I’m no expert on nutrition, especially when it comes to the dietary needs of kids. I am fairly certain, however, that growing boys need more than just corn dogs, instant macaroni and cheese and french fries. Unfortunately, those seem to be the only things he ever wants to eat.
I understand that it is probably just a phase. I’m holding out hope that he’ll eventually take after me. I eat everything. Well, almost everything.
At the same time, I don’t want him to become so set in his ways that he never develops a sophisticated palette. We all know those grown-ass adults who refuse to eat anything but chicken tenders and doughnuts. You know the ones. They are probably complaining on Facebook right now about how they have the flu for the 12th time this year.
I also want the best for my kid. I want him to be healthy so he can grow big and strong. I don’t want him to be “the fat kid” in school. Kids are rough. Nobody wants to hang out with the fat kid in school. They usually smell bad. I don’t want my kid to be shunned like that just because he’s too stubborn to eat a damn carrot. From a selfish standpoint, it also gets really annoying when you have to cook multiple meals at dinnertime.
So how do you get your kid to eat less processed junk food and enjoy eating healthier things?
You are just going to have to lie, coerce, manipulate and straight up force them to do it. Don’t worry, it is for their own good.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you do that:
1. The Prison Approach
The most effective way to get your kids to change their eating habits is to go with the method that has proven successful since the times when cave-parents were trying to get their little cave-spawn to eat their mammoth livers.
“If you don’t like what’s being served, you can go ahead and starve,” your mom probably said to you when you were younger.
After the fourth day of not eating, even asparagus will taste delicious.
While this is a sure-fire way to get your child to stop being picky about what they eat, there is a contingent of parents that feel that parents should never make their kids do absolutely anything that might hurt their feels. Granted, these parents are dumb and their children will likely mutilate cats and post Pepe the Frog memes on Twitter when they get older.
But since some parents would rather give their kid diabetes than actually be a responsible parent –and what kind of advice column would this be if I answered all your problems in the first bullet point? — you might also try…
2. Loosening the rules
While the common sense approach to parenting would be to enforce the rules that are in their best interest, the easiest way to make your child to want something is to tell them they can’t have it. This may create an obsession with “forbidden” foods. A four-year-old will totally down an entire bag of Oreo cookies out of spite and defiance.
It is okay to be flexible. Cookies make great bargaining chips when it comes to coaxing your kids into eating cauliflower. Remember, you are trying to instill good eating habits in them for the future. And just like most of us adults, we allow ourselves to indulge in a treat, especially if you had a salad for lunch.
3. Pre-Plan Meals and Snacks
“Dad, I’m hungry”
Do you ever get this one while you are too busy to actually cook or make something healthy for them so you end up throwing them a pack of Nutter Butters or fruit snacks to calm them down?
I’m guilty of it. I’ll admit.
If you learn to anticipate when these hunger pangs are going to hit, you can prepare for them. Hungry kids are more likely to eat whatever is put in front of them. Keep things like pre-sliced apples, raw carrots, and celery sticks on hand so all you have to do is pull them out of the fridge.
4. Keep It Simple
Every now and then, I can convince my kid to eat carrots. But for some reason he won’t eat them if they are in his soup. Kids tend to shun “mixtures.”
Keep it simple. No sauces. No “toppings” as my kid likes to call any form of seasoning.
You also might find that simple, plain foods are actually easier to prepare too. Foods that can be eaten with just their fingers like sandwiches, vegetables and dip, sliced fruit, and simple pastas are often the easiest things to get them to eat.
5. Chemical Addictions Work Great
Did you know that crack cocaine tastes like salt? Just sprinkle a little bit of crack on his eggs in the morning and he’ll never want fruit loops for breakfast again. As an added bonus, it’ll also help control ADHD.
If you are wary about giving your child crack, you may want to try heroin or other opiates mixed in with their vegetables. They’ll be chasing the kale dragon in no time. And it makes bedtime go much, much smoother.
6. Hide the Veggies and Fruits
What they don’t know, can’t hurt them. If they don’t know they are eating their vegetables then they can’t complain about it. Puree a few veggies in a blender to mix into the spaghetti or pizza sauce or disguise cauliflower as tater tots.
Or blend them up into a frozen smoothie. You can always just call it ice cream.
Which brings me to…
7. Just Straight Up Lie
Does your kid know that, like Popeye, the Incredible Hulk’s strength is derived from his love of spinach? Or that grapefruit is how the Flash is able to run so fast?
They will if that is what you tell them.
Thanks to the age of “alternative facts” you can straight up lie to just about anyone as long as it furthers your agenda. The truth means nothing anymore.
That’s not low-fat yogurt, it’s “special ice cream.”
Okra is now “dragon eggs.”
Nowadays, you don’t even need to worry about the blatant lies you tell them being dangerous.
You know how I got my son to stop eating hot dogs?
I told them that they are made of the flesh of all the little puppies that nobody wanted. This works especially well if you visited a pet store earlier in the day.
He doesn’t want hot dogs all the time anymore. Problem solved.
8. Give Them Some Choices
When you are cooking a standard main-course-and-two-side dinner meal, try to make sure that you give your child a choice of two of the three items they want to eat. This helps the child feel like they have a “voice” in what is eaten and can help them explore a variety of different foods.
That way you aren’t really forcing them to eat something they don’t want to.
Like I said before, I eat almost everything. Except raw tomatoes. I’ll eat raw snails or fruit shaped like an orangutan’s ass but I won’t eat tomatoes. AS long as he is open to trying new things, I will always allow my son to have that ONE food that he will never have to choose to eat.
While you are at it…
9. Set a Good Example
Are you fat? Do you eat an entire bag of cheese doodles while parked on the couch watching television? Do you grab fast food every day as you pick them up from school?
Congratulations. You just taught your kid that these things are okay.
Kids are more likely to learn by imitating what you do, not just what you said they should do.
If you want your kid to eat Brussels sprouts, you better be willing to shove a few of them in your mouth as well.
What? You don’t like Brussels sprouts? Suck it up, buttercup! Brussels sprouts are good for you. Life is full of things that you may not like but end up being in your best interest. How are you going to teach your kids that if you can’t even accept it yourself?
JUST EAT YOUR MOTHERFUCKING BRUSSELS SPROUTS!!! YOUR KID IS WATCHING YOU!!!
Which brings me to my final point…
10. Make Food Fun
“Eww, there are blueberries in my pancakes but they are in the shape of Mickey Mouse so I’ll go with it.”
The internet is full of ways to make kids’ food fun.
Ants on a log? Boom! You can make landscapes with rice or mashed potatoes, cut fruit and cheese into shapes, or cut a sandwich into home plate. Have them pretend that they are a giant brontosaurus and the broccoli are tiny trees. As long as they don’t think that eating healthy stuff is a punishment, they are more likely to enjoy doing it.