Many years ago, I worked at a coffee shop. I remember this one customer. A grandmother taking her 5-yr-old grand daughter out for ice cream. The grandma said "which kind would you like?" The little girl hesitated. So many kinds to choose from! They asked me what was good. I told them if you like something fruity, try the raspberry sorbet. It's so good. I offered a sample. The little girl seemed interested. The grandmother turned up her nose and said "you wouldn't like it, dear. It isn't ice cream". and went on to order black cherry ice cream. The little girl didn't even get to choose!!
I realized it's so easy to do that though. Not just about the food, but all aspects of my interaction with my children. I must be careful to let them feel the freedom to choose, not making them feel like they need my approval.
Here are a couple of things I have enforced regarding food and my children. First, they are not allowed to say 'yuck'. They may tell me they didn't like something, but never 'yuck'. I find that to be very disrespectful to the person who cooked the food. They must try everything that have been offered. I encourage them not to write off any food they didn't like. I keep offering it to them and my kids have grown to love some food they didn't like when they were smaller. For example, Maya did not like avocados as a baby. Now she can't get enough. She has also recently learn to love hummus, but she is still working on rice crackers. She would say once in a while that she would like to try a little to see if her taste has changed. Bless her heart. I do not cater to them when I cook. What they see is what's for dinner. Also, I am always looking for ways to make our meals healthier and more economical. For instance, we stopped putting meat on our homemade pizzas. I made them vegetarian one day and asked them if they had missed the meat. Unanimous "No". Now, we only make vegetarian pizzas, and do you know what we put on our pizzas? Roasted garlic, spinach, red peppers, greek olives, mushrooms, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes and basil (In summer) and mozzarella cheese on homemade whole wheat crust. Go figure.
It's fun to share different food experiences with my children. We especially enjoy Ethnic food. We also have many dear friends who are vegetarians or have some dietary restrictions. We love sharing food with our friends. I am glad to say I don't have to wonder if there is going to be anything my kids can eat when we go out somewhere.
We all have different priorities and parenting styles. I am aware that this is not a huge priority in many families. It is something I felt was important for my family and chose to 'pick this battle'. For me it has been well worth it.