Getting your children to eat enough healthy and nutritious food is, in my opinion, one of the most important thing you can do as a parent.
I am currently experiencing what can only be described as
hell two different ends of the scale.
On one side, with the baby, I am embarking on my favourite baby stage-weaning. All of those exciting first tastes where, being the good little eater that he is, he refuses nothing.
At the other end of the scale, I have a little boy who once ate all of the tasty things I offered him, like his brother but now I have to resort to parental deception to get most things into him.
Thankfully , all three of my children enjoy fruit and vegetables but a child cannot live on them alone.
It helps with the toddler when I get imaginative with his food so we have had tractor and dinosaur shaped sandwiches at lunch time and his favourite, dinosaur trees at tea time.
According to Organix, a toddler’s taste buds are constantly evolving, which can make mealtimes a minefield as foods once enjoyed can be refused, even if they only look slightly different. Having fun with food isn’t just for tricky toddlers – it helps encourage a love of good food in all little ones.
Looking back on my parenting (Boo is a great eater so I must have done something right), I always offer a variety of foods-even if previously, they have been refused.
I have known some parents to rule with an iron rod and let their children go to bed hungry which I don’t agree with for many reasons.
Treating food as some kind of bargaining tool may lead to an unhealthy attitude to food and a hungry child will not sleep-something I don’t get enough of anyway so I refuse to promote sleeplessness if it can be avoided.
For this reason, I always offer and alternative at the end of meal times-like toast, to ensure the three little tummies are full.
Or, if I know I am cooking a meal which doesn’t appeal to them, for example the big two will only have mince if it can be slurped with spaghetti, I will split their plates up. I still offer the mince, or whatever it is they don’t like, and add carrot sticks or some other vegetable and maybe a boiled egg or a crumpet so they will sit and eat and enjoy their meal time rather than run around the kitchen or, in G’s case, climb on the table.
As a parent of three good eaters, I think the main thing you can do is to offer your baby the majority of foods that you are eating yourself. I don’t use salt in cooking so, unless a meal is particularly spicy or has salt added before (like gammon), I just offer what we are having because essentially, this is what your baby will be eating anyway.
For me, the way you offer the food is up to you. I personally think at six months, a baby is ready for something more than milk so exclusive baby-led never worked for us because most of the food ends up on the floor. Instead, I roughly mash or use a hand blender for the majority of the meal but offer non-pureed things on the high chair tray-the best of both worlds if you ask me.
At the same time though, weaning is a messy business and, rather than recoil in horror at the carnage that is your kitchen, embrace the mess and let your babies and toddlers have fun with food.
Let them wipe porridge all over their face (it’s good for the skin, you know), accept that the mop will be out after every meal and just relax a bit. Don’t let them associate meal times with you hovering over them with a baby wipe.
For children of all ages, limiting the amount of salt and sugar you give is so important.
Babies do not need chocolate. Indeed, the older two were well over one when a chocolate button first passed their lips.
From experience, once the chocolate or the salty crisp is tasted, it is never, ever forgotten. It therefore makes sense to put off such things for as long as you can.
Even my salt-laden-snack-loving-six-year old (the trial run) can be persuaded with Organix snacks which have no added salt or sugar. The Organix crisps are great for when a corn snack is all that will do because you can be the perfect crisp parent with non of the guilt.
Many of the Organix snacks are suitable from 7 months (do check the packet because I have been known to give the wrong snack to the wrong child) so when the siblings get a snack, other than resort to grabbing said snack out of their hand, the baby can have his own.
They are also great on the go-I keep a packet handy in the car and in my changing bag and, unlike the salty snacks, even when sucked, Organix snacks are the cleanest in terms of extracting them from the bottom of the pushchair or the car seat-every parent knows the advantages of that.
For toddlers, don’t be afraid to explain food to them. It obviously helps where we live but they collect the eggs from the hens and we visit farm shops and pick your own farms so they can really connect with their food.
They can relate much more to a vegetable pulled from the ground with mud on it than they can to the shiny variety available on the shelves of a supermarket.
As a parent, (first time parents more so) you can get so wrapped up in doing everything right. I have learnt though that right only exists in your head.
What is right for the mother at the baby class, may not necessarily be right for your child and, I hate to say this but what may have been right for your first baby, may not be right for your second. Or third.
All children are different-it is the nature of our species. Do what you feel is right in terms of weaning and toddler feeding for you and your family.
No one wants a fussy toddler to turn into a fussy child but often, forcing an issue can make things worse and if your child thinks you are getting stressed over something, they will either get stressed themselves or play up to your stress.
I often refer to meal times as feeding time which, on a farm is quite apt. I could write about this topic forever. Good food and nutrition is the backbone of everything. Children are more likely to grow strong an fight off common illnesses if they are getting the right sustenance from their food.
Organix has some great ideas for help with the more fussy little people and it really is worth checking out because, let’s face it, we can all get stuck in a rut.
*This is a collaborative post. All opinions are my own.