Getting kids to eat takes creativity, patience and, sometimes, a bit of luck. 52 Moms Talk Food is my exploration of how inspiring moms make it happen.
An avid runner, Jennie and her husband live in southern CA with their three children (14, 13 and 10). A full-time teacher, she knows what really happens to kids’ lunches in the school cafeteria. She shares some great advice on getting her kids to eat healthfully and live actively.
Q: What are your favorite tips for getting a nutritious meal on the table?
Jennie: I have always allowed my kids the freedom to make their own food choices, even when they were younger. My children make their own plates at home (from what I serve) and help prepare lunches for school. I don’t guess what my children want to eat (because I’m usually wrong!), and I have no idea what they’re in the mood for that day. The kids also take turns helping to prepare dinner.
Q: How do you get your kids to eat when they refuse healthy food?
Jennie: If my kids are complaining about dinner, it usually means I’m tired of planning meals and they’re tired of what I’m serving. So, we talk about future dinners at dinnertime. I get help with planning dinners and they get to contribute—it’s a win/win. We also talk about how healthy food makes you feel better (and look better, I do have two teens, after all!).
Q: How do you achieve balance?
Jennie: This is the hardest question yet! I started running three years (and enjoying it two years!) ago to increase my endurance. Running inspired me to eat more healthfully, and that inspired my family to eat better. My husband and I also use a meal planning app that allows us to download our grocery list. That way we both have the list at our fingertips for whoever has time to go to the supermarket that week.
MY TAKE-AWAY: Jennie is doing a great job getting her kids involved in the feeding process—she lets them choose what they will eat (from what she has served) and how much they will eat. (This follows feeding expert Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding rules.) Jennie also told me they got rid of most of the “junk food” in their house, and that her 13-year-old son told her he now eats his dinner because he doesn’t come home from school and fill up on chips. That’s such a great rule of thumb for managing weight and curbing kids’ snacking—don’t keep foods in your house that you don’t want your kids to eat. It’s just too tempting for everyone. And, I love that Jennie and her husband use an app that allows them to both access the most up-to-date shopping list… that’s a great way to share the shopping responsibility. (I’m going to try this one at home!)