Is your child a picky eater?
Did you have any preconceived ideas before you had kids about how feeding them was going to go? I sure did. My kids were going to be healthy little eaters. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts.
They were going to eat whatever I put in front of them. They were going to like it and they were going to be the best children in the world when it came to eating up all their vegetables and fruits.
Oh, how wrong I was.
You see the thing is, if you’ve got kids or had any experience with them, you’ll know that they have a pretty strong will. Which means that they aren’t about to let you have the reigns anytime soon. Especially when it comes to food.
You see, I’m not that precious about my children. I’m the mum in the playground that probably gets judging looks from everyone because I haven’t paid enough attention to my 2-year-old falling off the swing or getting her foot stuck in the slide.
This translate directly onto the dinner plate. I don’t have the time or the gusto to spend hours every day cooking up a culinary storm for my precious girl so that she can get a tasty – and nutritious – meal. Now, I sure as hell care about what’s going into my daughter’s body. But I want it to be simple, and I want her to make as little fuss as possible.
It took me a while to admit that I needed help. I’m fiercely independent and want to be able to do everything on my own – especially when it comes to raising my children. I struggle to take constructive criticism and prefer to be left to my own devices.
Thank God, I gave in and admitted defeat. Meal times weren’t going anywhere and I certainly wasn’t going to become the Jamie Oliver of children’s cuisine anytime soon. My healthy little eaters were more like average little throwers.
Enter Wal Herring. Wal is a mother – tick – and a nutritionist. I only had two boxes, and she’s ticked them both. Through her own experiences with motherhood and trying dinner times in an attempt to cultivate healthy little eaters, she decided to sit down and write a book so that other mums could feel her pain and learn from it, too.
Let’s look at a couple of things she goes over in her book which is full of practical advice and action steps you can take on the daily:
What you tell your kids
Every family has traditions, right? I remember when my mum used to make cheese scones when I was little and her own version of the best pizza in the world. You won’t believe me when I tell you, but all it consisted of was spaghetti, cheese and salami. Yup – spaghetti on a pizza. Still to this day the best pizza I’ve ever had. Didn’t exactly emulate a healthy little eater, though.
Wal talks about family traditions and how they’re passed down from generation to generation. For example, if your mum always served you porridge with honey, chances are you’ll serve it the same way to your kids. Family traditions like this one can often be limiting, like believing that porridge has to be sweet to be enjoyed.
When it comes to what you tell your kids, there’s nothing they won’t soak up. Kids are literal sponges. My daughter is a couple of weeks away from being two, and I’ve never met a bigger sponge in my life. She copies everything – and I mean everything. The good, the bad, and the instant regrets.
Wal explains this using the ‘shy’ example. She says that if your child is initially hesitant to meet someone at first, it can be tempting to label them as ‘shy’. However, doing this can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy – if your child hears this enough, they will start to believe that they are shy, and act as such.
Wal recommends keeping your words around eating neutral. Try not to label things as ‘yum’ and ‘yuck’, just ‘food’. This way your children will be able to make up their own minds when it comes to their personal experience with each piece you put on their plate.
Finally, the last little tidbit from Wal’s book on how to get your children to be healthy little eaters revolves around different levels of food. While it’s good to remain neutral on the descriptions, it’s also good to group food into varying levels, depending on how healthy they are. This is a great way to get your kids to understand why we only eat certain foods occasionally compared to others.
My daughter is a fierce foodie. With the healthy habits that I’ve learned from Wal’s infallible wisdom, I’ve been able to sit with her every meal time and calmly teach her the complex yet fascinating world of eating. Our dinner times are no longer stressful or frustrating – they’re productive lessons that see her learning something new about food every day. She's on her way to being a healthy little eater, and I'm already a super proud mum.
For more invaluable lessons around food, check out Wal Herring’s Healthy Little Eaters here.
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What foods does your little one struggle with the most? Let me know!