My mom raised us four kids to be healthy eaters. She didn’t do it because of research or text book rules. She just did it because that was our way of life. This isn’t the only way, but this is the how my Mom raised healthy eaters.
I recently finished reading the book French Kids Eat Everything. What an eye-opener into the French food culture! So fascinating! Kinda made me want to move to France…
In that book, the author outlines 10 French food rules that she collected during her family’s year in France.
Partway through the book it dawned on me:
Even though we weren’t French, my mother implemented many of those rules while raising us kids. Except they weren’t rules for her and she didn’t have to post them on the fridge to remember them.
It was just the way of life.
And sure, I still don’t like cilantro (it’s a gene!), lima beans, arugula or oysters. But the important thing is I’ve tasted all those things. Multiple times as a child and as an adult and I still don’t care for those foods.
It Wasn’t Easy for My Mom to Raise Healthy Eaters
It surely wasn’t easy for my Mom to make us good eaters. We were sneaky kids who figured out all sorts of ways to pretend to eat our food. Even without a house pet to feed.
Since we were Mennonite, I wore dresses every day. I used to be so jealous of my brothers because they could sneak peas away from the table in their pockets. Because I didn’t have pockets I had to gather them in a corner of my dress and bunch it up and carry the peas out behind the bush without Mom noticing.
How My Mom Raised 4 Healthy Eaters: Her Food “Rules”
[In no particular Order]
1. You eat what is served. No short-order cooking.
For the most part, us kids liked everything that Mom made for a meal. If not everything, then at least one thing enough to fill up on. If we didn’t like the chopped onions she put in the goulash, then we would pick them out. If we didn’t like the beans in the chili, we would pick them out.
Actually, I only picked the lima beans out of chili.
2. You taste everything.
It didn’t matter if I had tried peas last week and didn’t like them, I had to try them again.
The only exception to trying a food every time was if I gagged (like with cilantro and arugula). I didn’t gag on foods like peas, lima beans and onions no matter how I claimed to dislike them. So Mom knew if I gagged on something it must be bad.
As an adult I can choke down anything in a dish so I don’t make a scene picking out what I don’t like. Except cilantro and arugula.
3. If you want a midday snack, you make a fried egg sandwich.
When us kids would get hungry during the day, we’d go scrounge up our own snack. If there were no left-overs that appealed to us, we would make ourselves a PB&J or a fried egg sandwich.
A fried egg sandwich was the steady fallback and oh-so-delicious!
4. If you didn’t clean your plate, it would be saved for your snack.
Usually we dished our own food onto our plates so we could finish it. But if we got too full or were stalling on vegetables, then Mom would excuse us at the end of the meal with the reminder that the plate was our snack.
5. Meal times were shared with the family sitting at the table.
We always sat down together at the same time and shared the evening meal together. When school was out we were able to sit down as a family for breakfast as well.
We didn’t have a TV so there wasn’t any draw to eat anywhere else.
6. No eating in the van. Or in church. Or wherever there wasn’t supposed to be food.
Mom never made an exception for this in my memory. [Baby and toddler stage may have been different.]
If we were taking the 10-hour trip to Indiana to visit family, we would stop at a wayside, pull out the cooler Mom had packed and eat. There was no eating or snacking in the van. Just a jug of water and a cup to pass.
7. We always had a garden.
Sometimes Mom would let us have our own little plots for a garden. It was our responsibility to take care of it from start to finish.
Planting, weeding, harvesting and preserving our own food made us very aware of how much work went into providing a meal.
Read More: How to Plan Your Garden
8. Mom always fixed foods in a variety of ways.
Mom was (and still is!) excellent in the kitchen. Even though we at the same foods over and over again, she fixed them in many ways.
Pickled red beets. Boiled beets with butter. Beet salad. Harvard beets.
9. She always had healthy food available for us to snack on.
When we were scrounging for snacks, we only had healthy foods available. Sure, we ate our share of cookies, pies and other sweets. But they were always homemade.
Cheese, bread, butter and eggs were our go-to snack options.
When we sweet-talked Mom, we could get a whole jar of dilly beans, pickles or peaches to snack on!
Read More: How to Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs
10. We had to have fruit before we got dessert.
At the end of every supper, Mom offered fruit. Usually applesauce. Sometimes peaches, pears or cherries we had canned the summer before.
If there was a dessert for supper, we always had to have some fruit before we got dessert.
11. Away from home she let us eat what we wanted.
For the most part.
Our only rule as kids was that if pop was offered, we always had to have a water or milk before a pop.
Other than that, we had free range on the food and beverages. And sometimes we paid for it with sick or uncomfortable bellies.
As we got older, we learned what foods made us feel bad and were able to practice more self-control.
12. We were always in the kitchen.
Then we would find creative ways to serve the food. Us kids loved looking through cook books for new recipes. Mom would usually let us make what we found.
Cooking and baking was entertainment for us!
13. Bread was not normally served with a meal.
Even though bread was cheap, Mom didn’t want us filling up on it at meal time.
Read More: How to Make Bread
One Thing I Can Improve On for Raising Kids that Eat Healthy
Several years ago I noticed that the things Mom doesn’t like are the things that I don’t like.
Coconut and pineapple are just two I can think of. So I decided I need to be diligent about offering my son the foods I don’t like because it won’t come naturally to me.
[As an adult, I’ve tasted delicious, fresh pineapple and love it. Still grossed out by the canned stuff, though.]
What are you doing to raise healthy eaters? Are you using tips from your Mom or starting from scratch? Share how your mom raised healthy eaters or how you became one!