Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Last Titus 2-sday I told you my Mom's basic menu guideline - more color for better nutrition. Practically speaking, that means more vegetables and fruits. Maybe you have young children and you're thinking, "I could never get my kids to eat broccoli/asparagus/fill-in-the-blank!"

Don't think that, and certainly don't say it aloud in their hearing! It's amazing what kids will eat if you present it with the clear assumption that they will eat it, and then, if they hesitate, provide a little parental encouragement. Take your kids to the grocery and let them help pick a few of the vegetables for the week. Or, let them grow vegetables of their own. We planted bush beans and squash in the "flower beds" around our house in Antioch, TN, when the kids were very small - amazing how excited children can get about vegetables when they pick the produce themselves!

Also, we've always had a rule at the dinner table - you can't say you don't like it if you've never tried it. If you tasted a particular food and didn't like it, then...when the particular food was served at future meals, you still couldn't say you didn't like it (that would be rude to the cook), but you only had to eat a very small portion. Tom, for example, isn't very fond of potatoes or Brussels sprouts. When we have either of those for dinner, he'll put a small amount on his plate and load up instead on something more desirable.

Okay, some of you are no doubt thinking, "What kind of parent would make a child eat food she knows the kid dislikes?!" Well, a mom who wants her kid to develop a palate for a wide diversity of foods and, hopefully, good eating habits. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying you should cram a load of some objectionable vegetable down your kid's throat. I am saying it's okay to be the parent and insist on your children eating healthy food.

As I mentioned, Tom isn't too keen on Brussels sprouts. When we have Brussels sprouts for dinner, he'll only eat two or three. But, if you ask Tom what foods he really hates, he'll answer, "Oh, I like just about everything." If you press him and ask, "What about Brussels sprouts?" - he'll come back with, "They're okay, I guess, but they're not my favorite."

Learning to eat a variety of foods, even if it requires a little effort, has a couple of benefits that come quickly to mind. First, better nutrition is built on variety. I knew a teenage girl once who would eat no vegetable except fried potatoes. Her mother and her family doctor were struggling to get her to eat other vegetables, for health reasons. I can't help but think that lesson would have been more easily learned as a small child instead of as a teenager, when years of habit had to be overcome in addition to taste preferences.

Also, we don't know for certain where in the world our children will end up as adults. My oldest son who will be traveling to Japan this summer, and you can bet he won't be eating "Momma's cooking" while he's there. However, he is excited about trying new foods, and I'm confident he won't starve to death surrounded by unfamiliar cuisine.

Better nutrition, willingness to try new foods....and one other thing. Plain old good manners. I want my children to be able to eat dinner with friends and other families without balking at the food. When they get married, I want them to be able to enjoy meals with their new families without having to put finicky restrictions on what is served.

I have a friend who, in her work with various ministries, travels to other countries. Determined to graciously receive the hospitality of her hosts, she has consumed things like fried tarantulas and fermented mare's milk. How, with a smile and a nod, is she able to crunch a cricket? By having the mind of Christ. By valuing the person who is serving her over her personal taste preferences, and by respecting their culture.

I really don't want anything less for my children.

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