"I'd like to see you tackle how we can survive planning three meals a day forever. Plus we have to consider budget, picky eaters, AND it has to be healthy?!!!!"
Thanks to Peg for the question...I'd like to see me tackle it, too!
It gets SOO monotonous when you're home 24/7/365, and for some strange reason, these people, big and small, want to eat EVERY SINGLE DAY. What is THAT about? What, we have to eat on a REGULAR basis? And I'm supposed to pull that out of what hat? Ok, ok, I know, it's my job, and in all seriousness, I really don't mind. Planning ahead is my biggest help. But how do we survive it forever? Well, I guess it beats the alternative, right?
Budget deserves a whole separate post, so I'll save that for another time.
"Healthy". Such a relative term. I try to make sure fruits and/or veggies, and usually dairy are a part of every meal we eat. The kids can have real juice, once a day. The rest of the day is milk or water. We have switched to pretty much whole-grain everything, and the kids don't know the difference. Our diet is FAR from perfect, but the biggest key for me is to make sure that most of what we eat is not from a vaccu-sealed bag, or a pre-packaged-already-cooked freezer box. We did that for enough years and we're paying for it now, both physically and financially. I want better for my kids than that. It does exist in our kitchen, and I certainly won't claim the kids eat a 100% balanced diet every day, but the junk and processed and preserved-within-an-inch-of-its-life foods are occasional things now, not staples. Fresh food feeds our body better than anything else. And I want my kids to know that food is for energy, to nourish our bodies; it's not something we eat to bring joy, to ease pain or for any other reason.
"Picky eaters" - that's easy in our house. They're not allowed. Probably stems from my upbringing, the famous old-school "you'll eat what's on your plate or you'll get nothing else til you do" routine, which was standard in our house. Mom and Dad couldn't afford anything other than plain old meats, potatoes, and veggies, and the occasional noodle of sorts, so basically you were eating veggies and other 'oft-unpopular with kids' foods, or you were starving, period. And that's if Dad didn't just whoop your butt for disobeying and not eating what you were told when you were told. But you know what? It's served me much better in my life than if I had been allowed to be picky. I can eat just about anything that's put in front of me and I know how to politely decline things I don't eat. We were taught that it's considered RUDE to make awful faces, turn our noses up at things we hadn't even tried, or to turn away "perfectly good food" for no good reason. And frankly, it is.
Now, that being said, we are not quite as hard-ass about food as my parents were, but we do NOT facilitate picky-ness with our kids. If it gets put on your plate, you eat some of it. Not four cups of it, but you are going to try it. And even if you didn't like it last time, you're trying it this time. Kids don't learn to like vegetables by never being made to eat them. They learn to like them by eating them. They can dip them in ranch or ketchup or whatever, but trying new foods (and sometimes eating them whether you like them or not) is an important part of learning to live in the world. Greg and I try to lead by example - he dislikes carrots, but he tries them every time I make them, and I put on my game face and choke down a bite of his gyro every time he eats one and insists its the perfect food.
This philosophy is generally met with little resistance, because they DON'T have to eat tons of it, just a little bit, so they can learn about flavors and textures. And they learn that even though they maybe didn't like it last time, they might like it now. Samantha obviously is more the focus of this stuff right now, because Jackson doesn't understand all of what we say, but even he is a good eater of most foods - on some things, better than his sister.
Another big factor for us is that they see what WE eat, and when WE eat good foods, they usually want to at least try it. After all, Mom's food always tastes better than our own, right? Some folks make completely different (and generally unhealthy) meals for their kids when they are eating a good healthy dinner just because it's "easier", and I feel like that, for us, would be an opportunity lost for the kids. We have stir-fry, they eat stir-fry. It's good for them. That, and I'm not running a short-order restaurant around here. We're having "x", and if you don't want that, then (as Mom used to say) "you're just not hungry". They get to choose plenty of things in their day, and if there is a choice they can make, such as banana or grapes for a snack, I am happy to let them choose. But I'm the person who is supposed to help them learn what good choices are, so when they grow up they have the tools to be healthy and make good choices on their own.
NOW. All that sounds so great and is totally my goal and focus daily in feeding my family. But please don't think there aren't days the kids get frozen pizza and chocolate milk for lunch, after having had Count Chocula for breakfast. No claims of perfection here. Just doing the best we can every day. What else is there to do, really?