Feeding Our Kids
Our Moms Council members share their approaches to what their kids eat.
Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council—Susan Masone, Siri Heinrichs, Cristina Fowler, Christine O'Brien and our intrepid columnist Lauren Kim—takes your questions, gives advice and shares their solutions to the problems vexing all of us.
Have a question you would like to share, or just want to provide your opinion on the question of the week? Head over to the comments section to do just that.
So grab a cup of coffee and settle in as we start the conversation today with the following question:
When it comes to what your kids eat, how much input do you have and what kind of approach do you take? For example, are you a strict mom who only allows the healthiest of foods, or do you take a more casual approach?
Cristina Fowler: I often joke that while my children look almost exactly like my husband (Irish, English, German and Icelandic descent), they have the appetites of my side (100 percent Italian). From when they were old enough to eat solids, there were few foods they turned away from.
As they got older, their pallets matured and as a rule, my husband and I refused to make "special" meals for them at dinner. Whatever we ate, they ate too. During the summer months, we eat many of the vegetables we grow from our garden and grill everything from salmon to hot dogs to steak.
I like to think we eat well, in that I try to incorporate plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in all of our meals, but that is not to say that Cranbury Pizza and Hunan Wok are not on speed dial on our land line. Variety is the spice of life and moderation the key. Our approach is strictly casual with nothing off limits.
Lauren Kim: My approach has been fairly casual when it comes to what my kids eat. By "casual," I mean that we eat a variety of foods and tend to eat out fairly often, but I do try to provide healthy meals for my kids at home (only serving things like chips and soda at home as a rare treat).
We do dine out on occasion, especially on busy weeknights, when we have been known to hit McDonald’s or Wendy’s in between after-school extracurricular activities. When we do eat out, however, I encourage my children to choose the healthier kids meal options like the apple or orange slices over fries, and milk over soda or “juice.”
Summer is almost here, so I am thinking that our diets will most likely reflect that, with more fresh fruits and veggies in our diets. (Hopefully some of those veggies will be from our garden!) Also, I usually aim to incorporate fruits and vegetables into my children’s diet throughout the day.
My children are great about eating almost everything we put in front of them – they eat most veggies and fruits and fish, chicken and meats. They don’t shy away from food choices like Korean, Indian or Chinese cuisine.
When the school year starts up again in September, however, I hope to plan out the week better and have quick-but-healthy food on hand for those busy weeknights, so we can cut out some of the fast food or dinner out nights and dine out only occasionally, as home-cooked meals are often healthier. (At least our home-cooked meals are, as I tend not to add at lot of salt, oils or added fat, as a restaurant would.)
Siri Heinrichs: This will be the last year that I have almost 100 percent control over what my kids eat. (Next year I will have a first-grader who will eat away from home on a daily basis. I have yet to decide if she will bring or buy).
Since my husband works from home and I am a stay-at-home mom, our entire family is at home for nearly every meal. I have become much more health-conscious in the past few years and have learned a lot about nutritional content in foods, portion sizes and how to prepare foods “lighter.” I try hard to make our dinners balanced and wholesome, but also taste good.
For breakfast, the kids have independent choice. They have a variety of options including oatmeal, cereal, an English muffin or a frozen waffle. (I myself prefer eggs, but that hasn’t transferred to the kids just yet). As for lunches, we’ll often have leftovers from a previous night’s dinner or a simple sandwich. I try to add some fruit and veggies at lunchtime, too. I’ve found that just by putting them on the table, they will get eaten. No one asks for them, but they disappear if they are there.
The kids will have an afternoon snack (since we eat lunch at 11:30 a.m. in order to catch the kindergarten bus, the time between lunch and dinner can be long). I wish I could do better with the afternoon snack, but it’s often eaten on the go, so we’ll usually do goldfish, crackers or a granola bar. If we are home, they love applesauce or yogurt.
We eat 95 percent of our dinners together at the dining room table. The majority of the time it’s something that I’ve spent some time preparing — sometimes with help from the kids. I do like to get their input, but I usually make dinners that appeal to me and my husband and the kids will either love it or tolerate it. No special “kid-only” meals in our house! I often serve a leafy salad and all three kids eat it.
I am proud of the way I’ve been feeding my family as of late. I know as the kids grow older my input over what they eat will diminish, but I hope the lessons I’ve taught them as we’ve cooked and eaten together will be in the back of their minds and they will make good choices as they grow.
Christine O'Brien: I do the grocery shopping, so that puts me in charge of what everyone eats. I try to keep healthy foods in the house and explain to the children why it’s important to eat them and to maintain a balanced diet. Of course we have our share of ice cream, candy and cookies too, and I try to explain why they are not always the best choice.
Just last night we were talking about the cons of drinking soda and why we really don’t drink it often. Explaining why something isn’t a good choice makes it easier for the kids to understand. It also helps to be a good example so I try to make healthy choices with the foods I’m eating.
However, it’s easy to “fall off” the wagon. Why do chocolate chips have to taste so good, and why can’t I stop after eating just one?!
Susan Masone: I do have a good deal of input in what the children eat from the standpoint of what comes into the house. After it is in the house, then the girls have the power to decide what they want to eat as their snacks. It has just become habit that they know they do not eat potato chips/soda, unless they are at a birthday party or celebration. They do not feel as if they are missing out on anything since they never were really exposed to it. However, I do have a few cookie jars in my kitchen. Each cookie jar is filled with a different treat: dumdum lollipops, goldfish, animal crackers, pretzels and even Hershey kisses.
With that said, they rarely ever touch the kisses or pops (since it is always readily available to them). However, when their friends come over, I can tell who does not have access to such treats. Those children are always asking for a pop or a chocolate kiss. This time of the year, we also have watermelon parties. For $5 (the cost of a watermelon), I am a hero to my girls and some of the neighborhood children. What is more fun than to cut open a huge watermelon and sit outside devouring it with a group of friends? These are the memories that they will remember, and I feel as if they are getting something healthy. Win-Win.
This article was updated at 4:58 p.m. with Masone's response.