January 24th, 2012 at 5:00 am
As a mom, getting your kids to eat right is so daunting. Mealtime challenges are a constant test of willpower, patience and creativity. Peaceful dinners with young children usually mean a helping of guilt for the parents since the meals that go down easy are usually NOT representative of the food pyramid (now known as the MyPlate food plate diagram).
This is nothing new. Generations of moms have struggled with getting kids to eat enough vegetables, fruits and nutritious foods. Getting them to even TRY such food can be a battle. “You will stay there until you clear your plate” is the time worn battle cry. Is forcing them to eat the right method? Does letting them eat what they like lead to childhood obesity, diabetes?
What’s a mom to do? Of course we want the best for our children, but the food battle is just exhausting.
There are books. I have a copy of Jane Kinderlehrer’s Confessions of a Sneaky Cook (circa 1971). More recently, there is Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food. These, and others, have great ideas for slyly adding nutritious ingredients to meal items to boost everything from protein to magnesium, mostly lacking in kids’ preferred diets of mac and cheese, chicken nuggets and pb&j. Does dousing the steamed broccoli with Cheese Whiz count?
In my house, the rule is you must take at least one bite of everything offered at the meal. There were many lumpy napkins with partially chewed broccoli rabe or brussel sprouts (a cruel joke really, since there aren’t many adults who like them either). However, my son went through a stage at about 6 years old where he loved sauteed mushrooms. Steamed artichokes turned out to be a big hit for both kids, and even with their friends who stayed for dinner on artichoke night. They had to abide by the rule too.
So I was intrigued when my niece recommended a novel new game that promises to be a huge help in the food wars.
The game is called Crunch a Color. It’s a color themed card game where you award points for every portion of healthy food that is consumed. For instance, if your child eats a serving of brown rice, she gets a 5 point brown card. If he eats some spinach, he gets a 15 point green card. Cherries are 5 point red cards, eggplant earns a 15 point purple card. The more adventurous the food, the higher the points.
Add to these a series of bonus cards for such things as setting the table, good manners, trying a new food, or even starting a conversation, and you have a new focus at mealtime that turns it from contentious to fun. Add up the scores at the end of the meal, or do it by the week and award prizes or privileges for the high score.
I love this idea. It’s decidedly non-tech and a departure from what I usually blog about, but as a tool for helping teach our children good eating habits as well as how to work towards goals and set the stage for more productive meal times, I think this is a winner.
There is a website, crunchacolor.com, where you can buy the game, download reward charts, get tips and recipes and keep up with the crunchacolor blog. And an added plus? 5% of net profits go to non profit food nutrition programs.