Re-engineering The Dinner

My mother had a very simple rule in family that we need to eat whatever was cooked in the home. No maggi, no pizza, burger, etc. entered our home.  As it was a joint family every once in a while one of my uncles will rebel against the food cooked by granny or mom, but they will be told to eat it or leave it. Many a times they will just eat the rice or the chapattis leaving the veggies in the plate.

Re-engineering The Dinner - Good Eating Habits In Children - Fussy Eaters

My granny would just smile and let them get up from the dinner, only the next day in breakfast my poor uncles will have to eat the leftovers from the last evening. Such was my grandma. I grew up with same values but found it very difficult to impose them on our kids.

Partly we were to be blamed as every weekend I myself loved going out  for junk foods and the weekly outing meant mall, movies and McDs. Soon the kiddo too developed a taste for the junk food and a craving for all things fatty. But we soon realised what bad example we were setting for the kids and decided to go to parks and other open places on weekends rather than going to the mall. It was tough initially more for me and less for the kids.

But Kids adapt fast and soon the demands for French fries and burgers from the kids reduced and they were eating what we used to eat once again. Kiddo loves eating home cooked food, but refuses to touch any kind of Salad, be it cucumber, onion, carrots, the only exception being her love for broccoli. She is one kid who will eat broccoli in any form and any amount. But any nutritionist will tell you that one needs to have a balanced diet and for getting all the minerals and vitamins one needs to take all kind of veggies in diet.

So Missus and I decided to do some process mapping for our dinner habits and for a change we re-engineered our dinner table process. Not much rocket science, we started following some very simple steps. As dinner is the only meal in day when the kids are not in a hurry to go to school, or do homework or go to play it works only for dinner.

  • Only Salad is served on the table first and it is the only thing that occupies the table till it is consumed.
  • Then comes the rotis/rice/dal and veggies etc., once they are consumed the next item comes.
  • Missus then brings the item of the day which is known only to her and is the only item in the menu that is rationed. This is typically a small sweet and could be anything like chocolate, fruit, piece of mithai, chikki or any other thing that she keeps under lock and key, to which I too do not have any access.

To avoid any leftovers in kids plate only a limited amount is served, which the they themselves decides how much they want to eat.  We try not to force them to eat more than the amount they want, but if they have filled their plate they need to finish it otherwise the next item on menu is not served to them.  Sweet dish is served only once our younger daughter has finished her food, as she is very slow eater.

Now all this may appear too methodical and kind of boring but we find that the system works best for dinner. It has many advantages, the biggest being there are no daily fights between parents and kids over eat this or eat that. As kids want to reach to the best part of dinner they do not make any fuss over finishing their dinner as they know that in order to get the sweet they need to finish everything on dinner plate. We are ok if they eat only a little roti or veggies, but once they had the sweet and brushed the teeth no food is allowed then. Missus has also stopped running after the  younger one with the plate to finish the food as part of the pact, so everybody is happy.

So what is working in your family? Do you have a baby with fussy eating habits? If yes what are you doing about it? No two kids are alike but it is always good to know as the challenges faced by parents are all the same.

Sasha and Prasad Np are proud parents of 2 girls whom they fondly call Princess and Pinkette. He wears many hats after taking a break from being corner office critter for a long time. He is now an entrepreneur, blogger, photographer, traveler and a potential investor in start-ups with unique concepts especially if they are in travel related business. He blogs at Desi Traveler, and can be reached at Facebook and Twitter.

  • “As kids want to reach to the best part of dinner they do not make any fuss over finishing their dinner as they know that in order to get the sweet they need to finish everything on dinner plate.” – This sounds wonderful for my son, but a nightmare for a mother like me who can survive on sugar and sweets alone. 😛 Sweet article … or should I say Very Salad-ly Written? 😀

  • Such a beautiful, thoughtful and timely post, especially for someone like me who has a 23 month old lil’ devil who is gradually becoming a fussy eater. Am surely going to try out some of the tips you have mentioned in this particular post of yours to see how it goes…

    • All the best Jairam… will love to hear your experiences…

  • Wow! That requires a lot of discipline and kudos to your wife not to put up salads and healthy food on the table on a regular basis. I find it great because I have my real down days when I cant help but bring out the pasta dinners!

    • Yes, she is very disciplined when it comes to food and healthcare routine, kind of my opposite… 🙂

  • Such a great approach.. Like I always say kids mirror what parents do.if parents have healthy eati g habbits kids will pick up eventually.. Recently even I introduced salad practice in our home. Kid is yet to pick the habbit.. Great going Prasad..

  • Thanks Divya, the kids will sure pick it up, the trick is to make sure they have empty stomach when salad is served, so a gap between last snack and dinner is what we try.