We bribed, we threatened and we sent them to bed hungry.
We tried everything. Or so we thought.
As visions of friends’ horror stories about their kids living off nuggets and chips surfaced in my anxious mind, I pressured Claire to eat her fruits and vegetables. She resisted as any 3-year-old would.
Things got so bad that she wouldn’t even eat dinner. Not even when I cooked her carnivorous and carb-laden meals that she used to love. She lived off biscuits, bread, plain pasta and milk. Lots of milk.
The last straw was went she went through a very traumatic time with constipation followed by poop-holding for days out of fear of pooping.
Remove all junk food
That was when I drew the line and ‘threw out’ all the biscuits, chips and other junk food (I didn’t really. I’m Asian and my heart aches when I have to throw food out. I kept them for myself even though I knew I shouldn’t be eating them either).
There were a few melt-downs when she would ask for biscuits or chippies and I would say no.
Have a variety of fruits and vegetables ready
Surprisingly, on the first day itself, after one of her melt-downs she asked to look in the fridge and decided on an apple.
On the same day, she was willing to try a carrot stick I was eating. Not surprisingly, she didn’t like it. But that’s not the point. She tried it and that was a giant step forward.
As she had the munchies but couldn’t satisfy it with biscuits and other junk food, she also chose to eat a nectarine, blackberries and grapes.
Use reverse psychology
We also tried reverse psychology during mealtimes. When Claire did her usual whinge during dinner and sat at the couch watching TV instead, we turned the TV off so she couldn’t distract herself.
Then we say:
‘It’s OK if you don’t want dinner. There is no more food after this and you’ll be hungry. But that’s OK.’
The first night she went hungry. The second night she came to the table readily but would only pick at the parts of dinner she was willing to tolerate.
We did this at every meal for almost a week. Sometimes, she would come to the table without fussing and sometimes she would resist. Those nights that she refused dinner, we would let her go to bed hungry.
It took about a week but now Claire runs to the table when I say dinner is ready.
Another score for mommy!
Hide the veggies
I found it easy to feed Claire sweet fruits but almost impossible to get her to eat vegetables.
Once we won the war of getting Claire to actually eat her dinner, I ventured into experimenting with sneaking more vegetables into her meals.
We tried zoodles, camouflaged in pasta sauce. To her credit, Claire tried a spoonful. Unfortunately, she spat it out immediately and went without dinner that night.
Another day, I cooked her favorite pasta with minced meat in tomato sauce. But I added chopped mushrooms, minced spinach and shredded carrots.
Guess what? She cleaned the plate and asked for seconds!
I think I might be on to something here and will continue to hide vegetables in meals until Claire gets used to eating them.
It works for hubby too.
Don’t start them on bad eating habits
Throughout all this drama, Tommy, my 1-year-old, took it all in his stride. He was eating biscuits and crackers as well but when they went away, he ate fruits instead.
He also loves his food and eats all his meals. He ate all the hidden veggies I cooked and even loved the zoodles!
The moral of the story here is that prevention is better than trying to stop a bad diet once you’ve introduced it.
If we didn’t introduce Claire to biscuits and chips as bribes, she wouldn’t have spiralled into a little sugar-addict and junk food eater. As parents, we were solely to blame.
To wrap up
I know my quest to improve my children and husband’s diet is only just beginning. But I think I’m off to a great start. Adam (hubby) was so impressed with Claire’s transformation that he vowed not to buy biscuits or junk food anymore. He was also willing to buy a zoodle maker since we both quite liked it.
If you are a sugar-addict too, read my article on how I stopped eating junk food.