Your kid isn’t healthy if they only eat two carrot sticks and a vegemite sandwich a day.
If your kid doesn’t eat enough meat/fish/veggies/tofu you’ll stunt their brain development and they’ll be stupid.
Make sure you give your kids lots and lots of dairy, ‘for their bones’.
But don’t give them full fat dairy, there is a childhood obesity epidemic don’t you know.
Sugar is evil. Or is it fat? Or preservatives?
Maybe we should be vegan, or eat like Neanderthal man?
Is it worth selling your soul to buy all organic?
My Mother told me…
I read an article…
The Maternal and Child Health Nurse said…
When did eating a meal with your family become so fraught with anxiety?
When did food become such a battle ground?
We want our kids to eat healthy, but sometimes we’d settle for them eating anything at all, regardless of the nutritional content.
We watch and worry about every mouthful they eat, or don’t eat.
We disguise and rearrange and hide food.
We enforce rules about trying everything… having 3 more mouthfuls… having to clean your plate.
We worry about becoming short order cooks… about spoiling our kids… about setting ourselves up for future problems.
I’ve been there.
I am still there, often.
I’ve wondered and worried about it all. I’ve even lost my mind on the odd occasions and screamed like a banshee at my non-eating child in a desperate attempt to get her to eat more than one grain of plain rice.
I been to all those places and back again, and I’m sick of it.
I don’t want food to be a constant battle.
I don’t want whether or not my child eats and what they eat, to somehow be inextricably linked to whether I am a good mother, to whether they are ‘good children’.
I don’t want food to be associated with fear, frustration, manipulation and guilt.
What message are we sending to our kids when food becomes such a big deal?
When we disguise vegetables in meals, how can we ever expect our kids to know them, appreciate them and eat them? When we try to trick our kids about what is in food, aren’t we just cultivating a culture of mistrust and deception?
When we don’t respect our children’s food preferences, when we fight them, coerce them and try to force them to eat, aren’t we just making food something horrible, dark and controlling?
Isn’t this the stuff that eating disorders are made from?
I want food to be healthy and nutritious but above all, enjoyable. I want sharing a meal to be a fun, happy event, the stuff childhood memories are made of.
I want my children to grow up understanding what food is healthy, and what is not so healthy. I want them to know what real food is, and where it comes from. I want them to develop their own tastes and preferences. I want them to be confident to try new things. I want my children to have a fun, healthy, respectful attitude to food.
How the heck am I going to manage all that??
I’m not really sure, but I know one thing, the first thing I am going to drop from my menu is guilt.
It is my job to provide good, healthy, tasty, interesting food. It is not my job to make my children eat.
If I want to encourage a healthy attitude to food I need to respect my children’s tastes and preferences. I need to trust that they know how hungry they are and accept their choice not to eat on occasion. I need to be open and honest about food, not hiding, or disguising food in an attempt to trick my children into eating it.
That doesn’t mean that I will cook six different meals, but I will always try to offer a range of options within a meal, especially if I know someone doesn’t like the main course. For example; two of my kids don’t like spaghetti bolognase, I don’t plan to take that off the menu but I will offer for them the options of plain pasta with cheese and olives.
Being respectful of other’s food choices and preferences doesn’t end with my children. It is not my job to judge other’s food choices, I only know what is right for me and my family. Respecting and learning about other’s interests, circumstances and choices is a good thing for both my and my children to do.
I’m going to read about new food ideas and diets with interest but not guilt. I’m going to stop worrying about sugar and fats and this and that. Instead I am going to try to be more knowledgeable and aware about what is in the food we eat and focus on providing ‘real’ food for my family, trying to limit heavily processed foods. I’m going to make sure my children learn about food, that they know where food comes from and involve them in growing it, shopping for it, and preparing it when I can.
My family will eat a range of healthy foods, as well as enjoying less healthy treats on occasion, with no guilt or lecture.
Really I am just muddling through all this like everyone else. I don’t have any magical answers to get kids to eat more of x and less of y. I don’t have all the knowledge or an enormous food budget, or unlimited time, or killer kitchen skills…
In fact I don’t have any of those things. But I believe that being informed, and respectful is a big part of healthy eating, and that worry and guilt is not. So this is my beginning… what is yours?
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
Kate Sins says
Don’t know whether I should feel guilty or relieved that I don’t worry about what food my kids eat. As long as it’s not constant chocolate, lollies, cakes, biscuits and is somewhat ‘healthy’ (though Kate you raise a brilliant point -what is that? Paleo, vegan, no fructose, wheat-free, macrobiotic???) then we are all happy.
Mr 2 ate pasta with cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner two consecutive days then decided he’d had enough! I work on the principle they will regulate their own appetites and eat when hungry. Having said that my 8 month old will already eat anything and it does make me sigh with the relief that comes with a ‘good eater’.
Love a ranty post kate, especially on such a pertinent topic!
No guilt… never guilt! :)
I’m beginning to think I have a twin in Australia ;) I have that same high chair for my youngest (IKEA, right?). And I could’ve written this blog post. Actually there are several you’ve done lately that I feel that way about!
You know what I think about nutrition? The experts haven’t figured it out. How can I be a hardnose meanie about a topic that all the educated PhD types haven’t nailed down? We research, read, Google, ask questions… and we’re all pretty much guessing at the nutrition stuff. They ALL have what sound like perfectly convincing arguments!
I’m at a place now where I try to relax and do what I think is best. And leave the rest up to the kid. Picky phases seem to come and go, and no adult rejects all green things. ;) I try to make dinnertime pleasurable and happy. I enjoyed this post and will link to it this weekend for… “lovely links”. Teehee :)
Granma Jill says
Totally agree about fighting over food.
I believe no child ever starved in a house where there is food. All you have to do is make sure they have access to healthy options, which you always do. Just stop worrying.
Sometimes you need to cajole people (not only children) into trying something for the first time but if they really don’t like it who cares! In Australia there are plenty of other things to eat.
Amazingly this is the one thing I don’t stress or feel guilty about, but I probably should. My kids eat eat cakes and ice-cream and sometimes complete crap, but they also help themselves to apples and carrots. Sometimes they try new foods, sometimes they don’t. It is weird how my ID twins have quite different likes and dislikes and will swap parts of their dinner. I don’t force anyone to try anything, but sometimes I ask them to lick or taste something new.
I agree about the hidden vegie thing – I don’t think it solves any problem.
Erin Young says
hehe, my id twins swap food at dinner too! and they are only 20 months old. Smart little cookies aren’t they!
We have a VERY picky eater. (with possibly some sensory issues, but no one wants to confirm that) We went to a nutritionist who told us not to make food a battle. Put what you want him to eat in front of him and if he doesn’t eat it then he doesn’t get anything else. We tried that for a week and we were ALL miserable. It was the worst week for all of us. I was grumpy because he wouldn’t eat, he was grumpy because he was hungry and then every little thing set us both off!
After that week I said that I couldn’t do it anymore. We now offer what we want him to eat and if he doesn’t eat it (all) then we let him eat his vegemite or ham sandwich. Our sanity is much more important that satisfying the five main food groups!
I don’t understand – unless you puree it all and make them close their eyes, how can you hide veges? My kids will pick out a single piece of grated carrot if that happens to be their hate of the minute. Sure if I’m making a bolognaise type sauce I grate carrot and zucchini in with the crushed tomatoes, but that’s because that’s how I make it, not because I’m trying to hide anything.
We’ve found lots of success with fun eating – little girl loves making a lunchbox for herself to snack on the next day and we have picnics all the time. My only real stress is that I won’t cook another meal – if you’re going to reject the entire plate because it has a corn kernel on it, I’m not jumping up to get you something else.
veggie mama says
I want to hug you, high five you and come over for lunch all at once!
This is exactly what I think, and for the record, I think you’ve come up with a great solution. I’d hate to think my kid would always associate food with battles. Although I do know one grown man who won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets and chips, most kids grow up and learn to eat food. The end.
Common Sense Mummy says
Hear hear! I have tried as a new mummy to never force Little Miss (20 months) to eat anything that she doesn’t want to. As a result, she is a child who will try anything!!! I also try and really respect her internal “fullness” meters. If she says she is finished I believe her! There have been nights that she has eaten a pear and a yoghurt for dinner but I figure on those nights that at least she is getting some vitamins and some dairy. I want her to grow up loving and respecting food.
That was a great read. I also try to have similar philosophy in not forcing my kids but trying to teach them about all food & then how to make the right choices.=)
Donna Germon says
Never a truer word has been written, love it and so apt.
Lynn Reilly says
As I read this post, I kept looking up at the URL to see where I was. Is this really someone I don’t know or is this ME? Its liked you plucked the thoughts from my head and wrote them out using your keyboard. I could not agree with you more and love the way you said it. Well done! And thank you!!
Oh god, I loved this so much I nearly cried. I am screaming yes! (In my head because my small people are asleep!!)
We are SO here. I have decided, now with 3 hungry boys, that I will not be a short order cook. I don’t have the time or energy and I’m not that passionate of a cook. But, neither will I serve my children something that I doubt they’ll like. As long as it’s something the seven of us will be able to eat, I will make it. If I know that my particularly picky middle child will not eat it, so be it. I’ll explain that he needs to try it to be able to have some dessert and if he chooses not to, he’s old enough now to own that decision. He is particularly picky so I really need to work to change his habits. My eldest eats fine as far as I’m concerned. He doesn’t like lettuce but he loves carrot, cucumber, capsicum and tomato. I won’t eat spinach but he loves fresh corn. I don’t worry at all about the things he chooses not to eat (and there are a few) because I know, on the whole, he’s a well rounded eater. But my second is not and this needs to change. It requires a lot of work on my part but so be it. And my third, so far, loves food. I want it to stay that way so my revisioning of our eating habits are as much for him and setting him as they are for the rest of us.
Great post, thank you.
I know from experience that food colouring sends my girls nuts, so we avoid it.
In the autism world you hear of so many special diets that can help improve a childs behaviour, or (which I find odd) make your child less autistic. Gluten free, casien free, no fructose, no amines, no salycilates, and I wonder what your child is meant to eat at all. Given so many kids on the spectrum have major sensory issues around food, when you start removing foods they *will* eat because of some non-proven evil, then you end up with a child who will only eat rice crackers.
Sure if your kid has a known allergy / intolerance to a food, such as ceoliac disease, or the aforementioned behavioural issues we experience with food colouring. Then remove it, but don’t just blindly follow what others say, keep a diary, track what is going on, make an informed choice.