Raising a little foodie (we can but wish)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Posted by Amanda at Little Foodies

I'm not qualified to give advice on how to get children to eat. I don't have a degree in nutrition and I'm not a qualified chef. My only claim is that I have two children who are adventurous eaters, who on the whole seem to be very open minded to trying new things.

Lots of people comment on how well they eat and ask me what I did. I didn't do anything in particular, or special, though I can think of ten things off the top of my head that we did as a family which I think helped to give us the two little foodies that we have now.

1.From the moment they were born I had them with me in the kitchen when I was cooking. Safely out of harms way but always with a view of what I was doing. Those sensations must have been great. The sight, smell, sound, the touch – as soon as they were able I would always give them some food to handle and smell.
2.I often pierced the skin of fruit and veg to release the scent. Handing it to them and while I did sniffing, saying “Mmmm, smell this, delicious!”
3.We talk to the children - a lot! I come from a very vocal family. I'm sure it's all one and the same when it comes to food. If you have good memories of food they're normally associated with what went with the food (happy, chatty times) and not just the food itself. Unless of course it's your favourite ice cream or chocolate.
4.It's well documented that the more foods you introduce earlier on, the less picky a child will be. We thought this idea made sense and went with it, introducing various foods and flavours from early on. I know a family member who this didn't work for so it's never a dead cert it will work.
5.I'm afraid I'm quite relaxed if the children aren't in the mood for eating. This is because I know that over a week they will have had their full balance of vitamins and nutrients, etc. I'm sure food battles wouldn't help. Children instinctively pick up when we're stressed so if we're sitting there with our teeth and muscles clenched wishing that they'd just eat something. The child is probably sitting there thinking “What's wrong with her / him?” and starting to feel anxious themselves. Someone told me very early on to always look at the food over a week and never on one day. If they suddenly weren't eating well over a whole week then maybe there was something up, teething, coming down with a cold or something. I was also told that some children just don't eat very much without their being anything wrong - full stop. Only you know your child and should never feel bad about the whole food issue.
6.My older boy is nearly 6 and can eat as much as my husband (and me!). My toddler is a grazer and likes to eat little and often right through the day. I go with this for both of them. Even allowing them both to have their own way of eating, there are no separate meals made they eat what we have. The toddler tends to have it in stages though or he will have leftovers if he hasn't eaten it when we've eaten it. I'm sure there are some people who would say he needs to be eating it when we're eating it and on the whole he does but it's just what works for us.
7.Some of my friends skip meals as they'd prefer to stay slim. I don't understand this. Probably why I'm not, nor ever will be a size 0. Children need to be in a routine for eating. If you're going to skip meals don't let your kids see you do this and remember that your health is really important too, you need to be fit and strong to be there for your children. We all get busy and sometimes miss a meal but children need the routine of eating regularly to realise that they're missing a meal if they do, and not for it to become a habit where they think it's normal.
8.As soon as they were able, my children have been encouraged to cook with me. It's such a wonderful thing to do. I have lovely memories of cooking with family members when I was a child. I really want my children to be able to look back and have these memories too.
9.There is always something they can do. If you're doing something tricky and you don't want your child to help, give them something else to do and tell them it's part of what you're doing. I often hand a piece of bread to the toddler and ask him to tear it into tiny pieces. Even if you're not going to use that bread or whatever you've asked them to do, they feel included and you can always keep what they've done by for a different meal, so as not to waste it.
10.We've always talked to them about food. About the colours, the shape, the smell, where it comes from. It's only by being enthusiastic about food that children will learn to be the same.

Like I say I'm not qualified to give advice this is just an idea of what we did and it worked for us.

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This Post was written by Amanda from Little Foodies


Amanda, you have spoken from my heart! Soeren is a good eater too and we luckily have no trouble. He eats everything and will try anything. The points you mentioned are very similar to how I raised him too. I could never imagine having a picky eater at home when I love food so much.
These are great tips!

Meeta K. Wolff said...
July 10, 2007 at 8:31:00 AM GMT+2  

Hi Amanda - you may think you're not qualified to give advice, but you are, believe me, you are.

This was the sort of thing we did with our children, and it's good to see it all written down, as it's definitely the sort of approach that works ...


Joanna said...
July 10, 2007 at 10:30:00 AM GMT+2  

What fun to have adventurous eaters! I'm convinced that my kids' pickiness is because they both knew the most effective way to rebel would be to reject all their foodie parents' attempts to introduce them to decent food!

Robin said...
July 10, 2007 at 2:30:00 PM GMT+2  

My 1 year old daughter loves to watch me or my better half cook. She's a very curious little girl..what's to know what is mommy and daddy doing. :) For now, she eats about everything we gave her.

Anonymous said...
July 11, 2007 at 4:11:00 PM GMT+2  

You've articulated exactly what we're doing instinctually at our house with Bug as well! It was how I was raised, and it seems to be working. Thanks for writing this!

July 11, 2007 at 5:52:00 PM GMT+2  

I think a lot of raising a good eater is to keep at it. I read that children need to have at least 12 tries on something before it's familiar enough for them to accept. That's a lot. Also, if my kids aren't eating at mealtimes I cut out snacks. That helps. But the biggest issue for me is that my kids have all been great eaters when small but as soon as they hit about 9 or 10 suddenly they have tons of dislikes. It's driving me crazy.

Scribbit said...
July 13, 2007 at 5:02:00 PM GMT+2  

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