How do you think a child should eat a salad? Should we give them a prepared salad and expect them to eat it because we know it is good for them? Or do we avoid offering a salad because we assume they will not eat it? It is adult food, correct?
I firmly believe a kid’s salad should be made by a kid. If we expect a child to eat their food, shouldn’t we give them the power to choose what they eat with guidance?
When children are given the power to eat good food, eating becomes fun. Food has power. In fact it has more power than it really should. Unfortunately, food is used as rewards for potty training; it is used as treats for good behavior; it is too often the center of attention at meal times; it is used as bribery; parent’s beg their children to eat it; and worst of all it has been ridiculed by some parents.
If junk food can have power, so can healthy food. Give children the power to pick their foods with your guidance. If they have the power to pick, they now have the power to eat. With most things, I let my child decide what she will eat.
In this example, I put greens in a bowl and a variety of veggies on a plate. As you can see from the pictures, I had carrots, cucumbers, avocado, tomato, and blue cheese ready for her picking. My strategy is simple. I combine foods I know my daughter loves with a food she does not eat that often. This strategy works with every meal! In this case, she loves cucumbers and avocados.
This was her final plate. I have to admit, I was impressed. I think she got carried away and started to have fun with the freedom of picking her salad. She did eat most of it with the help of a fun dipping dressing on the side. When she said she was done, she was done. I did not react or say “finish your plate”. Reacting would give food it’s negative power back.
You should know her plate does not always look like this and can vary at any time. On some days she might just eat cucumbers and other days she will eat raw spinach. Either way, it is always her choice. It is her choice to eat or not eat. It is her choice to choose her food with my guidance.
A salad does not have to have greens. It can just be carrots and cucumbers as the picture to the right demonstrates. As parents, we might get caught up in the idea our children must eat salads or even worse they will not eat salads. The worst thing we can do for our children is to assume they will not eat something based on past power struggles. Over time with your guidance and their power of choice, they will eat and eat well.