Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Space Ranger

This weekend over breakfast, my son asked me if I was a space ranger at work. Apparently, I remind him of a certain character from a certain movie (I can’t mention copyrighted things since this is affiliated with state government, but you know who I’m talking about, right? To infinity and beyond?) He wasn’t enchanted with my response about helping people be healthier and went off to have an imaginary race with his cousins (who live in South Carolina) after being excused. The whole exchange gave us a chuckle, and provided some insight into his view of the world. Although we don’t always eat breakfast together since the kids eat at daycare, my family is lucky that we eat almost every dinner together at home. Eating meals together without the TV on is important for many reasons!
  • Meals eaten at home are generally healthier than dinner out
  • It can be cheaper to eat at home (as long as you stay away from lobster tail every night)
  • Kids who eat dinner with their families are likelier to do better in school. It’s true! Kids in all grades who report not eating dinner with their families are more likely to have worse grades
I’m lucky. My husband likes to cook and does so often. I’ve even influenced him over our ten years together and am happy to report that butter usage is down; olive oil usage is at an all-time high. It isn’t easy—it’s a challenge to get those dinners on the table and get the dishes cleaned up every night. We try to modify dinner to suit three different needs instead of serving entirely different meals. Our four year old is picky, just like his mama was. He does not like food mixed together, no casseroles, only tomato soup with no chunks or specks, no melted cheese, and especially important is that foods shall not touch one-another. But we keep putting “adult” food on his plate as well as things we know/hope he will eat. For example, mom and dad’s meal: chicken and bean burritos with veggies. Four year old's meal: whole grain tortilla heated just right; raw carrots and red pepper, kidney beans rinsed and right out the can, chicken to try even though I know he won’t like it, one percent milk. Eighteen month old's meal: avocado, cooked carrots, chicken, beans, some leftover whole grain pasta, whole milk. My daughter loves all things food and has been eating chunky food since she was physically capable. We used to call her the Buzzsaw for a charming noise she would make if she didn’t get food fast enough.
One thing that has helped my son try new (or just un-liked) foods is that at his daycare they read a book about a girl named Anna who tried just two bites of her food. To this day I don’t know what the book is, but he mentioned it one evening and in tough times, I pull out Anna and it actually works. Having a “just try it” policy makes for a more relaxed dinner—dad is happy the boy tries the food he slaved over and the boy is happy he doesn’t have to clear his plate. I believe (and studies back me up, here) that at his age, dinner is really about creating that atmosphere of trust and connecting as a family every night; not about clearing the plate.
Happy cooking!


  1. love this blog, so true

  2. I am looking forward to following your blog. My family and I are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. We have started a regular excercise program of 1 hour, 3 times a week with a personal trainer, but are struggling with the healthier eating. I have one child that is a picky eater and one that takes a daily medication that has a side affect of weight gain (and I believe increased appetite). Trying to carve out the time for excercise, and preparing healthier foods is a challenge and I look forward to your ideas and advice. Thank you.

  3. I'm a single mid-twenties woman who was the pickiest kid of all time. As an adult I have forced myself into the have at least 2 bites rule when I encounter new foods or things I think I won't like. I have acquired a love for many foods that I would never have touched in high school. I'm looking forward to reading more about how you fit healthy lifestyle choices into such a busy schedule.

  4. The story about Anna comes from the Food and Nutrition Services Two Bite Club at Thanks Jaime and Sue for sharing that resource! I used it again just the other night and it worked.

  5. A two bite rule works great for older kids and more compliant and food-adventurous kids, but it's not always effective for toddlers or kids who are more anxious around new foods.

    For the more anxious child it can feel more like 'pressure' and pressure often backfires and causes some kids to dig in their heels.

    With my kids I've found just having meals together and serving meals 'family style' (all the food on the table so they can serve themselves) with no requirement to taste anything creates the most positive mealtime and has increased their curiosity about foods without any food battles. I am a big believer in Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility in feeding (