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Hey Y’all!  I would like you to meet my three {toughest} dinnertime critics:

They’re cute, right?

They are also very opinionated about what we eat!

Before I talk about what dinner time looks like at our house, let’s take a few steps back.

I was a new mom to Miss J.  I was SO worried about her not getting enough nutrition.

That’s Miss J.  Five years ago!

Anyway, I digress.  I was so worried that she wouldn’t get enough nutrition, etc.  I didn’t want to “make” her eat what we were eating.  What if her little taste buds didn’t like it??  I look back now and see the error of my ways!

I got caught in the “I’ll fix you whatever you want!” trap.  And it is JUST that; a TRAP!

It was ok at first.  I would fix dinner for me and the hubby, and something small on the side for Miss J.

Then rolls in Mr. A 21 months later.  Things get more complicated.

I had the same worries and fears about Mr. A.  What if he didn’t like the food I made?  I’ll just feed him what he likes!

I’ll keep everyone happy!

Now, I wasn’t totally crazy.  I would try (for like one day) to have Miss J and Mr. A eat what I fixed for dinner.  They usually would protest, and that would be the end of that experiment for a few months!

Then Little Miss E shows up, and adds more excitement to meal times!

Such a cutie!

By this point, our family meals were increasingly chaotic!  I was fixing a meal for the hubby and I, Miss J would eat some of it, but mostly I was fixing a separate plate for her, Mr. A, and baby food for Little Miss E.  Count it up. That’s 4 meals!

I was caught, DEEP, in the “I’ll fix you what you want” trap.  How did I GET to this point?!

I snapped a few months ago.  Mr. A had been on a bacon, pepperoni and fruit diet for about 6 months, and Miss J was getting more stubborn about trying new things.

So, I stopped.  Completely.  Cold Turkey.

About the time we started eating clean, I completely stopped making anything separate, period, for my niños.  They eat what I fix; how did I not think of this sooner?

We have a dinner time rule-You take one bite of everything on your plate. Period.

Surprisingly, this rule has gone over very well!  There was some wailing at first, but after 4 or 5 days, they seemed to realize that this was the new normal.  No more separate meals, and you eat what mom fixes. (Oh, and if you eat one bite of everything on your plate, you get dessert!!)

Now, if they don’t like that one bite they take, they don’t have to eat any more.  I was worried (that old trap was calling my name!) that they would starve. Shockingly, they are discovering new foods that they DO like!

I about FELL OUT OF MY CHAIR last night when Miss J said “I really like these sweet potatoes mom!”  Or when Mr. A told me that he “liked” my sweet and sour chicken, and that he loves fresh corn.  Those are the meal time moments I have been dreaming of for five years!

So to answer the question “do they actually eat what you plan?”.  Yes, yes they do.  It wasn’t easy at first, but they are now on board!

Based on our family’s experience, these steps should help your meal times be Fun, Easy, and Successful!

Plan Ahead

I cannot say enough about this!  Plan out what you are going to eat for dinner, and make sure you have all the ingredients before the week starts.  I plan meals on Saturday morning, shop Saturday afternoon/evening, and am ready to go for Monday.  Do it every week!  No more 5 o’clock stress of “what the heck are we eating for dinner?!”  Does collecting and planning out a weekly menu sound too stressful?  Then sign up for a meal planning service!  I have used these in the past, and would recommend them:

The Six O’Clock Scramble
The Fresh 20
Plan to Eat

Eat Together as a

One thing that we have done right over the past five years, is always eat together.  Every. Single. Night.  We sit down as a family, and enjoy a meal. (it has not always been a clean or nutritious meal…..). When my hubby is working late, or out of town, I still sit down with my kiddos, and we eat together.  That includes breakfast and lunch.  We eat together!  Your children will be MUCH more willing to try new things if you are sitting down, as a family, and eating them.  I don’t know about you, but my kiddos watch me like a hawk during meals to see if I’m eating what I fixed.  The parents are the example!

Have a set Dinner

Who doesn’t have a busy life?  Especially if you have children at home.  Set a dinner time, and try to stick to it.  If it gets moved because of other activities, don’t stress!  Just keep trying.  Try to plan evening activities around dinner.  Even if everyone is only home for 30-45 minutes (which happens around here!), plan to eat dinner during that time.

Double your

That’s right, double whatever you make and freeze the rest.  Don’t need that whole onion you just chopped up? Freeze the rest as an ingredient for another meal.  Double that big batch of stew you are making.  It will be an easy dinner on a busy night. My freezer is pretty stockpiled right now with chopped veggies, and frozen leftovers!

Turn of the TV and other

This is something my parents were GREAT about doing when I was a kid.  I cannot ever remember having the TV on during meals.  That includes breakfast and lunch.  Meal time was time to talk, and enjoy being a family.  We all ate around the same table. This is how we’ve done things in our house too. This isn’t so much a rule at our house; it’s just what we do.  We’ve never had the TV on during meals-and I love it.

I hope some of these tips help!  If you are caught in a mealtime trap like I have been for the past five years, give some of these a whirl and see if your mealtimes get better!

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