Teaching Our Kids to Eat Well - it's EASY!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

I loved this comment posted by Posie (on my post Healthifying Kids' Recipes - Pancakes, below) so much, I had to just add another post on this topic because it's something I, too, feel most passionate about.

This is what Posie said...

"See i'm quite different, i preach healthy & make sure my children know every fibre, carb & sugar in their foods. Or as my youngest one says "is this good, does this have fiver in it??" Sure we might have to sit there & say "well it's good for you, you have to eat that egg plant" but lucky enough, turns out their favourite vegetables are brocolli (trees), peas, corn, capsicum, carrots & snow peas, pretty much the basics of any fridge. How do i get them to eat onions?? "That Shrek food, yummy yummy" & they do. Oh & because i'm a total saint, i have only ever offered them multigrain bread since they started. I HADN'T thought to use wholemeal flour, so thanks for the tip, i'll add to the brown rice on my grocery list. Love Posie"

Posie - I couldn't agree more.

I also talk to my kids about fat content, calories, nutrition, and they are now able to tell me the vitamin content and nutrition value of many foods, as well as those that are not good for them. On top of that, they're also able to virtually recite what happens to your body if you eat too much processed food (including what diseases you could expect in later life - sometimes I think I have scarred them with this information!).

It's fantastic to know someone else, like Posie, does the same. Mostly, I 'hide' nutritious bursts in foods when the kids do eat junky food (like pancakes) or when I want them to eat something that their childlike palates simply haven't yet learned to enjoy (like brussels sprouts and sauteed bok choy). I was reading somewhere that most [Western] kids quite simply cannot stomach these foods until their palates mature.

I also, like Posie, believe that what we feed our kids early determines their palates and eating habits for life. We have NEVER served white bread in our house (other than the odd baguette for bruschetta) and therefore my kids don't know the bread difference. They've always had multigrain, rye, sourdough, wholemeal.

I am amazed when kids come to our house for playdates and I quite literally can't find anything in my house to feed them. We don't have white-bread nutella sandwiches in our house, and it seems that's all a lot of kids will eat for lunch, alas. I'm no saint - our kids have plenty of chocolate and popcorn and icypoles and other treats, but everything else they eat is absolutely bursting with nutrition, and to this day, I know this is why my kids are very rarely ill.

I keep trying with my kids, every day, to serve them something new. Yesterday it was blue cheese. After screwed up noses ("mum, it stinks!"), they took a nibble and fell instantly in tongue-tingling love. They then proceeded to pick every last shred out of the pear and rocket salad I had prepared for dinner.

Another thing I've always done is served the kids whatever we're eating for dinner, including spicy food (they had no choice when living in Asia!). Even if I've had to modify dishes slightly, I've NOT ONCE made the kids something different to eat for dinner. Not once (well, okay, between the ages of 6 and 12 months). Basically, they have always partaken in our adult meals, and I have this to thank for two children who will now eat virtually everything except offal and leafy greens.

I know what Posie feeds her kids and I am so impressed at what she presents them to eat - it's just glorious. Let's hope other parents feel 'brave' enough to keep at their children to extend their palates. It's never too early to start.

NOTE: The comment above has been changed to bold, just in case readers miss it (in fact, that part of the post seems to be invisible to many readers).


Handle With Care said...

Love the recipes Tanya! Wish I could say my child eats as much of a well rounded diet as your and Posie's little ones. Unfortunately my twonager is a very fussy eater thanks to many early food issues in life creating a palate for bland food.
I do tell myself that his habits now WON'T set him up for life however and I base this on the fact that out of my 3 sisters and I my younger sister was the best eater as a child. She ate a well rounded diet and was never fussy, she in her early 20's is now suffering from an eating disorder - mum said you would never had picked her to be the one to have had such a problem when we were younger.

I think at the end of the day we all do the best we can with our kids and hope for the best. x heather

Tania McCartney said...

I totally agree with you, Heather. We all have our challenges and do the best we can. I just know your little one will come around to other foods when ready - it can never be forced. This is why I think sneaking things into foods our kids love is a wonderful way to expand them. See my post on sneaking healthy bits into pancakes! And they were scrumptious! x

Anonymous said...

I think that to say that teaching healthy eating is 'easy' discounts the very real experiences of parents who struggle with this - sometimes because they lack the means to have access to a range of healthy food, or sometimes because children can suffer physical or behavioural issues which make 'normal' eating more difficult.
It's fantastic that your kids are offered healthy food choices at home and this is something I strive to achieve for my daughter as well. I do think it's best to have balance and moderation though, and I'd prefer her to experience eating things like icecream or fluffy white bread in appropriate amounts at home and whilst out so that she can learn that these foods also form part of a normal varied diet, in approprate amounts at appropriate times. I don't want her to be the kid stuck around the treat table at friends' parties because she's never had a lolly at home!
Have you read 'How to get your kid to eat, but not too much?' by the renowned nutritionist Ellyn Satter? It's a fantastic read for anyone interested in childhood nutrition.

Tania McCartney said...

Thanks for your comments, mymilkspilt. I don't discount anything you've said but I still believe that offering children healthy foods IS easy and that exposing them to these foods is vital. That is my point. Plus, there are many, many children who have full capacity for healthy food and do not receive it out of parental choice. I don't discount the fact that people have many feeding and eating issues with children but my point is that offering and exposing children consistently to good foods is an easy choice.

As mentioned in this post, my kids absolutely get their full share of treats - and have candy or chocolate or icypoles and cookies daily.

Balance and moderation - I totally agree that's key.

Green Mama said...

Hi Tania- you might enjoy the CSRIO's new book- a wellbeing plan for kids. There is nothing in it that you don't already know from a theoretical perspective, but there are some fabulous recipes. I also believe in early variety making it easier to extend good eating habits into childhood and beyond- I swear before her first birthday my cherub had tried more fruits and vegies than I had before my 30th birthday!
HOWEVER, I do agree with mymilkspilt- I see many, many babies and toddlers drinking juice in bottles or pop top pack thingys (again, something we've never had at home) and I know their mothers are given the same printed information from their child health nurses as I am, but something is being missed. Research shows again and again that health is a socio-economic issue.

Emily said...

I made the choice to only feed my son healthy, nutritious and when available, home grown organic foods. It's incredibly easy and he eats so well.

I do find it oddly infuriating that I've had to justify my choice to SO many people. He's 16 months old, why on earth should I have to defend my choice to give him a highly nutricious diet?

I agree that balance and moderation certainly are key and I'm ok with the occasional treat when he gets older, but for now it's the good stuff and only the good stuff. Our culture is so completely out of whack when it comes to food. I'd rather be in the minority, eat well and not have to deal with hyperactivity, obesity and other health related issues that come with poor eating habits.

Cheers Em

Tania McCartney said...

Green Mama - thanks for the CSIRO book tip - that's fantastic. I might blog about it. Totally agree with you that oftentimes nutrition is a socio-economic issue. I was watching a show on a low-socio-economic family who only ate takeaway food from the local chippy because fresh fruit and vegies were 'too expensive'. It was pure genius to see their gobsmacked faces when a trip to the grocery store for a week's worth of fresh, ideal food, came in at way under what the family spends on chips and other fried muck.

Emily - I loved your post and agree with all you said.

I know I'll cop flak for this but a kid will eat chocolate biscuits for breakfast if you offer him chocolate biscuits for breakfast (or Nutrigrain or Coco Pops or Fruit Loops or a myriad other b'fast cereals, which has the same amount of sugar). If you only offer him raw oats, yoghurt and organic fruit, that's what he'll eat. If he doesn't like it on any particular day, why hand him a nutella white-bread sandwich? Offer him other healthy alternatives and don't even bring the junk into it! Couldn't agree with you more.

I too believe that offering a taste for good foods early is vital, even when kids are really young. Yes, allow them 'party food', absolutely - even let them OD on it occasionally. My kids are hardly ever denied treats because when I was a kid, I never once saw a chocolate biscuit or lolly in the house, and when I left home, I became obsessed by them. By offering kids treats, it makes them accept this kind of food as part and parcel (albeit a small part) of an overall healthy modern diet. Just make the rest of what they eat full of vitality and variety!

Emily - I find it incredulous that people mock you for offering your child a nutritious diet. I, by contrast, congratulate you.

Anonymous said...

hee hee - my son eats Nutella sandwiches almost everyday for lunch! But ONLY on wheat bread - White bread has never crossed my door stoop! He does eat beggies now though TB

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