To quote my co-worker and fellow Miami HEAT broadcaster Jason Jackson... IT... IS... TIME. Yes, I'm finally doing it, folks. I have decided to take back meal times in our home. Call it a food revolution (like Jamie Oliver), call it painful, call it anything you like... but I call it absolutely necessary.
We are introducing one new food a week to our kids, and are insisting they try (and swallow) at least two bites. Why this drastic change? Why upset the balance of a calm environment? Why create tears and tantrums in the face of broccoli? Well it's simple. The chicken nugget experiment (banning chicken nuggets from our home) which worked well when we were consistent, has failed. I've fallen back into the trap of giving these to our girls when they don't like what I make.
Another reason is this: I was floored when they wouldn't eat this breakfast bear toast. I mean come on... really?
And lastly, our recent vacation was impossible. Our 5-year-old wouldn't eat a different brand of wheat bread or even try new fruits while we were away. They have become too complacent about eating the same foods, and they cringe when there is something new on their plates. This is our fault; we give in to what is easy and quite frankly, I have become lazy. We as parents want our children fed and happy, and don't like meal time battles anymore than they do.
But we are also creating a society of children who are eating a majority of processed foods. They are becoming addicted to sugar and are not getting enough fruits, vegetables and proteins. According to Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution, 43 million children under the age of 5 are obese. How do we fix this problem? Baby steps with #ONENEWFOOD a week... to start. Will you join us?
I'm not talking Brussel sprouts every night for dinner, or egg white omelettes every morning. I'm talking about gradual changes. Here are some suggestions:
- Switch from white bread to wheat bread.
- Try a new lunch meat or roast a turkey breast and use the slices for sandwiches.
- Use whole wheat pasta instead of standard white.
- Make homemade pancakes (with whole wheat flour) and freeze them instead of buying the pre-made kind in the freezer section.
- Try a new fruit for a snack instead of a boxed goldfish cracker or another pre-packaged snack.
- Try one new vegetable at dinner.
- Make homemade chicken nuggets or tenders one night instead of a store bought brand.
- Try juicing! Our girls love Green Lemonade.
- Try making a smoothie for breakfast once a week loaded with fruits, greens and other yummy nutritional goodness. (Avocados are excellent additions to smoothies...and your kids will never know!)
These are just a few suggestions, the sky is the limit. But the focus is not just to expand their palate, but to also try to introduce more whole foods and less processed foods from a box. Think about your supermarket, try adding foods that you would buy in the perimeter sections of your store. Fruits and veggies, different meats and proteins, almond milk, almond butter etc.
I also asked my friend and blogger Lauren from Oh Honestly, who has three kids and struggles with meal times as well, to join me on this #ONENEWFOOD journey. We are going to blog about our experiences each Friday, and hope you will try too! If you're not a blogger... no worries! We hope you will upload your photos to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag us and use hashtag #ONENEWFOOD. We will feature our favorite photo each week on our blogs and social media channels.
We can't wait to see what new foods you are trying and hear about your kids' reactions... good or bad. The important thing is to try one new food. Remember, it takes as many as 10 times before your child will adjust to the new taste or texture.
Good luck, parents, you got this! Take back mealtimes and rid your home of picky eaters forever... we dare you!