A friend of mine used to take her then elementary-aged children to McDonald's once a month as a treat. She would not allow them to get cheeseburgers, but instead ordered Chicken McNuggets. Surely chicken is healthier than beef, right? To help matters, she would also instruct her young ones to remove the "peeling" as she called it, just like peeling a banana before eating it.
My kids would never go for this, and they're 2 1/2 and almost 4. I don't know how she kept this up as long as she did.
We all know what chicken nuggets really are. If you missed the chicken nugget episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution last year, you need to google it, and fast. Once you do, you'll want to sign the petition to help America's kids change their eating habits as well. You can do that here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/.
But already, I digress...
I get why kids like chicken nuggets. I like them, too - they just taste good. I especially like the dinosaur shaped ones by Tyson. Purist that I am, I dunk them in ketchup. What I'm trying to understand though, is how kids' tastes evolve over the years. Tonight at dinner my almost-four-year-old begged for some of my General Tso's Chicken. He LOVED it. He's been my better eater all along. When he was a baby he ate anything. Then he went through the picky years as most toddlers do, and now he's braving new territory. He's officially sworn off broccoli but finally agreed to eat ham on Easter...and liked it!
I've also been getting creative with our food names. Evil Doctor Porkchops and Bullseye Beans were scarfed down with no argument.
My baby girl is much more into the dinnertime drama. I'm never sure if she truly doesn't like the food I've offered or if she is just practicing for her teenage years. Running from the table screaming, "I don't liiiiike eeeeet!" and flinging herself headfirst onto the couch is funny the first time and cute the second time. After that, it's really just a scary peek into the future.
So when do these changes take place and why? How much is nature and how much nuture? So far, the threat of no treat if you don't eat your dinner wins if it's a food she likes but just doesn't want to eat at the moment. Otherwise, she's perfectly fine with her choice if the food is offensive to her.
I've read several articles suggesting that children at this age simply want to have control over something and eating tends to be a pretty easy way for them to have that. Taste buds also change as we grow. But whyyyy? It can make what used to be such a pleasant time of day a headache - or worse - a battle that ends in timeout complete with a side of uncontrolable crying.
The bottom line in our house is that if you don't eat what's on your plate, you don't eat. So far, we haven't had much of an uprising over this. My theory is that both kids really like breakfast and lunch foods but we tend to have "different" foods for dinner. I think they can survive on what they've eaten during the first two thirds of the day and make do. I feel though, that the storm is a-comin'. Someday soon the requests for something else to eat are going to be made. And before then I'm going to need to decide...does the rule stand, or can they make themselves something else when they're big enough? We'll just have to see...
What are your dinnertime rules? I'd love to know...