Children can't make healthy choices when offered less healthy but much tastier choices. That's final. Here's a little experiment I conducted on some children I was entertaining at my house during the summer.
I had set up a play date for my children. Their friend was invited to our house where all the children had free reign over the garden, the living room, the balconies and the children's bedroom (yes, Dad was away), and they could do as they pleased as long as they had the stamina for it. It went on for much longer than I expected, but at least they had their fun, and they even tidied up afterwards, so I really can't complain.
During the afternoon, which stretched out into the evening, they would also have a home-cooked meal. I was in the middle of a cooking marathon, as I had just picked a whole lot of garden-fresh vegetables and had to find ways to use them for the next meal or preserve them.
Cooked vlita will keep in the fridge for a week. There were too many tomatoes to store in the fridge, so I had to make them into tomato sauce for the winter. My uncles gave me some fresh black-eyed runner beans, which would constitute the next day's meal.
All this fresh food had to be processed into something edible or useful.
This meant that I was cooking for preservation, cooking for the next day's meal, and cooking for the play-date meal, so there would be a lot of food for the children to choose from.
First up, a healthy glass of orange juice, followed by a couple of home-made biscuits. My daughter began to scoff them up.
"You'll get rotten teeth if you eat too many," our guest warned her. Sometimes children need to be told the bad news by their peers, and indeed this worked on her.
When it came to the actual sit-down meal, I wrote out the menu for them and left some space next to each item so that they could write their initials to indicate their choice.
The menu was listed in the following way:
MENU - INITIALS
2. Fasolakia yiahni
3. Greek salad - CD
4. Souvlakia - CD AD OR
5. Biftekia - CD AD
6. Oven-fried potatoes - CD AD OR
7. Bread - AD OR
9. Lemonade - CD AD OR
10. Watermelon - CD AD OR
No one chose horta or beans, and only one chose salad. When the actually sat down to eat what they ordered, they discovered that the taste of the biftekia 'burgers' was not meaty (they were actually courgette burgers), so they left them on the side of their plate. The souvlaki disappeared and so did the chips. Lemonade was preferred over water.
The most interesting part of this 'restaurant game' was the comments the children made:
- You forgot the paper towels.
- Could we have some ice, please?
- What about desert?
- Can you please bring us the bill, Ma'am?
- Mmm, delicious, we'll come again.
I'm looking forward to doing this again, but this time with fewer choices on a mainly vegetarian menu, and a signed agreement that if they choose the meal, they'll have to eat it all...
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