Lately I have been seeing a lot of media around fussy children and food/meals, now there is nothing new in this. For generations children have been fussy about food, but ultimately I believe these are traits which are easy to nip in the bud when you follow some simple rules.
I do not claim to be any kind of nutritionist or expert on how to get your children to eat good food, this is my personal approach with my children.
It is in our nature as human beings to eat foods that activate the reward system part of our brains, as babies that comes from the sweet milk of our mothers. As we approach weaning, what our mothers feed us will determine how we find food for ourselves in the future.
I became a mother at the age of 19, now I can say honestly, I was in no way perfect at watching/monitoring the foods I gave my daughter. However as time went on and I matured, this became my mission in life.
By the time my second daughter was born, I was prepared and shall we say “educated”. I now see the difference in the likes/dislikes food wise between my children, my eldest is fussy, turned off by anything healthy and my youngest is delighted by the sight of a cucumber.
So it is my firm belief that the relationship we have with food comes from the time of weaning and the roles our parents play in teaching us how to live a fulfilled and healthy future.
Which leads me on to baby food, when my second was born, I decided from day one she would be breastfeed until she decided to be ready for food, which was not until she was 11 months. When we did move onto food, I would ensure the quality of food was the best I could afford and ultimately homemade.
From what I remember a small jar of baby food back then was ranging between £1-1.50, equated over a month at three meals per day, was ranging between £84-£126. Now that to me seemed like a lot of money and I couldn’t be sure in my mind this food was the best I could offer.
So I invested in a blender and every meal was homemade by me, we as mothers need to be more confident in our ability to feed our children and not rely on big manufacturers. If you prepare well in advanced then even on days where time is short, providing good meals is still quick and easy.
On a Sunday I would bulk prepare meals for the children and then stick them in the freezer until they were needed. These meals would include spaghetti bolognase, cottage pie, roast dinners, soups, macaroni cheese. If I had the time I would spend it preparing rice puddings and ice cream.
I also believe when weaning babies/toddlers they should be encouraged to eat finger foods to familiarize themselves and become more confident when eating. Do not worry about the mess, it is easily cleaned and is a great lesson which also encourages fine motor skills.
The finger foods I would provide included cucumber sticks, grapes cut in half length ways, carrots sticks *great for teethers* pitta bread strips, sweetcorn, pasta and rice.
As the children got older, I included them in the preparation of food, I find children are more likely to eat food that they have helped to make. Now this may not always be possible but if you can let them help, let them.
We all know we eat with our eyes first and then with our mouths, so for the kids I focus on colour and shapes. I invested in cookie cutters and got creative, it really does work.
I also taught the children that it takes our bodies 10 times to decide if we like a food or not, so now they voluntarily try foods 10 times…amazing!
Now I am not heartless, the girls do enjoy their fair share of treats, but I try to manage it as much as possible.
Even with the work I put in I still struggle to encourage my eldest to try new foods or foods she would rather not eat, however my approach is softer, I do not want to enforce bad eating habits because I forced her to sit at the table until she was done.
If there is something she does not like or shows lack of encouragement for, I use phrases such as ” well if you were able to try a little bit I would be delighted, if not I will still be proud that you tried” It enables her to make the decision herself. For instance, carrots I know she can eat but there are days she will not like them, I still continue to put them on her plate. I do not make a fuss that they are on her plate and if Emily asks me why they are there, I will say “in case you feel like you might want to try one”.
I always continue to encourage these good eating behaviors and the children are used to seeing me in the kitchen, cooking up good meals. They are interested and engaged, offering help and keen to be the taste testers.
Ofcourse it is good to find ideas from other sources, ultimately however, believe in your own judgement when it comes to what is right for your children. Be confident Cooks 🙂
Thanks for reading 🙂
x Lucy x