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My Other Life as a Short-Order Cook

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Guest blogger Liz Fenton: I'm not gonna lie: Sometimes I ache for the days when I just had to fend for myself. Long day? I'd just throw together a salad and watch whatever reality-TV marathon came my way. But those days are long gone. Now I'd be ecstatic if the other three people in this family would just eat the same damn thing!

woman cooking
Before you click your mouse to comment on how this situation is my own fault, let me save you the trouble: I'm completely aware that I've created my own (very adorable!) little monsters. But that doesn't mean that I like it. At first, it was harmless -- a little dino chicken here; some bowtie pasta there. And since I can't even LOOK at the kids' food without gaining five pounds, I was already cooking something different for myself each night, anyway. Lucky for me, my husband could -- and would -- eat just about anything. But that still left two very different appetites to please. 

So I spend many nights doing my best imitation of a short-order cook. Pizza for my daughter; pasta for my son. Tacos for my husband; tuna salad with no dressing for me. All served with either fruit or veggies (my one consolation that I'm NOT the worst mother that ever lived). 

But that gets old, so I've been trying to get my kids on the same page with their tastebuds. So far, my efforts have been in vain. When asked why he won't eat the same thing as his 5-year-old sister, my 3-year-old eloquently responds, "She's a poophead!" 

How can I argue with such logic? 

So, momlogic friends, help me out here. What are your tips for getting your kids to eat the same thing?

next: Creating a World Where Girls Can Be Girls
45 comments so far | Post a comment now
Christine August 25, 2010, 2:29 AM

Put the same thing in front of them and tell them this is what is for dinner. If they dont eat that is their choice. They will be hungry for the next meal and maybe they will eat then. I struggle with this with my 2 yo but I refuse to make him a completely different meal. The only time I will make something different is if I know absolutely that he hates something in it. We have sloppy joes sometimes and he hates BBQ sauce but I will still make him try a little of it. Most likely he will grow out of it and learn to like it. The problem is is that your kids know all they have to do is say they wont eat something and you will fix what they want. Stop doing that and they will learn to eat what is in front of them or they dont eat till the next meal. Good luck.

Short order cook August 25, 2010, 6:19 AM

My husband is a vegan, so for awhile I was making two slightly different dinners, anyway….one for him, one for me and the kids. As my daughter got older, she developed tastes quite different from my son. I tried making one thing and imposing the “eat it or go hungry” rule, but realized I don’t actually mind making something different. It’s no extra work on my part to make, say, chili for my husband, pizza for my son and chicken nuggets for my daughter. That being said, I still pick the dinner. I don’t say, “What would you like tonight?” I make something I know they like, or at least have eaten before, and then make a couple of common side dishes for everyone.

Meredith August 25, 2010, 8:12 AM

My household is easy despite my 4 year old. I cook for myself, my son, and my mother. My mom is the only one who isn’t vegan but she eats vegan at home because that’s how I cook. I never let my son get into the habit of asking for different dinner from what the grown-ups are having. He’s just always eaten what I eat. There are a few little exceptions, like when I make burritos; he isn’t a fan of refried beans so IF there is leftover tofu in the fridge already, I will make his with the tofu instead of beans. Sometimes I do let him choose dinner… for everyone; I give him 2 or 3 options and he gets to pick which we eat. That way there is one meal for everyone, he got to choose what he eats that night, I am not a short order cook, and whatever he chose I approved in advance.

anonymous August 25, 2010, 12:03 PM

In the end it comes down to what you’re willing to do for them, but I confess that we do more short-order cooking than we’d like to. Sometimes it helps to come up with a dinner like build your own tacos that can be done with variations. You can also put them in charge of finding a healthy replacement for what the rest of you are eating - a 5 year old can make a peanut butter sandwich or get out some leftovers to eat, for example. Letting someone eat different healthy raw foods can work, too - say rice plus peanuts plus carrots. Take out food can be nice, too, although expensive.
One thing - could your husband eat what you do or cook for himself? It makes it harder to say no to the kids if you are setting the example of everybody eating different foods.

TheQueen August 25, 2010, 5:47 PM

I make ONE meal in my house. Always have. The kids have a choice of whether to eat or not. They can choose to eat only one thing on the table. However that is the meal and there is nothing else until the next meal.
It has been this way since day one. The kids are not picky at all and are very easy to feed. They know that there are no snacks or anything else unless they eat their meals

Michele August 25, 2010, 9:51 PM

Your article reminded me of my single days when sometimes all I wanted for dinner was a can of corn (out of the can!)

Lynn August 26, 2010, 1:29 PM

Doctors have told me to quit modifying the menu for the kids. When they get hungry enough, they will eat. I’m eager to read replies because I have yet to stick it out long enough to starve the little buggers into submission.
I even have a countertop bell I ring when I set food up on the counter I announce, “Order up.”
All in all, my 17 year year old came out of this phase fine. My 7 year old? PICKY! My four year old? Not so picky, but I pray it only gets easier. Hang in there, mom. This too, shall pass. Just feed them the healthiest of what they’ll eat and supplement with vitamins. It takes 10 times for a kid to try something before they deem it to be liked, per our doc. Although, getting broccoli into my 7 year old even once seems like a monumental challenge in itself!

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