I taught a class for some young Robert Morris University culinary students recently when they made me take pause. As I introduced myself as I've done hundreds of times now, I talked about being a television reporter. I had really young girls. My husband traveled all the time. I was overwhelmed trying to get them fed healthy eats every night. I was looking for a way to help them tap into our Indian roots through food. I wanted to see if I only fed them healthy, Indian food - would they prefer it? Or were they going to revert to they typical American fast-food kiddie non food?
And then came the question that stopped me in my tracks. One that no one before had the audacity to ask publicly.
"Well, do they?"
"Do they what?"
"Do they eat healthy?" The question came from one of the 20-somethings leaning over my demo station. Everyone seemed to freeze for just a moment. So did I, as the question seemed to ask, "Well, was it worth leaving a promising reporting career after all?" ... "Are they actually eating the food you make them?" "Was it any easier once you quit?"
I took a good, long, hard look at all of them - many seemingly too young to be even thinking about kids yet - and finally acknowledged that my journey over the last seven years or so has indeed been a success.
My girls eat salads. They grab leaves of spinach out of the fridge and stuff them in their mouths. They love channa masala and just about anything Indian. If I'm chopping carrots - even during breakfast - they will grab them and gleefully shove them in their mouths -munching away.
But, I'm also realistic. This journey took years. Every day we still struggle on so many levels. At times, I still feel like a complete failure.
I have published two cookbooks, and I must admit that while I love cooking...I absolutely hate making dinner.
I hate knowing it's me who is responsible for getting something THEY will eat on the table. And that it's me getting THEM excited about it. Making them eat it. Getting them to eat it faster..knowing that we'll also have time for sports, homework, piano, and god forbid some play.
Every day dinner comes around. And every day I seem to be in denial of this seemingly small fact.
But, I have to keep doing it. Because something is indeed working. So, stay tuned and we'll do it all together. In each post I'll give you some tips on what's worked for me at home with my own kids (Neha, now 10 and Aria, now 7). And some posts will even have recipes for you, along with honest feedback from both my girls on what I made.
Let's OWN dinner. Together.
Today's Tip: Don't expect miracles overnight. The older your kids are, the harder it will be to break their bad food habits - especially when they can get junk so darn easily (i.e. school). What you can do, though, is work on your kids sloooooooooowly. Whenever you intro them to something new, just give them about a tablespoon, um, a carrot, at a time. I always give them a plate filled with things they love, and one thing that is new to them. It could be half a kiwi one day. A tablespoon of a new Indian dish I've made another day. Asking them to 'taste' the new food usually gets a nod when it's just that little bit rather than making them swim in it and eat their way out. Little bellies - little portions!
There's more to come folks...send me your questions and I might just answer them on this blog!