Bringing Dinner Back Week #3 ~ You can’t hate what you’ve never tried.

Just like that, three weeks are over in the dinner challenge! In the first week we talked about turning off our phones at the table. In the second week we discussed a great dinner game to increase creativity at your table. Today though, I want to discuss something much, much more serious. Something that feels impossible sometimes, something dire and stressful. What is it?

Trying to get your kids to eat.

What we learned: Your bite is your vote.

I have a seven year old and a five year old. Occasionally, like every other kid on the planet, they will turn their nose up at a meal we’ve made for them. We’ll put four plates on the table and, forgetting their manners, they will immediately say, “I don’t like that.”

Sometimes, this catches us off guard. Out of nowhere, after years of eating hot dogs they will decide, “You know what? I am retiring from hot dogs. From here on out, I hate hot dogs.” Those moments baffle me, when they drop an old favorite, but fortunately that does not happen that often. A few months ago though we went through an entire season of “I don’t like new stuff.”

Every time we tried something new, the kids would pull back from the table as if we had plated scorpions and a salad of pit vipers. My wife and I discussed this problem and came up with a simple rule. Here it is:

“You can’t hate what you’ve never tried.”

At our house, you can’t say you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it before. You can’t automatically tell us that you don’t enjoy a dish that you’ve never had before in your entire life. You have to try it. That’s your ticket to an opinion.

Put another way, your bite is your vote. We get that concept in politics. We say, “If you’re not going to vote, don’t complain.” If you’re not going to fight against the system and use your vote for the things that really matter to you, don’t complain. It’s the same at our house. Until our kids have at least tried something new, they really don’t have an opinion on it. They’re just being five and seven year olds who would prefer to eat chicken fingers for 97% of their meals. And it’s our job as parents to push beyond that. To encourage them to try new things, eat new recipes and never, ever tell mom, “I’m not eating that.”

Our favorite E-Mealz meal of the week.

We’re doing the Publix Meal Plan right now. Our plan makes enough food for 4-6 adults, which means we have a ton of leftovers. Our favorite meal was the turkey feta burgers with sautéed zucchini. Those burgers were magical.

Our dinner record for the week.

We went 5 for 7 this week. On Tuesday night I was in Atlanta speaking to college students at a church. On Friday night I was in Oklahoma City getting ready for the Dave Ramsey Live event there.

How about you?

How many nights this week did you eat dinner with your family? Did you beat me?

What was your favorite E-Mealz meal?

Do you have any family dinner table rules?

14 thoughts on “Bringing Dinner Back Week #3 ~ You can’t hate what you’ve never tried.

  1. Stephanie

    Favorite dish! Apricot chicken… YUMMO! Seriously though… our rate though is sad… we had a lot of celebrations this week so we are 2 for 5… although, we technicallyonly have 5 meals in our meal plan and counting tonight and tomorrow night… we could be 4 for 5… we’ll see.

    Btw, am I the first? I have never been the first!

  2. Jackie

    Dont think we have you beat, but we have planned take out dinner. Subway or tacos on tuesdays and pizza on fridays! But we do eat both at home! We have the same rule. You have to take a bite. And unless theres mushrooms or visible onions, they end up liking it!!!

  3. Kelli Esposito

    I, personally, am LOVING E-Mealz after 5 weeks of using their plan. However, my 9 and 12 year-old daughters wonder out loud (loudly), “When are we going to ever eat NORMAL things again?” I’m really struggling with the fact that they are now dreading dinner every night. We used to eat a lot more pasta and dinners that were simple, like a chicken breast with a vegetable and a side salad.

    I’d LOVE to hear all of your suggestions as to how you get your kids to come to the table with a good attitude about trying new things…and eating their dinner even if they don’t love it. We’ve tried the “starving kids in China would be grateful” guilt trip, and the “you can’t say anything if you can’t say something positive” rule. I just want dinner to be pleasant and fun…not a battle ground to get them to eat.

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  5. Amy

    We have a “no thank you bite” rule at our table for those times when the kids don’t want to try something new. You must take a bite, and you have two choices after the bite. You can say “yes, more please” or “no thank you.” Someone suggested this to me years ago, and it actually works pretty well!

  6. Michelle Andersen

    We are on the low-fat anywhere menu, and our favorite this week was Salisbury Steak. I told the kids it was hamburgers without the buns…and they LOVE noodles.

    We have the flexibility to make our big meal together lunch time and only had one lunch this week without Dad (because he was swamped with work and couldn’t make it home!).

  7. Karen Lundberg

    Thanks, Jon, for some just plain good sense in talking about kids eating or not. When our kids were young, we had a rule that comments about the meal were only to be made AFTER we had finished eating, not during. That allowed for other conversation at the table. It only made sense to us that, if they didn’t eat AT the table, then no other snacks/dessert were allowed. It is a good idea for the kids, themselves, to have a chance to suggest some of their favorite foods, so they become part of the ongoing project.

  8. kristen thornton

    we also have the “no thank you bite rule” and i focus alot on the HONORING part of the meal. someone took the time to purchase the food, prepare it and serve it. you can honor that person by focusing on that as you eat the meal. i also think of it as how you want your kids to behave when they are at someone elses house eating. when another mom puts food in front of my child, i hope they would be honoring and grateful and have been taught how to eat one bite and how to properly respond to the meal. so when my kids sit down and frown at the plate- i think about that training response.

    we do wal-mart family plan and loved, loved the chicken wild rice soup and ranch chicken tenders! we had dinner 6 out of 7 but 2 were without dad because he had to work and that isn’t near as fun when he is gone!

    1. Lauren Hayes

      We LOVED the chicken and wild rice soup too. I had some leftover rotisserie chicken that I used instead of the canned, and it was awesome! The ranch chicken tenders were great too.

      Since our daughter is only one, we still are able to hide things she needs among things she likes. I hope to be able to transition her to eating exactly what we’re eating very soon.

  9. kristen thornton

    i’d like to add one more tip!

    2 of my 4 kids are picky. they are my girls ages 7 and 9. i have much more success when they help me prepare the meal. when we sit down, before the prayer, i give credit to each girl and what they made. they are very proud and wait anxiously for everyone’s verdict of their dish! (which is how i feel on the inside each night! :))

    normally, everyone is honoring with their responses and eat the food including the picky chefs! it’s not a magical formula but it is successful most times and e-mealz is so easy- i can relax and work with them while we cook and that is a cool time together as well!

  10. Kyle & Kim

    We went 7 for 7 this week. We are both teachers and do not have children, so it’s pretty easy for us to eat at home each night.

    We were at the live event in OKC and you guys were amazing! We even bought your book and got an autograph. My husband had it read before we got back home Monday evening! He loved it! Thanks for all of your valuable insight!

  11. Jodi

    My son is only 3 months old but I’ve already been looking into ideas to avoid picky eater battles at dinner. Ideas I plan on using:

    1. If possible, get him to help me with dinner. I’ve read in various blogs and heard on TV that it gets kids excited to try what they helped create.

    2. Three bite rule because they might say they don’t like it after bite one without actually giving it a chance.

    3. Recipe rating cards for kids and if they fill the card, they’ll get a little reward.

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