Feeding toddlers.

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Photo by André Robillard

My son is now two and a fully paid up member of the big boy eating club.

After much research, we decided to go with baby led weaning when we were moving him on to solid food. We were fairly relaxed about it as I was planning to breast feed for at least a year and I didn’t want to mess around with purees and spoon feeding. The path of least resistance, as it were.

So what happens now? This article about feeding fussy kids made me pause. Little J definitely isn’t a fussy eater, however… he knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like.

This article sets out five principles to make feeding your child easier.

Keep them guessing: Variety is the spice of life and still hugely important when feeding kids. Consistently exposing children to new food and using the ‘just one bite’ principle, helps to widen their palate and get them (and you!) out of food ruts.

Change the texture: As with the principle above, variation in the way individual food is served helps expose kids to different ways of eating and the mouth feel of food prepared in different ways. Grated sweet potato is very different to sweet potato wedges or sweet potato mash.

Use umami: I am a huge lover of umami and try to incorporate it wherever possible. Kids generally like these complex flavours and we need to move away from the strange notion that kids prefer bland foods.

 

Involve them: I really love sitting my son on the kitchen counter and getting him to add spices to dishes I’m cooking or to watch me chopping some veg up in the hand blender. He gets to be involved in the cooking process, seeing how food is made, smelling the spices and I get some company and stream of cute chatter and questions about the different ingredients. Win / win.

Teach by example: This is a big one. My husband can be a bit of a picky eater himself and I’ve asked him not to complain about not liking certain foods in front of little J. It’s not that I’m trying to create the perfect atmosphere, more like I want J to see both of us trying everything without complaining or whining. The other area I really try to lead on is always sitting down to eat. It’s true that sitting and eating in a restful way is good for the digestive system (parasympathetic / rest & digest mode). It’s also a major pet peeve of mine seeing children and adults alike walking around and eating. Perhaps it’s something I picked up when I lived in Tokyo (this is a huge no no in Japan), but I think it’s a terrible habit and always ask J to sit down when he eats and do the same myself.

There are two more principles I would add to this list.

Plan, plan, plan: A weekly meal planner helps avoid last minute panics about dinner and a big cook up at the weekend makes things even easier.

Relax: Look at your child’s food consumption over the whole day and week. If they don’t eat a lot at a certain meal, they might not be hungry and so they’ll likely eat more at the next meal. One week they might eat like a sparrow and the next week, they might hit a growth spurt and eat like they have hollow legs! Kids pick up our tension, so if you want them to eat, you yourself need to have a relaxed attitude!



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