Another reader question! I love these.
Do you intend to make your children eat everything on their plates?
No. My philosophy is if you eat food you don't want and your body doesn't need, that counts as wasting it. Also, it's more important for children to learn how to listen to their body's hunger cues so they can become responsible eaters.
And really, if I’m the one dishing up the food, making them eat all of it isn’t fair.
I have no idea how much they want. When my children are old enough to serve themselves, I’ll teach them portion control and I’ll encourage them not to take more than they need.
Don't get me wrong; I am firm with my children when it comes to eating their meals. I believe a lot of children's behavior and attitude problems can be fixed at the dinner table. For instance:
So yes, I do make my children eat their food. But I never make them eat ALL of it.
It takes being in-tune with your child, but I can generally tell when my 3-year-old daughter isn't eating because she's distracted and wants to do something else vs. she's actually full.
And when she verbally tells me she's full, I always listen. Well, okay, not always. If she says, "Can I watch tv?" and I say, "Eat your potatoes first," and then she says, "I'm full," it's pretty likely that she's just saying that to get out of the kitchen.
For the most part, though, I want her to rely on her own hunger cues to regulate how much she eats instead of relying on me. That's why when she tells me she's full, I listen. She might realize that she spoke too soon and she is still hungry, and that will be a learning experience she can use next time she eats.
BUT! If she comes to me asking for a snack in half an hour, she will be eating the rest of her dinner. Not chips and cookies.
So what do I do with the food they don't finish?
If my girls leave enough on their plates, I’ve tried wrapping up the plate to save for later. That doesn’t always work. It seems each additional time I present them with food that has already been rejected, the food becomes more and more abhorrent.
What works best for me is to serve myself less than I want so I can eat what my kids leave. Obviously that means I have to feed them food I wouldn’t mind eating. We serve them the same stuff my husband and I eat, so that’s not a problem.
I also have to give them foods separately so they don't mix them all together. Today, I had to finish several mouthfuls of macaroni and cheese coated in applesauce. Yeah. I shouldn't have given the baby both of those foods at the same time.
Also, it helps to give them tiny servings and having them ask for more. Not only will this cut down on waste, but it gives them the opportunity to evaluate their hunger level and decide for themselves how much they want.
If all else fails, I can always give the remaining scraps to my dog. As long as someone eats them, it counts.
Do you have a question about reducing food waste? Feel free to write it in the comments or in the Contact section.