Perhaps I care too much, perhaps I use their relationship with food as a mode of control, perhaps I’m worried that how they eat now will effect their eating habits as adults, perhaps I’m scared that I’m not feeding them properly, not encouraging good eating habits and therefore missing important aspects of their nutrition.
Who knows but I do care and I want to do well by them. And I want our family’s relationship to food and eating be a good one. Yes, I know, I’m SURE I want to much. But really, when it comes down to it, how we all eat impacts on each other. The social aspect of food is just as important as its nutritional features. And I do want my kids to embrace both.
So, we’ve made some changes and I wanted to share them with you because they’re working. We do have good meals and bad meals but on the whole, we’re all doing a bit better (yes, I’m learning to relax about meal times a bit more) and it all feels, I don’t know, easier, I guess.
Basically, a few months ago, something hit me: I was simply NOT prepared to be a short order cook. With 3 children, this becomes completely infeasible. Plus, I began thinking about how we were fed as children. C and I discussed our respective upbringings in this regard and both acknowledged that we ate what we were served. We definitely preferred some meals over others, but we never dictated what our parents cooked and we don’t remember a great deal of drama surrounding meal times.
I also stumbled across this post and it really got me thinking
While I’ve always been very conscious of what and how I feed the kids, these three things caused me to VOW I would change things now when the kids are young and also ENERGISED me to believe I could do things differently and they would work.
So, what we are doing that works.
1. Eating together – I try to make sure we eat together 4 nights a week. We bought a barbeque over the weekend so I’m hoping this will be even easier over summer. Meal times are never stress-free but I do enjoy them. Someone always has something nutty to share which makes us all laugh and we enjoy watching Lbaby stuff his face which he does most of the time. It also gives us an opportunity to have some positive conversations about food as we are sharing it.
2. I cook and serve one meal (which mostly includes at least one vegetable). If they choose not to eat 2 spoonfuls of the meal then there is nothing else to eat. Nothing. Not fruit, not yoghurt not vegemite sandwiches. Nothing.
3. We do not make a fuss about who is eating what and how much they eat. We explain the system (2 spoonfuls or nothing else) each night a maximum of two times. Other than that, we keep quiet and continue eating our own meals as relaxed as we can (this is hard man, but we try). Sometimes, this strategy doesn’t work as well as we’d hope and we find ourselves pleading with someone (most often Sdash) to have a mouthful. But, on the whole, when it’s all becoming too stressful and angst ridden, we remind each other of this ‘minimum discussion’ rule, one our paediatrician encouraged us to adopt.
3. I make a new dish I want them to try once or twice a week, not every night. This means I can rest assured that they will eat well every second day, and it takes away the inevitable drama that can plague dinner times. I feel relieved that we won’t face another argument about eating and I’m sure they do to. It also means that they still get to enjoy food and hopefully won’t come to feel that it’s always attached to conflict.
4. I always make them something they are going to like if they try it. Which doesn’t mean I’ll always make them something they will like because they’ll say, they don’t like anything with ‘x, y and z’ in it. What I mean is, I always try to cook really tasty things so that when they do try it, I know they’ll want more. This means we probably use too much cheese, butter and salt but so be it. As long as there are other ‘better’ things in there, I figure it can’t hurt and I certainly don’t go overboard because I, for one, don’t want to suffer the consequences!
5. I have started stipulating strict meal times when food can be consumed – breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner (which includes dessert). My boys are actually big eaters (while they may be fussy) but they tend to graze all day. This means that proper ‘big’ meal times are missed and it is also harder for me to follow exactly what they are consuming. Some days, they just ask for food all day but it tends to be snacky like fruit or crackers or honey sandwiches and come dinner time, they’re definitely not hungry enough to try anything new or different. Now, no food can be consumed outside these meal times.
I think that’s it. As I said, all are working quite well and the boys are eating with greater variation than they used to. We’re trying to make food more fun and meal times more lighthearted.
Sdash is still completely fussy and he has been the hardest to work with. His improvements are definitely smaller but, hey, I can actually say there are improvements.
And that’s no mean feat.
Any suggestions how you tackle food and meal times in your family? What do you find most difficult when it comes to feeding kids?
* Oh, I should say, for great meal ideas for little ones, check out my friend’s site. It’s great.