April 2011

Noodles & Company Giveaway!

by Sally on April 26, 2011

One thing Sam will reliably eat, no trickery necessary: The macaroni and cheese at Noodles & Company. Lucky for us, Noodles (as it’s known around our house) is pretty much the only family restaurant that fits our current criteria of quick, inexpensive, and loud enough to cover any kid-related outbursts.

There’s a lot I like about the food too. I like that everything’s made to order, that you can add lean protein to any dish, and that I can order a dish of steamed broccoli on the side for the kids. They also have a great online nutrition guide, so you can make good choices if you’re watching your calories, sodium, or even avoiding gluten.

So that’s why I’m doing my first-ever giveaway. Noodles & Company recently invited us for a special tasting of their “Grown-Up” Mac & Cheeses (while Sam wouldn’t venture beyond their standard Wisconsin Mac, Henry liked the Bacon Mac & Cheeseburger, and I was partial to the Truffle Mac with Baby Portabellas). These Grown-Up Macs are only around another week, but Noodles & Company is giving one reader four coupons for free noodle bowls that can be used anytime this year.

To enter, leave a comment sharing your favorite kid-friendly restaurant and your best tip for either a) keeping your kids in their seats or b) ordering a meal for your children that doesn’t involve hot dogs or chicken nuggets.

The giveaway will run until Monday, May 2nd at 10pm EST. The winner will be chosen at random and notified by email, then have 72 hours to respond with a mailing address.

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I don't typically take pictures of my kids during dinner, but I needed photographic proof of this great turnaround. Sure, he didn't touch the asparagus, but Sam happily ate his chicken and pasta.

My mother-in-law has a game she plays with the grandkids when they won’t eat their dinner. “Don’t you eat that broccoli!” she’ll warn in a voice that somehow straddles stern and silly. “Don’t you eat it!” First, the kids giggle hilariously. Then they eat the broccoli.

Frankly, I used to think it was all sort of ridiculous. Until I had kids of my own and started doing ridiculous things all the time.

At some point recently, likely out of desperation, we started playing this game with Sam. Because he’s a rather contrarian kid, who delights in doing exactly the opposite of what we want him to do, it went over like gangbusters. And with every bite he put in his mouth, my husband and I exchanged a look that said, “Really? It’s that easy?”

And while Sam’s been eating a lot more than usual, it’s all felt a bit like cheating–so I asked food sociologist Dr. Dina Rose for her take. Thankfully, she gave our dinner game the green light. “Kids like to play and interact with their parents, even while eating,” she explains. “Dinner is inherently boring for kids, especially grown-up conversation.”

Caveat #1: The motivation for playing the game should be to engage and have fun with Sam–not to persuade him to eat one more bite, says Dr. Rose. And yes, our game started out as a trick to get him to eat. But lately, it’s become something else entirely. We don’t initiate the “don’t-you-eat-that” game. Sam now begs us to play it. He even gives us our lines. “Tell me not to eat this delicious growing food!” he’ll say.

Caveat #2: Our game shouldn’t dominate dinner. “You shouldn’t have to play this game every night,” says Dr. Rose. “Your quality of life matters too.” When the game becomes grating, we should tell Sam we’ll play it four times, then we’re going to eat our meal. After all, she says, Sam needs to learn the conventional rules of mealtime and conversation. “If you let Sam be in charge of the meal by getting all the attention, you’re teaching him that you’ll do anything to get him to eat. Then he has all the power.”

Two more strategies we’ve tried with success:

1. Less is more. When Dr. Rose saw my before-and-after shots of Sam’s plate, she suggested I start putting less food on his plate, like just two bites of fish and one bite of broccoli. “When he looks surprised, tell him that he doesn’t seem to want to eat too much dinner so you want to respect that,” she says. Of course, I should also assure him that if he wants more, all he has to do is ask and I’ll get it for him. “This technique will instantly change the dynamic at dinner, and many kids respond very positively to it.”

I tried this with Sam at lunch one day, putting just two bites of sandwich on his plate. And just as Dr. Rose predicted, he was surprised. And when he finished his two bites, he asked for some more.

2. Dessert with dinner. Brace yourself for this one because it can be tough to swallow. This strategy comes from the Division of Responsibility playbook. The rationale: If you want to defuse the power of dessert, don’t make it the grand finale. Because when kids know there’s dessert coming, they rush through dinner to get there, without listening to their cues of hunger or fullness.

I tried this one night when a neighbor brought over a plate of fabulous chocolate cupcakes. They were in plain sight on the counter during dinner (my mistake) and Sam couldn’t stop asking for one. So I put one next to each kids’ plate of food. Henry ate his in three bites and continued with his dinner. Sam took one bite, decided he didn’t actually like the frosting, and turned back to his dinner food.

You can read some more dessert strategies from Dr. Rose here and here.

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Dinner Drama Part 3: Snack Sabotage!

April 14, 2011

Pre-dinner snacks are tricky territory. Especially for toddlers. Feed them too much and you’ll ruin their appetite for dinner. Feed them too little and risk a meltdown that could ruin dinner for the entire family. When I told food sociologist Dr. Dina Rose about Sam’s dinner boycott, one of the first things she asked about […]

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Dinner Drama Part 2: Ground Rules

April 5, 2011

With my toddler, Sam, eating little to no dinner for months now, I thought it was time to get a second opinion. I also figured Dr. Dina Rose, a “food sociologist” with a fabulous blog called It’s Not About Nutrition, had probably heard it all by now. First, I asked for feedback on my dinnertime […]

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