turn 2 and then 2 1/2 and developmentally will hit a picky eating stage. Eli, now a month away from 5, used to eat quesadillas with brown rice, lentils and seaweed inside. The he turned 3 and wanted all his food separate. He hit his picky eating stage and for almost 3 years he has gone without a piece of lettuce entering his body. It has always been offered, available, but not eaten by this little boy. So he has had lots of steamed broccoli, roasted cauliflower, raw carrots, cucumber and celery and recently green smoothies. It seemed to me lettuce was just not his thing. He saw all of us eat it. He has planted it, picked it, purchased it at the farmer's markets and even helped make salads.
Imagine my surprise at his preschool the other day as the children sampled different parts of plants that you eat, he picks up a lettuce leave and says, "Mmm, I just love these juicy little lettuce leaves." Juicy little lettuce leaves! Going with the flow of our children can be so challenging. Feeding our family a beautiful and healthy meal that makes everyone happy can become a battle unless we simplify.
I have a guiding word for the year and it is simplify. Simplify. It is guiding me to find balance and get closer to the vision of what is important to my life. I have used simplify to guide my meals, which means keeping recipes to a minimum, using fresh foods as the centerpiece. I was a mama who would bribe for a child to eat 3 bites of food, I have even gone on dinner strike. Which means I refused to cook dinner because it felt so unrewarding to have kids turn up their noses to all the work you have just done. Learning that children eat differently takes some time. Bribing in my opinion is how to set up life long eating disorders and issues with food. Offering simple fresh foods that your children love, and some they can learn to love, is how to build a life long love and appreciation of the health that food can bring us. Try to look at food through your child's eyes. A bowl of chunky soup may seem really strange and foreign, but that same soup blended up with some crackers for dipping could be a lot of fun. Or perhaps a deconstructed soup or just the broth with some torn turkey lunch meat in it and cucumbers on the side. It takes some time to figure each of our children out. Once you do, planning meals gets much easier.
The other night, Patrick cooked up some sliced chicken in oil, salt and pepper and put it in the fridge until it was time to eat. I sliced strawberries, pulled out some arugula and baby lettuce from the fridge, made a quick dressing with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and we all sat down to eat. Chloe wanted only green baby lettuce, strawberries and chicken. Eli had purple baby lettuce, strawberries and chicken. Lucas had everything and fed it all to the dog. Patrick and I made huge bowls full of greens topped with strawberry chicken salad. When Lucas started complaining, I pulled out a bag of frozen blueberries and that made all children happy while Patrick and I finished our salads.
Are there ways you can simplify your family meals?