Perhaps I push fruits and veggies too much in my household. Perhaps I am living out some fantasy in which my kids will love fruits and veggies and toss out their love of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Oreos and Twizzlers. Maybe I am forcing my kids to eat veggies each night with dinner, and fruit as snacks, because I don’t want them to have a love-hate relationship with their weight like I do.
Thanks to a recent lifestyle revamp, I am feeling good and eating healthy. I am also trying to infuse this approach into my fridge and cupboards, and hopefully onto my wife and kids — but I still eat the most veggies in my household by far. For everyone else, it’s a chore. My kids will eat almost anything if there is rice or pasta included, but not veggies. And in recent weeks, my wife and I have more or less gone to war over how we should approach our pickiest eater. We just do not agree on how we should get our daughter to eat her veggies and fruits.
To me, it’s simple: I take the tough love approach. I have no problem letting my five-year-old, strong-willed, aspiring little artist wail in protest at the kitchen table. I even bought her one of those cute plates, perfectly partitioned to house three different options for her: the main course, a veggie or fruit, and a treat. I remind her all morning leading up to breakfast, then lunch, and then dinner, that she will have a fruit or veggie. I ask her to take a bite (or three) of the one strawberry on her plate. Or I ask her to eat one blueberry of the three on her plate.
My wife prefers to take a “let her realize that fruits and veggies are good for her” approach. She wants to introduce reason and rational thinking into the equation — but to me, neither have a place in this battle. My wife sits with our daughter during her meals and explains (over and over and over again) why it is important to eat fruits and vegetables: your doctor says you need it, you want to grow big and strong, you can start with one vegetable or fruit you like and eat that one.
She’s even offered her a cup of milk between each bite to wash it down. Every time I witness it, I roll my eyes (out of sight, of course). I mumble under my breath that this won’t work. And I muster up the courage to interrupt and remind my wife of that fact — only sometimes it does work, like every other hit-or-miss approach we’ve tried, and I am wrong.
It’s a nightly battle. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. My wife and I are always at odds when it comes to this. But I will not give up, because I feel like our daughter needs the nutrients these foods provide and cannot survive on fish curry, rice, and dhal (my wife is Sri Lankan) her entire life.
In the end, our daughter will take the smallest bite of something and call it quits. She refuses to even try a banana and peas; I’ve given up on offering those. She’s cried at the dinner table for thirty minutes because of the one pea on the plate.
We aren’t any closer today than we were yesterday at ending this battle, or having a winner in this fight. I am learning with each meal that neither my approach nor my wife’s is wrong, just different. Maybe, just maybe, our daughter needs them both.