War and Peas – a blog on ways to cope with picky eaters
16th September 2018
Are you a ‘foodie’ battling against a ‘fussy eater’? How many times have you spent an hour or two of your precious time cooking a divine family meal from scratch only for your little darlings to say ‘I don’t like it’? Yep, we’ve all been there!!!
Having three children, I am fully aware of the battles and the accompanying stress that can come with trying to encourage children to eat full stop, let along getting them to try something healthy. My middle child (oh isn’t it always!?) seems to be my fussiest and if it’s not beige he’s really not that interested – setting us up nicely for a stressful mealtime that involves bribery and negotiations the United Nations would be proud of.
I often feel torn between cooking a separate meal for Archie just because I want to him eat something and then other times I think I should just make him sit there and eat what he’s given – and if he doesn’t like it then it’s his tough luck! Looking back, he’s always been fussy and was a nightmare to wean despite my best efforts. Over the years, I’ve learnt that the only way of succeeding at mealtimes is to stay calm and have patience. If your little monkey is particularly strong minded, it’s going to take time, but you can and will get there.
So, here are a few of my top tips to help you to encourage your children to eat their healthy meals:-
Get them to help you prepare the food. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be thinking that you can really do without the aggro of having to deep clean the kitchen afterwards, but if you can grin and bear the mess, it can really help your cause.
Make sure there are no iPads or other electronic distractions while the children are eating. You might think that the distraction is a good thing, but it can actually reduce the efficiency of the first stages of digestion by 60-70% if you are watching a screen while you eat. This is because our eyes are higher up the hierarchy than our digestive system. So if your eyes are being used whilst you are eating, the body will naturally send it’s energy to that area rather than use it to help break down and digest food particles. This goes back to our ancestral past when we would have needed our eyes to protect us from predators.
Try a little give and take and meet the kids half way rather than being forceful. For example, if you’ve banned sauce but know that your little soldiers will only eat their veggies with ketchup, consider initiating a temporary surrender in the ‘ketchup war’. Give them a drop, safe in the knowledge you can reduce their ketchup intake a few weeks down the line when meal time habits have improved.
This is a tricky one (when really all you want to mutter under your breath is ‘if you don’t eat this, I swear it’s going to end up on your head tonight’) but try and only speak positively at mealtimes. Try saying things like ‘you must be really hungry’ or ‘mummy has cooked you a lovely dinner which used to my favourite when I was your age’. The more creative you can get the better! What about saying ‘this will give you wings’ or ‘this will make you as strong as Superman’?
I know lots of you may not be keen on serving dessert but I’ve always found it a useful way to encourage the children to eat their meals, especially dinner. I appreciate that many children (mine included!) don’t like the taste of ‘healthy’, but in my Cook Clean with Kate cookbook, you will find plenty of cheeky treats your children will relish but won’t leave them bouncing off the walls, high on e-numbers and preservatives. (Your big kids are bound to love a slice of Lemon Dribble cake or a Heavenly Chocolate Muffin with a cup of tea too)!
Lastly, don’t give up. Sometimes it’s just best to walk away calmly and then try again a few minutes later rather than allowing full-scale war to break out over a portion of broccoli. If that doesn’t work, leave it and try re-introducing the offending food in a few weeks’ time. It can take up to thirty times for a child to change their opinion! It can be very easy for us to say ‘oh you don’t like broccoli do you?’ when actually they’ve only turned their nose up twice. You’ve still got another 28 attempts to hopefully produce a broccoli addiction!
I hope that you have found some of these tips useful. Parenting can be a hectic, full-on job and the thought of slaving over a hot stove for hours only to have your little cherub refuse to eat is a big ‘no no’ in my book. Lots of my quick and easy recipes can be altered by adapting the vegetables and spices to work with your children’s taste buds and there’s plenty of variation in my hardback book to encourage picky kids (and grown ups!) of all ages to eat nutritious and delicious food. Head to Amazon for the easiest way to order your copy http://amzn.to/2jdLyoM
Love Kate x