Why do parents short order cook for their kids?
When your child says “yuck” to what’s being offered for supper, and refuses to eat anything, do you worry, and prepare something else? Many parents do, because they are concerned that:
- She won’t eat anything at all
- It will affect her health
- It will stunt her growth
- She might get hungry and grumpy
- There might be a fights or a tantrum
Short order cooking: a new phenomenon
Short order cooking is more prevalent these days than in past generations. There is easy access to convenience and frozen foods, and microwaves help to get food ready very quickly. In the past, parents did not have the choice to make a second meal : children had to eat what was offered or go hungry.
Reasons to avoid short-order cooking for your kids
If you are concerned that your child is not eating, it is understandable. However, here are some reasons why not to short order cook:
1. It makes meal preparation more complicated and time-consuming than it needs to be. This is a big factor for many busy parents, including me. Who wants MORE complications and stress at mealtime?!
2. The alternate meals are often convenience foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt, and low in other important nutrients. These foods are easy to like, so of course kids want them, rather than making an effort to like something that is more of an acquired taste. If you let them take the easy way out, they will!
3. It teaches your child that she does not need to learn to like, or at least tolerate, less favourite foods. Accepting foods that are not favourites is a skill everyone must learn. When your child visits a friend’s house, or goes to camp, university, work, a conference, or another city or country, she will have a much easier time adjusting if she’s able to eat the food available to her. Show her at home that she can survive on the food that is offered, and she will be more prepared for the world later on.
4. It puts added pressure on your child to eat the food that you have specially prepared for her.
5. It puts more pressure on you to get your child to eat something, since you have gone through extra effort to make something.
6. What if your child decides she does not want the meal after all, and asks for something else again, or just doesn’t eat at all? It puts you in the position that you have to fight with her, or keep making her what she asks for.
7. Eating the same foods over and over, instead of trying new foods, limits variety and balance in the diet. Variety and balance are the basics of healthy eating.
What can you do instead of short order cooking?
At mealtime, include a few things on the table that your children normally like. In my house, that is bread, fruit and milk. There have been many evenings when my kids fill up on bread and fruit and don’t touch the main course or the vegetables. They always eat enough that they won’t go hungry, so at least I don’t worry that they will be grumpy. They get exposed to different meals, and they witness my husband and I eating and enjoying lots of different foods. Eventually, they will try these foods at their own pace. (Check out my previous post on this topic.)
Give your child some say when you choose your meals and do your grocery shopping. If you regularly do a menu plan, that is a good time to get some input from all members of your family. I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking for my family, and I usually do a menu plan each Sunday, so I ask for ideas from the family then.
Have each family member choose the meal one night per week. If a child feels that his ideas are respected, he will be more likely to respect others’ choices. Also, if kids have a vote in meal planning, they may want to help out with the preparation and cooking. Kids that are involved in this way are more likely to eat their meals.