Jackie Gingrich Cushman
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With two young children in the house, our family has had our share of mealtime battles.  My husband and I have learned that, if we are firm about enforcing the rules, they eventually sink in; the battles become less frequent and end more rapidly.  The children’s arguments have not gone away, but I consider that a sign that they still need their parents to set boundaries and enforce them. 

The rules at our house require they eat a few bites of each food, that they eat healthy foods before sweets, and that they eat until they are full, but no more.  The guiding message: everything in moderation.

When I was a child, I was taught always to clean my plate.  Unfortunately, I learned this lesson too well and it continues to have ramifications.  Many nights, I look down and realize that my plate is empty before I know it, and I have eaten too fast -- again.  To combat this learned reflex, I use one of the small-sized salad plates that my children use.  Since the plates are six inches across rather than 12 inches, my potential intake of food is reduced.

The lesson to eat everything on your plate is a  “rule” that I have not passed down to my children. Eating everything on one’s plate can be dangerous, especially when combined with the larger and larger portion sizes at restaurants with the increasing frequency that we eat out in our society.

Last year, two recipe books intended for families with children were published, “The Sneaky ChefTM,” by Missy Chase Lapine (Running Press), and “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld (Collins).  Both books take the approach of hiding “good” food items (such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains) in children’s favorite foods, such as macaroni and cheese, scrambled eggs and chicken nuggets.

Lapine writes that her book will “teach you the same guerrilla tactics that I have picked up with the same results.  You will learn how to camouflage the world’s healthiest food inside your kids’ favorites.”

Seinfeld writes, “I had begun to dread mealtime….Mealtimes were reduced to a constant pushing and pulling, with me forever begging my kids to eat their vegetables, and them protesting unhappily.”  According to the book’s introduction, after Jessica mixed cauliflower puree into macaroni and cheese, “The kids, entirely innocent of my deceit, plowed happily through their dinners.”

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Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.