Making meals enjoyable for all

Would you like your children to eat almost every kind of food, and enjoy whatever they are served?

My husband and I placed a very high priority on accepting every food presented. There is almost nothing we don't like, and we feel that our ability to enjoy many kinds of food has enriched our lives. We give frequent dinner parties, attend friends' ethnic festivities, and travel to other countries. Naturally we wanted our children to accompany us on many occasions, and we didn't want to require special items just for them.

When they were little, we tried forcing, cajoling, bribing, scolding, punishing, disguising - all with notably poor results. Mealtime was no fun when we frequently had to give in to our offspring's prejudices and cries of ''yuck'' to my best cuisine!

The answer was simple. Easy, no; but simple, yes.

We told the children that they could eat whatever they wanted from what I placed on their plates at mealtime. However, there would be no seconds on anything until all food on the plate was eaten. And no more food until the next mealtime.

What success! Now it was entirely up to them whether to eat a new or disliked food. Although it took a few months, it is now rare for them to pass up anything. They still have favorites and foods they would rather never see, but they've learned to like almost every food. And believe me, the variety served to our family encompasses far way beyond ordinary menus.

Here is why I think our program works so well:

* There is no eating between meals. Hunger is the best appetizer.

* I serve very small portions on the plates. Everyone may choose more from what they like. And after the plate is cleaned, kids can also choose to have all the fruit, cheese, nuts, or popcorn they want for dessert.

* Since required servings are small, no one is encouraged to overeat just to get dessert or seconds on a favorite.

* Children who are not hungry or who really don't want something can reject that dinner or that food completely if they are willing to wait until the next meal before eating again. The child is therefore in control of his own appetite and desires.

Our children (1st and 3rd grades) are now such great experimenters, and so enjoyable to take to parties, that meals are fun for all. Since I love to cook and spend much time at it, it's rewarding to see my culinary efforts appreciated by thewholem family!

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