I’ve got two young kids and my most dreaded times of the day are meal times. I guess most parents can relate to this! Getting my kids to eat what I want them to eat is a battle of epic proportions.
Very early on in parenthood, my husband and I made the decision that we would always eat our meals as a family. It was something I, as a kid, had done with my own parents and I thought it was an important part of family life and bonding. What I didn’t anticipate then, through the naïve and idealistic thinking of a new mum, was that I would rarely enjoy a meal again. Well, at least for the next several years!
My eldest will turn 6 this year – and I haven’t yet given up on the dream of pleasant family meals. Though I have gotten close to throwing in the towel on many occasions.
I owe it to my kids to spend this time with them. And no matter how difficult it gets, and how many arguments we have over it, and how many battles are fought, and how many tears and tantrums are fought over it (you think I’m exaggerating – I’m not), I owe it to my kids to feed them nutritious meals. I owe it to my kids not to give in and buy them junk food. I owe it to their future selves to make them eat their vegetables even if it causes us all stress in the short term. That is my responsibility as their mother. I owe it to them (I have to keep convincing myself!).
I owe it to my kids to feed them nutritious meals. I owe it to their future selves to make them eat their vegetables even if it causes us all stress in the short term.
I actually had it pretty easy for a while and thought I had it all sussed out. The first solid food either of them ate was broccoli. I figured if I got them used to eating relatively bitter foods before I went on to the sweet fruit purees, that I wouldn’t have any problems getting them to eat veggies later on. And guess what?! I worked for a while! It was glorious, it was easy! I’d proudly tell other parents of my method when they asked, frustrated at their own kids lack of veggie eating.
They enjoyed eating the meals I cooked. From fish to tofu, spinach to beansprouts, there was never a complaint. But then suddenly something happened and as if by (black) magic, everything I cooked was eyed suspiciously and met with exclaimations of ‘Yuck’! All they ever want is pasta with pesto or chicken and if neither of those arrive on their plate, all hell breaks lose.
All they ever want is pasta with pesto or chicken and if neither of those arrive on their plate, all hell breaks lose.
It is difficult. At the end of the day when we’re all tired, all I really want is to sit and have a relaxing, argument-free dinner with my family. But want I want more than that, is to have healthy kids who have a balanced diet now, and are able to continue eating healthily when they grow up and fly the nest. And so I keep fighting on, battled scarred and weary!
I don’t want to traumatise my kids, or make them hate anything remotely healthy for all eternity because of me, so I try to get creative rather than just demanding they eat their food (at least, not right away!), ‘Spiderman eats loads of veggies, that’s why he’s so strong!’, ‘Rapunzel’s hair is so long because she eats green beans’. There are endless variations of these, and I usually get through about five before I resort to, ‘ JUST EAT YOUR FOOD!’.
If they genuinely don’t like something, so long as they give it a go, they don’t have to eat it. But we do insist they always try it. Sounds like a lot of stress right? Yes, it can be. But I’m not going to cave in and take the easier route. I owe it to my kids not to.
Poor diet and inactivity is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and U.K. It causes more deaths than smoking.
Therefore, if my kids are going to eat meat, I will make sure they have plenty of fibre too. I will avoid artificial sweeteners and fizzy drinks. I will minimise refined sugar as much as I possibly can and make sure the grandmothers are on board too, even if this does cause some arguments (If I seem militant about vegetables, don’t even get me started on refined sugar!). Basically, I’m not going to take any short cuts with my kids’ health.
There are odd days that they happily munch down on their veggies ‘mmm’ing and ‘yum’ing as they do. They’re both happy with a piece of fruit over sweets, and thankfully almost always enjoy my healthy homemade ice cream and desserts. When it comes down to it, I know the fussy eating is a phase and I can’t think of any parents I know who haven’t gone through it with their kids. And even if that phase lasts until they’re 21, I’m going to keep on pushing the sprouts.