Getting kids on board with new food For anyone who's had to make a big change in their diet

Gluten-free is the new way of eating around here, but today’s post is for anyone who’s ever made the choice (or had it forced upon them) to significantly change their diet. Having lived for 40some years on the eat-whatever-the-heck-I-feel-like-eating diet, this is definitely all new territory for me, but some lessons are already emerging.

Lesson 1: Your kids love you, but they want to eat what they want to eat.

Who doesn’t?

And while, yes, they’d like to be supportive in some sort of abstract, “we love you, Mommy” way, it’s a whole different story when “love you” means (might mean) giving up favorite things.

Here’s some audio highlights from the last week:

“Is everything going to be gluten-free now?”

“This looks gross.”

“I want the regular mac ‘n cheese.”

“Abby told me it can be bad for people who aren’t gluten-intolerant to eat a gluten-free diet.”

And my favorite:

“I think you just think you need to be gluten-free.  You don’t really need to.”

Unlike us grown-ups, the kids don’t have much freedom to choose what they eat. They have to eat what we provide. And they have no reason to change their eating habits. They have every reason to fight for what they know, love, and crave.

So they will. Fight.

I’m learning to accept this, to know it’s not personal, and to know that the resistance will fade if I can do two things:

1. Continue to give them some of what they love.

2. Find new things that they’ll love even if they are gluten-free.

Continuing to give them what they love:

One of mine loves ice-cream sandwiches. I so get that. I love ice cream sandwiches. So, the other day in the grocery store, I bought a box of Klondike bars when requested to by said child.

box of klondike bars

That night, everyone in the family had a Klondike bar. Except me.

Most of the time, I’m really doing OK with the whole gluten-free thing.  I have been having such a swift and direct reaction after eating even little bits of it (accidentally), that it’s starting to look like Drano to me.  I just don’t want it. (I’m told that reacting more strongly to it soon after getting off it is common.)

But the Klondike bar: I wanted one. Bad.

However, I don’t want to deprive my loves of a sweet treat they love just because I can’t have one. So, I had a little scoop of my own ice cream and moved on.

klondike bar with a missing bite

My kids also love my Grandma’s spaghetti recipe.  And they want it with “real” pasta. Easy fix:  I make their pasta and mine (quinoa pasta) and we have two different bowls.

two bowls of pasta

Can you tell which bowl is the "real" spaghetti?

They love their PB & J on the same old bread. That’s easy, too.

I figure the more I can continue to give them the things they love, the more willing they’ll be to try the new things I’m springing on them.

Finding new things

I tried a pasta shells and cheese recipe from Gluten-Free Girl, thinking it would be like mac ‘n cheese.

It was not a hit.

I understand why. I didn’t like it as well as our usual recipe either.
















The new one was OK, but there are a few things we’d change about how we made it.

I cooked the (quinoa) pasta too long. I would use a less-sharp cheese. We’d take out the cottage cheese and substitute for a higher-fat, better-tasting cheese. (I’ve always said, if you’re gonna have dessert, have dessert.  Same principle applies to mac ‘n cheese.)

I let the kids know that, yes–we’re going to be trying some new things around here. Some of them (probably lots of them) won’t be great the first time. We’ll take notes and try again. (And one thing I’ll try is to pick the right recipe. Going back to find the link for this post, I discovered her real mac ‘n cheese recipe.  Slapping my forehead right now, because this one looks way better.)

But we will find new things–because I’m not going to cook two separate dinners. If it’s an easy fix–like the spaghetti–I’ll do it, but I just don’t have the resources to cook two separate entrees each night.

My next “new thing” was much more successful.

My friend Pam (whose son is gluten-free and who has been the biggest cheerleader/resource provider since I came out of the wheat closet) turned me on to Pamela’s, a baking mix to replace my old ones.

Not gonna lie:  It’s spendy stuff. This bag was around $15. Ouch! But worth it.

I haven’t tried much with it yet, but I did try the muffin recipe on the back of the bag.

And they were good.  Really good. So good that Grace didn’t realize they were gluten-free. So good that she still wanted them even after I told her they were gluten-free.

And they were easy.  Like, this easy:

In a bowl, combine mix, egg, bananas, water, and vanilla.

muffin ingredients mixed in a bowl

Stir the ingredients until well-mixed, and then pour batter into a muffin pan.

baked muffin in pan

About 20 minutes later, pull the muffins out of the oven and enjoy. I highly recommend slathering butter on them right away.

What’s next?

As I continue on this journey into a land of new eating, I’m realizing that it’s a whole new country I’ve entered. I’m realizing that before I’m done, my whole way of cooking and eating is probably going to change.

Sometimes, this seems overwhelming. Sometimes, it seems like there is so much I need to learn and try and do.

But most of the time, I keep reminding myself of these words about writing by E. L. Doctorow:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog.

You can only see as far as your headlights,

but you can make the whole trip that way.” 

I’m writing a new book about eating, and I only have to see as far as my headlights, I only have to figure out the one next thing to try. And the next thing doesn’t have to be a big thing or a hard thing. It can be as easy as finding a recipe that looks good. Or following one that is simple.

The important thing, I think, is to do something. I don’t even know yet what this week’s something will be, but I’ll be sure to fill you in next Friday.

mac n cheese with apple slices

In the meantime…

We’d love to hear from you! Have you ever had to dramatically change your diet? What worked for you? And do you have any great tips for getting the rest of the family on board–or making their wants fit in with your needs? We love it when you drop us a comment.

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