Chocolate asparagus

If only asparagus tasted like this:

Your kids would jump up and down with joy when you served it.  Then they'd wolf it down and ask for more.

This, of course, is every parent's dream.  Unfortunately, it is far from most parents' reality.

Instead, in an effort to provide a healthy diet for our children, many of us resort to "stealth cooking." We stuff zucchini in pancake batter, prunes in brownie mix, and carrots in spaghetti sauce.  The reason we do this is simple: dinner time battles occur precisely when we, as parents, are exhausted from the day's activities.  Better to sneak the food into the diet, we believe, than have a power struggle on our hands.

But what kind of habits does this practice develop?  It may ease our collective conscience, but it does not teach basic, healthy eating skills.  It does not teach habits that we've found woefully absent from not just one, but two generations of Americans.

I wouldn't discourage you from your stealthy cooking tactics.  (You may know that I'm not above sneaky kitchen practices in the name of health.  I've been known to switch labels on peanut butter and yogurt containers while transitioning my children to healthier options).

However, I would encourage you to also introduce, every day, the healthy foods that make up a portion of your child's favorite, ahem, muffin recipe.  I've found if you stick with it, even stubborn kids will eventually eat good food.  Case in point: last night my 4 and 6-year-old children shocked me by cheering about their meal.  I served them wild salmon, asparagus, tomatoes, and bananas.

Here are my tips, which worked for me.  I hope they help you develop a healthier, stronger child of your own:
  1. Always insist your child try one bite of his vegetables or other healthy, and therefore unlikable, food item.  At first, offer a bribe, like dessert, for eating one bite.  Slowly graduate to no dessert unless all the food in question is consumed. 
  2. Neither you nor Jonny wants to spend the entire night at the kitchen table, staring at his plate.  Start with small portions that seem realistic given your child's willingness to eat.  
  3. Be matter of fact.  Tell Dillon, "Try it.  You may not like it, and that's okay.  When you get older, I bet you will, just like cousin Billy, Daddy, or Grandpa."
  4. Grow some vegetables with your child.  After all the work planting, watering, and tending them, your child will be itching for a taste of them.
  5. Make sure your kids are hungry at dinner time.  Skip afternoon snacks if you must, as hungry children are always more eager to eat vegetables than those stuffed with Cheez-Its.  Let them know once they start eating better dinners, you will reconsider snacks.
Keep your cool and never give  up.  Pour a glass of Pinot Noir and breathe deeply when you get frustrated.  The picky period doesn't last forever.  

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