First of all, I'm a pretty picky eater myself. I could sit here and list all the things I don't like, but I don't want to bore you with that. When I was a child I think there was an entire year of my life where I only ate CHOCOLATE MALT O MEAL..... for every meal. While there are still things I dislike, I've broadened my horizon to liking or at least trying most things. So when Lilly was little and only wanted to eat Eggo Waffles for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I let her. It lasted about 6 months and then she moved on to other things, and now she will normally eat at least "some" of whatever we are having and really liking about 70% of what I fix.
You have to choose your battles with kids and food is not something I choose to fight them with. If they want to eat cereal, sandwiches or noodles every night, so be it, but I will not send them to bed hungry. For one, we (as parents) are usually the ones who suffer. When the kids don't eat very much for dinner they almost always wake up super early wanting to eat breakfast. Which we then have to get up to get for them. We quite often eat a bowl of cereal before bed. All of us. Even when we've eaten a good dinner. When I'm hungry I can't go to sleep at night and keep waking up during the night, so I would imagine the same would happen to the kids. If I don't like something I don't eat it so why should they? If it's something they've never had, we usually try to get them to at least try it. Max won't even do that a lot of the time (but we still offer it) but Lilly has started to try things more often. If they don't like what Jarrett and I are having ( I usualy already know ahead of time) I'll fix them a sandwich or cereal or something else. I don't fix them a 3 course meal, but I'd rather take an extra 3 minutes to make them a sandwich or 30 seconds to pour a bowl of cereal or something they will eat, than fight with them about eating their dinner for 2 hours or heaven forbid into the next day.
I also don't "make them" eat all their dinner. My children, at least are pretty good at knowing when they are full. I wouldn't like it if someone made me eat a humgo sized portion long after I was full. Talk about teaching bad eating habits. One of the first lessons for people trying to loose weight is to stop eating when you are full and learning to tell when you are full. Children are born with the natural ability to do this and it's in their best interest to help them keep that knowledge. Somedays I eat a full sandwich at lunch, other days I can't finish the last quarter or even half. Same with kids, they don't always need to eat the same amount. I'd rather teach them the lesson of: eat until you are full and then you stop, instead of: eat ALL of whatever is placed in front of you weather you like it or not.
There are a few other points concerning food that I'd like to make. These are the battles I do choose to fight over food:
First of all, when Lilly was about one years old and we took her bottle away, she wouldn't drink milk anymore. At all. At one point I was so mad that I said, "fine, if she won't drink milk she won't drink anything" (in my defense, she did drink some milk and water was always offered). At the same time she had caught a cold. She ended up getting pneumonia and we spent a scary 5 days and nights in the hospital from not drinking enough fluids....which is why they tell you to drink lots of fluids when you are sick. It flushes out the "germs" so they don't get stuck in your lungs and make you really sick. That was a hard lesson learned. For the next 4 years of her life, she would only drink juice. I knew how bad this was for your body and teeth so we only gave her about a quarter of a cup of juice and filled the rest up with water. She never knew any different so it tasted "normal" to her. We still do the same for her ( at 7) and her brother. It's a good trick to get them to drink water too. She will also now drink chocolate milk or strawberry milk. Although milk and juice are usually only offered at meals. They have to drink water between meals.
Dessert is also usually offered after every meal. Although once they have eaten until they are full, they don't usually want it or have room for very much. It's only between meals or when they are hungry that they want it. We also have a rule that you don't have candy or dessert until you have eaten a meal. No candy bars or twizzlers at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. or at 10 or 11 am. With the exception of Christmas and Easter (and a few other candy holidays ie: Day after Halloween) we don't eat candy after breakfast and they have to eat breakfast first and then the candy is limited. Studies have shown that "some" sweets are good for you and actually help you not to binge and over eat them when they are offered and you haven't had them in months. I don't want my children thinking that any foods are "bad" because that can cause problems. Moderation in all things. Including food.
Snacks can also be had between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner. But they have to be healthy. Chips or candy is not an option. Yogurt, cheese, crackers, nuts and fruit are usually the options.
Anyways these are my thoughts and what I think is best. I'd rather teach my children good eating habits now, than have to have them learn them later in life when "unhealthy" ones are already in place.
What does anyone else do? What works for your family? I'd love to hear your thoughts!