HOW TO STOP SHORT-ORDER COOKING EVERY NIGHT
Updated: Apr 6, 2018
We get it. We're all parents who love our kids and we don't want to see them go hungry, so instead of watching our precious angels have nothing but their glass of milk at dinner, we make them something we know they'll eat. Better than nothing, we think.
The problem with that is that every time you make them something special, you're robbing them of a chance to learn. Just like many kids have a fear of swimming until they learn, kids also fear new foods, and you can't expect them to get over the "fear" of trying new foods if you don't give them the chance. The more they work up the courage to try "scary" new foods, the more they realize it isn't so scary after all, and that's when you start to see progress.
But if you've gotten pretty comfortable with making them nuggets or pasta every night and not even attempting to get them to eat the more adult-friendly fare, it can be scary territory to head into. Here are a few tips to make the transition go more smoothly for both you and your kids:
1. AT LEAST ONE THING ON THE TABLE SHOULD BE SOMETHING THEY'LL EAT - EVEN IF IT'S ONLY BREAD AND MILK
If a hungry kid sits down and doesn't see anything they like, they will immediately freak out (bring on the whining and the tears). Putting something out you know they'll eat makes everything else on the table seem less scary, so incorporate these things into the meal. Notice I said "incorporate into" the meal. This means consciously planning to have pasta with meatloaf and broccoli if you know they'll eat pasta and are less sure about the meatloaf and broccoli. It doesn't mean serving nuggets next to the meatloaf.
2. GET COMFORTABLE (REALLY COMFORTABLE) WITH THE FACT THAT SOME NIGHTS THEY WILL ONLY EAT BREAD AND MILK
At first, they may only eat bread and milk and nothing else, so you'll need to get comfortable with that and resist the urge to either pile on the pressure, feel like a failure, or give up and make them a pb&j. Have patience and faith that they will come around. The more they see you enjoying the food on the table and you kindly asking if they want some (no pressure!), the more comfortable they'll be to eventually try it. Try to plan dinners so that if one night you know you're pushing the limits, make the next night something you know they'll like more.
3. MAKE BREAKFAST AND LUNCH AS HEALTHY AS YOU CAN
This will help with point #2. If you can rest assured that breakfast and lunch are giving them a lot of their needed nutrients for the day, then you won't freak out as much if they only eat - you guessed it - bread and milk for dinner. I love serving smoothies as afternoon snacks (see here for one of my faves) because it helps me relax if they only pick at their veggies during dinner.
4. GET OFF OF (OR AT LEAST EASE UP ON) YOUR OWN DIET WAGON FOR DINNER
I believe this is the reason many people start short-order cooking - they want to eat healthy, so they look up healthy recipes and find a lot that look amazing, but their kids won't eat it, so they decide to still make it for themselves anyway. I say, eat your special healthy diet all day long, and then at dinner, focus on REAL, homemade recipes that are more family friendly (which doesn't mean unhealthy, by the way!). Give yourself extra veggies and a smaller portion of pasta if you want, or find ways to make easy swaps (not full on substitutions) like using a lettuce wrap for yourself instead of a bun. Healthy and family friendly can absolutely be one and the same.
5. CUT YOURSELF (AND YOUR KIDS) SOME SLACK
Will you never short-order cook again? No, that's just crazy talk and putting that kind of pressure on yourself will send you over the edge. BUT, you should try to work your way down to not more than once a week on average. There are some foods I know one of my daughters just straight up hates (like salmon) - I wouldn't make myself eat octopus, so I don't make her eat salmon - she gets chicken nuggets on those nights and I'm not going to beat myself up over it.
Stopping short-order cooking goes hand in hand with helping picky eaters - check this post out for more help in that arena!