Happy new year Munch readers. Things are a bit hectic for me at the moment as we are moving house, it’s school holidays so I have all four kids at home (say no more) and I’ve taken on more work… so I thought it would be a good time to revisit a post I wrote around a year ago on my own blog. It’s my ‘kid food wisdom’ everyone’s is different and I’d love to hear any feedback and other ideas.
■Make food you want to eat; think not, ‘what can I make for the kids to eat’, but, ‘how can I get the kids to eat what I’m planning to cook for myself’. You are the king of the kitchen.
■Kids can be impulsively rude and suspicious of new things, don’t take negative comments to heart but do banish anyone older than 3 who says ‘yuck’ at the table. ‘I don’t like this much mum’ – ‘how many mouthfuls do I have to try?’ is OK. A mild grimace is fine – take it as a compliment.■Take everything that can be classed as good, indifferent or only slightly bad as a compliment (even the mild grimaces) - that way you have a chance of feeling appreciated. If it tips from slightly bad to rude, then banish the culprit from the meal table, to consider their ingratitude…everyone has a different tipping point and your own tipping point can vary wildly according to the cycle of the moon, the amount of sunshine in the day and whether you have a drink in hand.
■If you can’t face tasting the baby’s food because it looks revolting then don’t give it to them..it’s probably revolting.■If the baby’s food tastes like a blander version of what you’re eating then there’s a chance they’ll like it. How much blander depends on the baby. There’s also a chance they won’t. Babies are weird like that. Keep trying till you hit success and then hope they like it again the next day which they may well not.
■Unless your kid is the kind of kid who looks forward to exciting new and interesting things in their lunchbox, then don’t stress about putting exciting new and interesting things in their lunchbox. For a lot of kids the lunchbox is a chore they need to complete before heading off to play. They don’t want to be challenged or faced with the unusual… unless they do. All kids are different – ask them. If they ask for the same old stuff every day they probably are really much happier with the familiar for their lunchbox- there are plenty of other meals in the day to experiment. If they tell you they are totally over you sending them in with the same old, same old, day after day, then it’s time to spice things up. Above all try not to embarrass them – school is hard enough without feeling worried about what’s in your lunchbox.■Try and avoid ever giving kids any freedom of choice in the cereal aisle unless you are genuinely happy for them to pick their own cereal.
■Let the kids go wild in the biscuit aisle every now and then – after all, it’s only a cookie bear.
■Anything you read that makes you feel inadequate is a load of rubbish. Burn the book or at least mentally burn the book to erase the nasty inadequate thoughts and pour yourself a cold drink, take a deep breath and reassess the situation. Think about what you want to eat -that’s a good starting point.
■Don’t be disturbed by the newly ‘in vogue’ term ‘bone broth’ or assume it’s not for your tribe. It’s a bit magic and everyone needs a bit of magic.■All kids need to eat vegetables (and fruit although most don’t need as much coaxing on the fruit) – doesn’t matter what crazy cat methods you use to get the greens down the hatch, but you’ve got to find something that works.
■Bribery works with most kids. You decide the bribes and the terms and can feel good about educating them in the ways of the world.■Explain about healthy stuff, energy, digestive system and all that jazz. You can spend a lot of time on this because it’s interesting and it involves the digestive system; kids will be all ears.
■Explain how lucky they are to have food to eat and clean water to drink. This one’s a bit controversial – some people believe in protecting kid’s innocence of the big bad world out there for as long as possible ..not me (in this regard at any rate). A bit of perspective is a fine thing. When you find yourself shrieking ‘you don’t know how lucky you are ,my son!’ and the start of a major tirade coming then stop. These things are best explained calmly – a little awareness is good, but you don’t want to be all scary.■If you feel a nagging sense of unease about something you regularly feed your kids then steal yourself and read the ingredients. Once you’ve read them you decide if you want to keep the item in rotation or stop serving it – you are the king of the kitchen after all.
■Let your kid be the king of their plate. Some like the meal deconstructed into component parts , others have a near nervous breakdown if they hoped for a triangle and got a square. Some like the sauce to the side , some mixed in. Be flexible and they will reward you with a mild grimace. Make sure there’s something on the plate that will make them feel all safe and powerful (i.e something they like to eat). If there’s new stuff to try,decide if it’s a ‘must try’ or an ‘optional try’. If you know you’re pushing something they are unlikely to like, then give them an ‘out’ and let them choose something to leave. You never know – they might surprise you and clear their plate. They might not. It’s unlikely the world will stop turning and there’s always the next meal.■Give baking a chance. It doesn’t have to be a big production. You can make something way cheaper and nicer and healthier than you can buy in the supermarket within about 10 minutes at home (plus cooking time).
■Don’t get hung up over what other kids are eating. They’re all different. Some have pretty narrow preferences and others will dazzle and amaze you with their willingness to try new tastes in the same way some will play with the same toy for days (months) and other will flit from thing to thing as if carried by the wind. As long as your kid is healthy and getting a nutritional intake that you feel good about as a parent then it’s happy days.■Try not to let your own mood hinge on how well your kids eat on any given day. They can smell desperation like a pack of dogs and it’s aroma is an appetite suppressant.
■Keep a sense of humor at all times.■Eggs, avocado, frozen blueberries and frozen peas rock. So does broccoli. Fresh blueberries picked at the farm and peas eaten straight from the pod rock even more. So do lollypops and chocolate chunks.
■If you want your kids to eat raw veg, try try giving them a plate just before dinner, when they are prowling around starving and desperate for anything. They will probably eat anything at this time.
■ When they are growing, or just randomly, they may go through periods of insane hunger when they can eat a whole cake fresh out of the oven, 17 slices of toast , the whole fruit-bowl and still be prowling around asking when dinner will be ready. Especially if they are boys. Have a lot of toast and fruit and cake at the ready for these such occasions, and then be ready with a plate of raw carrot sticks an hour later.
Amy Black, Munch contributor