Before I had a child, I believed that kids could be trained to be good eaters. I was convinced that given the introduction to mounds of organic fruits and veggies at an early age, my kid would just develop a taste for the good stuff – and by association – reject all the bad. In other words, I thought I could control the kind of eater my daughter would become.
And then, of course, I actually had a child. Control quickly became a laughable vestige of my past, and food preferences became the least of my concerns.
Nonetheless, I strove to give my daughter an all-organic start with a diet composed primarily of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Yet despite my efforts to raise a pint-sized herbivore, my daughter is now, at age 3, the most enthusiastic carnivore I know.
This is the kid who at age 2 marched through a bustling breakfast cafe and pronounced, “MMM, I LOVE BACON!” at full volume. (She got many nods of agreement from the crowd, I might add). This is the dainty girl that, upon her first bite of an Umami Burger (from the eponymous hamburger chain), literally began to dance in her seat. This is the pink-wearing princess who tried to convince me that sausage and bacon were vegetables, and thus necessary at every meal.
I’m living with the Ron Swanson of the preschool set.
It’s not that she doesn’t come by it honestly. There is nary a vegetarian (and many a meat-lover) on both sides of her family. But working for an organic produce company, I kind of wanted and expected her to be the picture of produce-loving perfection. Another big parenting reality: Say goodbye to the kid you “expected” and hello to the wonderful, surprising creature you got.
So what’s a veggie-loving parent of a meat-adoring kid to do?
Well, I try to make sure the meat she gets is as sustainable and healthful as possible.
We still fill her plate with fruits and veggies so that she knows what a healthy plate looks like. To borrow Michael Pollan’s words, we’re aiming for “mostly plants.” We cook together in the kitchen so she sees how essential some of her non-favorite veggies are to the flavor of her favorite foods. “There are onions in spaghetti sauce? Maybe I do like onions after all!” (OK, so I’ve never actually heard those words, but a mom can dream, right?)
Lastly, I’ll admit it, I’m a little sneaky. That green drink she slurps for breakfast is loaded with spinach, celery and cucumbers. She sees those ingredients go in the blender (and sometimes tosses them in herself) but because it’s a smoothie, they don’t have the eww-factor of veggies on her plate. A pink straw is an incredible incentive, too.
And if I need to sweeten the veggie-pot with a little bacon on the side, well, I’m not above it. I might just have a slice for myself while I’m at it.
Readers: How do you get your kiddos to eat fruits and veggies? Share your tips here – I’ll take all the help I can get!