E is for Eating

So lets put this in context for you first – I have four children of the older ages – (22, 20, 18, 15) – food in this house is my hardest thing to deal with – having enough in at any one given time considering they all help themselves at all times is one, knowing when to cook considering they unlike their mother have very active social lives, knowing how many for dinner as meals can often range from me and hubby, through to me, hubby, son, daughter and boyfriend, daughter 2 and boyfriend and daughter 3 – yes that’s a range of 2 through to 8 at short notice and back again!!! Add on to that little mix the dietary requirements of my family and I am not talking just what they don’t like but my son has an immune disorder meaning low histamine diet, eldest daughter is dairy free due to intolerance and middle daughter is vegetarian it can get quite complex.

All that aside we love food in our house. Everyone in our house eats a very varied diet of both healthy foods and the occasional treats and take aways! My children all have very good appetites (if a little diverse) and that stems from the fact that they have all understood not only the health benefits of eating a varied diet but the social benefit of all trying to sit down together every now and again and sharing food. Food has never been an issue it is just part of life and I believe that is why our children are fit, with no obesity issues (ever!) and no eating issues. Diet in our house means the type of food you eat not how to loose weight!
This was instilled a young age. No matter what is going on in our house we all try to sit down together at least once a week, and we always, no matter who is home, sit at the table and eat together every evening barring Saturday night which is ‘all for themselves and lap tray night’!

As I have said in other blogs our small children want to be like us older ones, they look up to us as role models and will do what we do. If we sit at the table having conversation and eating a range of meals our children will want to be a part of it. I have found it hard to understand the need for children to eat separately from their parents. Even in the days when my husband and I both worked shifts we tried to organise our time so that meals were shared with the children – if I was home but my hubby was on late shift I would eat with my children not wait for my hubby – he is old enough to eat alone but my children needed a role model for eating.

Many children go through a phase of not sitting up to eat and wandering round whilst you are eating – they usually grow out of it is allowed to pass through it – after all being alone on the floor is not as much fun as sitting up and getting mum and dad’s attention at the table!

Children often also know what they like and what they don’t early on – just as we do – eventually maturity will give way to them eating what they are given every now and again but remember they are just like you and if you really don’t like a certain food how would you feel if you were constantly forced to eat it day after day!

Food should be fun, it should be about exploring taste and texture, it should be about enjoying the feeling of something new and learning about the pleasure of conversation and being together. Putting a range of flavours out for your child will enable them to find what they like and give them balance. Allow you small child to eat with their fingers until they master the cutlery – I am sure some of you have felt the frustration of sitting in a Chinese restaurant with chopsticks unable to get the food in whilst others around you are doing well and getting really frustrated – this is how it feels to a child who is forced to use cutlery before their dexterity will allow, they will gradually learn as they watch you. This also goes for cooking and preparing food – one day your little darling will have to fend for themselves – start young and they will not be the ones at Uni who can’t boil an egg or make toast!

I know we are all striving for a healthy balanced diet at all times and sometimes that doesn’t happen – don’t beat yourself up over it – your child is going to live with you for a very long time and will learn to be as flexible as the rest of the family if they are fed the same as the rest of the family – a few simple rules in the beginning such as low salt etc which I sure the Health visitor will be letting you know about but your child will need to see what your household diet is and run with it – no one is wanting to be cooking separate meals for everyone for ever – embrace the concept of baby led weaning – there are many books and FB groups etc around to support you and go out and enjoy food with your baby/child – and remember the adage – Food before One (year) is just for Fun!!!