Monday, 20 June 2011

How to encourage healthy eating....

My children will try pretty much any type of food.

I count this as a blessing.  Particularly since I didn't even eat Pizza until I was 20 years old.

I was bought up in a typical English environment, where the meals consisted of 'meat, potato and veg' or were children's meals like 'beans on toast', 'dippy egg' or 'tomato soup with soldiers'.  To this day my parents don't eat rice, or pasta, or anything that hints at a herb other than mint (only with lamb).  Whilst you can quite happily eat traditional English food in a healthy way, I'm pleased that I have a wider variety of foods with which to now tempt my children, which I gained purely as a result of spending 3 years at university and 'experimenting'.  With food, obviously.  My girls are now; helpfully; big fans of pasta (even cold in salads; which I hate).  They love rice (quick and easy, and they'll even help sweep up the mess afterwards).  And we've recently introduced them to poppadoms and chicken bhuna, with great success.

It's not been easy though.  Our youngest, now 30 months old, continues to go through stages of 'pickiness'.  And I refuse to rise to it.  I continue to offer a selection of foods, and the availability of pudding is directly related to how much main course she's eaten.  A small amount of main course equates to a small amount of pudding.  And we have, whilst out at a restaurant, allowed her older sister to eat ice cream for pudding, even though the youngest hadn't eaten mains and was therefore not allowed any.  She whined.  But we stuck to our guns, and she now always eats at least some of her main course.

And I think that's the trick.  When you realise that they will never starve themselves at this age.  That they'll eat when they are hungry.  And that rising to it only makes it into a game that you really don't want to be playing. And when you realise that children's potion sizes are so much smaller than ours, and that a tiny plate of pasta and meatballs is actually quite filling, and that a single 'dippy egg' with one slice of bread to dip can keep them going for ages.

These days we would probably be considered old fashioned for our approach.  Which consists of this: make dinner, place dinner in front of children, allow them appropriate time to eat dinner, call end to dinner and remove remaining food.  If they choose not to eat it, well they'll need to wait until the next snack time (for fruit) or for the next meal (where they inevitably eat a whole lot better.) 

Sometimes you just need to remember who's in charge!

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