Feeding our children.

A father recently reached out to me, asking for food suggestions for his 2 sons. He says "I want to feed them well without breaking the bank. My older son is so picky... bread, chicken nuggets, meat... he likes. Eats but complains about carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers (eats middle with seeds). I want to have him eat food that I prepare for myself, but don't want to force him... it leads to tears, anger and frustration on both our parts. Suggestions?"

I have been feeding my children for 13 years now, and these are a few of the typical comments I hear when I serve them a meal: ''This again???... I'm sick of... I don't like... I hate... What is this???... This tastes salty... This looks weird... I'm not hungry... She looked at me funny... I'm tired... I want juice...'' Thank yous and please are optional...

What do our kids need? When it comes to their health and well being, kids need parents to be parents, not friends. It's ok to insist; if you think about it, don't our kids do that to us all the time? They ask us parents for whatever they want over and over and over, until we give in out of sheer exhaustion. So why not employ their technique on them? Ask and ask and ask until they eat that one piece of spinach, forkful or collards, cabbage, beets, sweet potatoes, cauliflower...

When trying new, different foods, ask your kids to try just one bite. They may resist at first, but don't give up. If kids get used to the idea that they are expected to try at least one thing, or one bite, at meal time, that is already a big accomplishment. Don't give up.

Do away with juices and snacks so the kids are hungry at meal time. When we are hungry, everything tastes wonderful. Let your kids help you cook, patience and time permitting that is... as their curiosity may override fear when it comes to tasting what you made together.

Kids resist vegetables, they're wired that way; they love and crave fat, carbs and sugar. But gently insist, at least a bite. Complaining, or even a few tears... won't kill them.

A few basic meals...
  • Kibbies: pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1/2 cup of raw bulgur, and let it sit for about an hour; discard excess water. Add 1Lb (pound) of ground meat, salt to taste, and a little  (a teaspoon) of dry oregano. Mix, and shape into 2 inch ''footballs." Bake for 1/2 hour at 400 F, or until golden brown.
  •  Chicken soup with brown rice and/or noodles (whole wheat), and vegetables: that is a great way for kids to eat their vegetables, as they sip the broth in which they have cooked.
  • Roasted potatoes: add some sweet potatoes to the regular potatoes, make sure the kids try at least one...
  • Whole wheat bread and whole wheat English muffins: instead of white bread.
  • Roast chicken: instead of nuggets... and of course look for the good luck bone in it. Use the carcass to make chicken broth for your next chicken soup; boil it with a couple stalks of celery, a carrot, an onion, and herbs of choice (parsley, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil...). Once you have a nice-looking broth, pour it through a colander, and peel the rest of the meat off the bones. Discard (or give to the dog) the cooked stuff, put the chicken meat back into the broth, and use it for your next vegetable, or chicken-noodle soup.
  • Scrambled eggs, omelets... with or without cheese, spinach, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes.
  • Brown rice with ground beef, mixed- super yummy. Make both separately, then mix.
  • Edamame: with salt.
  • Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, sweet potatoes, arugula, carrots, onions, radishes, spinach, cabbage, collards, cucumbers, zucchini, parsley, tomatoes, sweet peppers, green onions, kale... and yes, lettuce has just about 0 nutrients... don't waste your money on it unless you use it to mix with more nutrient-rich greens.
  • Tofu: sautée 2-inch tofu squares in olive oil. Or bake it, coated in salt and olive oil, at 400 F.
  • Whole wheat pasta: serve mixed, or side by side, with broccoli, chard, green peas, basil, parsley or spinach... and butter.
  •  Quinoa: warm (with butter); or as a salad, cold (with olive oil, nuts, cranberries, feta cheese...)
  •  Corn bread: made in the cast iron pan...
  •  Lasagna... they can help you put it together, it's fun and easy if you buy ready-to-bake pasta.
  • My daughter loves making Latkas. Think of Latkas as Jewish hash browns; as long as you stick to eggs, onions and potatoes (no zucchini), they are straight forward to make, and cook just like pancakes on cast iron.
Cooking takes commitment. And commitment is hard to give when time is short, we are tired from work, grocery shopping, kids fighting, homework, projects, bills, house cleaning, laundry... and it takes time to cook. It may not be as "easy" and ''quick'' as the "easy quick recipes" say they are. But it is so worth it!

Don't give up. The day does come when you are able to finally share a real meal with your children, and see your own kids eat and enjoy eating well... and hear them talk to their friends about good food and personal health. That is the magical day when you know that your kids will be ok... it does come, I promise!

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