“We made many blunders raising our children, thankfully eating isn’t one of them!”
Part of growing up is making blunders and we do not shy away from admitting the various blunders that we have made. Out of all the areas, such as financials (plenty of those) and clumsiness, it delights us every time we see our children eating healthy and enjoying exploring new foods.
Our 3 children are current 7, 5 and 3 and yes, they do eat chips, chocolate, crisps, ice-cream and burgers. Often triggered because Mr. and Mrs. Blunders fancies them, more often because their grandparents want to spoil them! There are a couple of things that they are not allowed, such as soft drinks, and the children do not complain about not allowed to have them, as they also understand why they are not allowed to have them.
Nevertheless, they also enjoy eating broccoli, beans, Fennel, leeks, carrots, beans, peas, rice, pasta, radish, cucumber, paprika, ….. We could go on and on. And if there’s anything they don’t like, we talk about it and they make suggestions how to improve the taste. They probably like more foods than Mr. Blunder!
We try to cook every dish from scratch using fresh ingredients. In addition, there are some steps that probably helped prevent any blunders from being made.
Baby Led Weaning (Age 0-2)
During the first pregnancy it was surprising how much advice and knowledge is available. Trying to find the prefered method and approach can be confusing. During our research we discovered Baby Led Weaning (BLW) and we believe it has been a strong baseline for the kids to get used to different structures and tastes.
In essence, BLW is slowly introducing different foods, based on what their body is able to process, safety (e.g. swallowing) and dexterity ( ability to hold). Just a warning, it get’s messy. Very, very messy. As initially they are playing with their food and probably on get 1% in their mouth. Yes, they feed themselves and nothing is forced in their mouth. Slowly they start understanding that their mouth is a good place to put their food and they start aiming for it. And every time you introduce a new food (Follow the schedule!), their face shows a clear reaction as they experience a new taste and sensation.
It took a lot of time and cleaning up to do BLW with 3 children, but seeing our children eating healthy today, it made it worth all the efforts.
Combine eating with learning (Age 2-4)
As their curiosity started increasing and they were able to start expressing themselves more, we used this face to explore food together. Where does food come from (e.g. picking food together)? What are the different colours that food has (How many red foods can you name?)? How does cooking work? What are all those different smells (mystery spice rack game)?
We saw a big change in their attitude towards food when they started to actively be curious (What is this fruit? Why are there different milks? Why does this food come from this country?) and we stimulated this behaviour. During this stage it was very important to also encourage trying new taste, while also saying that it’s ok not liking everything, as long as you tried.
Consistency (Age 4-6)
Knowing that there will be breakfast every morning, lunch every afternoon, dinner every night is important. Knowing that each of these meals has to be healthy is essential. Using these meals to openly discuss why some things are healthy, some are less healthy and others are not healthy creates an environment where openly discussing food is encouraged. Also towards us. When they see us snacking or eating something unhealthy, they will actively tell us that we should exercise more or eat more healthy food. They even make suggestions and some times even prepare it (e.g. getting an apple). Seeing our children eating healthy provides us a lot of joy, having them tell us that we are making blunders regarding out diet, makes us feel uncomfortable and proud at the same time.
Allow them to choose (Age 6+)
Currently we are experimenting with the next stage, which is allowing them to choose what to eat. Not just for themselves, but one child chooses what our complete family eats for a day! We’ve done this a couple of times now and here’s an example what the olders (7) chose last time:
- Breakfast: Pancakes with sugar and lemon
- Brunch: Tuna sandwiches and carrots
- Lunch: Sushi and Shabu-Shabu
- Afternoon snack: Fruits and pasta
- Dinner: Donner Kebab with salad
Is this the best and healthiest meal plan. Probably not. Did he actively think about eating enough vegetables, fruits and “fun” stuff? Definitely. And the rest of the family joined with him and we all had a wonderful day. The oldest son felt very proud and tried to find the right balance each day. So it’s not just the children eating healthy, it’s all of us helping each other to eat healthy.
It has been a messy and long path, but the reward of seeing our children eating healthy has been worth the effort. Now if only Mr. and Mrs. Blunders could start eating healthier!
What have you done to help your children eat healthy?