The Drevitches, Week 14: We Play Some Games and See Some Progress

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

gary drevitch children

They'd eat this whole gingerbread house -- if we'd let them. Credit: Gary Drevitch

I don't like to play games with my kids.

Well, actually, I love playing games with them -- Boggle, Mastermind, Blokus, Wii Sports Resort, you name it. But I don't mean those games. I mean the games so many other parents play. You know the ones -- If you collect 10 Good Behavior stickers this week, you get to go to Häagen-Dazs on Sunday, or If you eat your veggies at dinner, you're entitled to an hour of TV at bedtime.

Those games are not for me.

No, I believe kids should read and eat their veggies every day, just because they should. That's how I was raised -- my parents told me what I needed to do, and I needed to do it because they told me to.

A simple, closed loop.

Or was it? Looking back, I realize they let me go for years eating hardly any fruits and vegetables. So, at some point, I must have refused often enough that they just gave up. As for my own kids, they're happy to do daily reading, but daily healthy eating? Let's call it a work in progress -- or just work.

The kids have understood for a long time that if they don't eat the veggies on their plates each night, there will be no dessert. And so Benjamin, 10, quickly and joylessly chomps off the top of his several broccoli pieces at the end of dinner. Or Natalie, 8, jams a handful of carrots into her mouth at the start of the meal. Or Adam, 4, considers the cauliflower on his plate, gauges how hungry he is, and calmly announces that, no thanks, he doesn't need dessert tonight, so if it's all the same to us, he'll pass.

Under this system, they eat their nightly veggies, but they don't embrace them. They just see them as an obstacle to get past on the way to ice cream. And that's not good enough.

The Healthy Families Challenge is about everyone in the house coming out with a healthier lifestyle than they had when they started. My wife, Lynn, remains a paragon of gastronomic openness. I've lost 29 pounds and completely overhauled my old ways of eating. But the kids haven't made much effort to change. In fact, they've actively resisted our nudges in the right direction.

And so, against our better instincts, we're playing some games. Our nutritionist, Marissa Lippert of Nourish, told us when we first met that one of the best ways to get kids eating healthier is to get them more involved in shopping and cooking. Our kids have always gone marketing with us, but mainly just to demand more flavors of ice cream and Goldfish. However, they have recently taken a stronger interest in food preparation, and the results on that front are promising.

Benjamin decided a couple of weeks ago, pretty much out of the blue, that he wanted to be responsible for making eggs for breakfast for everyone each weekend. We happily agreed. And I'll tell you what, his eggs are delicious. His secret? Same as the great chefs of France: Put a ton of butter in the pan. (I've advised him that he can use less and still turn out a tasty dish.) But also, as he aspires in his own quiet way to his mother's culinary sophistication, he's adding dill to the eggs. Sounds like a small thing, right? But it isn't. This is the same kid who routinely picks herbs off pieces of lamb and chicken when we order takeout food. Now he's understanding that green stuff on food is not always bad. Progress.

Similarly, we've discovered that the kids eat healthier when they can assemble their own meals. Lately that has meant offering them burritos or tacos. After a couple of days of the kids complaining about eating Lynn's fresh roasted turkey with brown rice, she put it back in front of them with taco shells and they jumped in, happily spooning it in with salsa and black beans. We've found similar success getting them to eat chicken or lamb with tomatoes, herbs or spinach when we let them roll it into burritos. Progress.

Our favorite new development? We caught Benjamin telling a dinner guest recently that he ate salad every day at sleepaway camp last summer, even though he's never touched it at home. So we called him on it, and, like the chess player he is, he recognized the checkmate. Now, when we have salad, we put some lettuce in front of him, and he eats it.


Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.

How is the Drevitch family doing? Check in on their progress!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.