Six ways to orchestrate kids’ desire to eat what you want them to eat, Part I

Aug 2, 2010 by

Forcing kids to eat never works, as you may have noticed. It works only slightly better than trying to force sheep, for example, to eat.  As with sheep, trying desperately to force children to do anything only scares them off.  They get resistant and suspicious.

Instead, we need only set the situation: a safe, fenced pasture of good grass, and bring them in gently. If you let them run around in the woods they’re likely to eat or be eaten by something bad. Placed in a pasture, their hunger comes naturally if they aren’t alarmed.  Waving your arms and shouting is not effective. The atmosphere need only be maintained and proper limits set, where they are free to eat because they’re hungry for what you want them…

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How to Motivate Kids to Eat

Jun 25, 2010 by

How can we motivate kids to eat? As revealed in this fascinating, brief video, children, like the rest of us, are less motivated by bribes than by having:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

How can we leverage these natural appetites of children to get them to eat what we want them to eat? And how and where we want them to eat?

They want mastery, so

  • Let them feed themselves as they are capable.
  • Let them learn to be civilized, acquire manners and use silverware.
  • Expect the best from them.
  • Let them try “grown-up” foods.
  • Let them–do not make them–try new foods.
  • Let them cook.
  • Let them help you in the kitchen, the grocery store, the garden.

They want autonomy, so:

  • Let them fill their own plates.
  • Let them decided how many bites of everything they want or don’t want.
  • Give them only good choices, and free reign among them.
  • Take the attitude, as in the video, that  “You probably want to eat  this healthy, delicious food, so just…
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More Dinner Table Lessons from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food Revolution’

May 6, 2010 by

Behind the times as usual, I finally watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution—all six episodes at once. We can draw out some meaty lessons for parents who want to change their way their kids eat from Oliver’s strategies to change the way America eats, one school at a time and one town at a time.

Oliver’s first attempt at getting elementary school kids eating healthier was the addition of a healthy meal with real chicken (something unfamiliar) alongside the school’s regular fare: pizza. When given the choice, between the new, healthy meal or their usual pizza, of course the kids chose pizza.

As Oliver also found out, if you offer pink milk or chocolate milk alongside plain milk, the girls take the pink and the boys take the chocolate. Nothing terribly shocking there so far. However, he discovered if you boldly, ruthlessly take away the flavored, sugary milk options altogether, the kids…

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How to get kids to eat at the table, Part II: Lindsey's question

Apr 3, 2010 by

In response to my previous post, “How to get kids to eat at the table,” a reader named Lindsey asked the following question:

“What if I’ve been doing all you listed above since my children (now 6 and 4) were babies, and they still don’t eat what’s put in front of them?

It’s not that they’re not hungry or that they don’t like what I make. They poke their way through each meal, sometimes playing (even when asked to stop), my son will turn his nose up at things, but we require him to taste everything. They dawdle, and my husband and I always finish every meal way before they do.

I feel as though I’ve tried everything. Do you have any suggestions for that? Other than that, I enjoy your posts, and thank you for all your insight.

Lindsey , Thanks for your excellent question! It really…

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Part II: Q&A on tiding over a two-year-old before dinner

Feb 24, 2010 by

This post is the second installment of my answer to the question of a reader, Jen, a few days ago:

My two-year-old eats really well most days, and we only have real food in the house. There are times though, when I’m moments away from having a meal ready, and he has the refrigerator open pointing at the yogurt or applesauce. I often tell him that after he eats the soup, spaghetti, red beans and rice, or whatever it is we’re having, then he can have the yogurt. I’ll say, “First we’re going to eat the soup, then we can have some yogurt.” Is this wrong? Is this like offering a reward? He usually complies without much of a fuss, though occasionally he throws a bit of a tantrum. I think the problem is he’s hungry, but the food isn’t on the table yet. If it’s going to be a…

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