Here’s something I’m passionate about. Kids and what we feed them. I cannot believe it when I see toddlers and young kids tucking into McDonalds ‘happy meals’ or drinking fizzy drinks. Please hang in there – I’m not going all judgemental and holier-than-thou on you. My kids have junk food – on occasion, and that’s fine by me. The last thing I want is for them to think they have to hide the fact that they had a chocolate or packet of crisps at a play date or party or whatever. I buy biscuits, chocolates, crisps – sometimes! Ice-cream too. Look in my kitchen cupboard and amidst the almond flour, coconut flour, chia seeds and the like, you’ll find some junk. It’s called being ‘normal’. Right!?! Plus my husband has the worst sweet tooth and he is forever buying sugary things, much to my chagrin, but hey, I’m not here to tell anyone what to do (yeah I’m sure he’d have a comment about that …!).
What I am talking about here though goes back to when they’re babies and the choices that we as parents make for our kids and what they learn about food. So I’m not advocating anything – I’m not a nutritionist, a dietitian, or in any way qualified to make any claims that what I did with my kids will work for everyone. I’m just a mum who wants my kids to have a healthy relationship with food in a way that I didn’t have for many years. Oh there’s a story there alright …
Briefly, for some background, I battled with bulimia/anorexia for well over a decade over my teens/twenties. Yep, I binged, purged, starved, excessively exercised, achieved a skeletal body and was still unhappy. It took a few years once I finally got to the point that I knew something had to change to actually make a lifelong change. I think I can say that now food is not my enemy. I have managed to come full circle in that regard. I love food – buying it, prepping it, cooking it, eating it, looking at it, talking about it, oh I could go on and on!
Back to the kids. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was Earth-mama personified. I ate only organic foods, I changed my household cleaning products, and I read as much as I possibly could cram into those nine months about pregnancy, parenting, and even child psychology textbooks (I kid you not). So when my daughter was born, I should have known what to do right? Hahaha! Joke’s on me! If you’re a parent, you’ll know!
So there I was. Stumped. Living abroad, away from family, not much support around, and now having to figure out all of this on our own. A newborn baby and I was responsible for her. Beautiful, precious creature that she is, how on earth do I do this?! Well, at least one aspect was made a bit easier when a friend of mine gave me a copy of Annabel Karmel’s ‘New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner’.
This was a godsend for me. I breastfed for around 5 months. I would have liked to have done it for longer but it just didn’t pan out that way. So when it came to weaning, I wanted to do the best I could. I bought only organic food, I prepped weekly, bought all the little ‘single portion’ containers for different stages of weaning – I did all of it. Following Annabel Karmel’s meal plan made it so much easier! I didn’t have to think too much. I just had to steam and purée. So my daughter started with carrots, swede, parsnips, butternut, potato… We then moved on to apples, bananas, strawberries… Then came mixing it up with cheese, spinach, adding meat… It was a journey and it was so much fun. I loved watching her reactions when we tried new tastes – you got to know very quickly whether she was keen on it or not! Granted, on her first try, she wasn’t too pleased with the stronger tasting veggies but I had read that exposure to healthy foods was important and trying over and over was what counts . I found a study that supports this : The Importance of Exposure for Healthy Eating in Childhood.
So often we give our kids some broccoli (my kids love it though!) or spinach and they scoff at it so we say oh well, they don’t like that, and we leave it. However, try again. And again. Just leave a small piece on the side. Or add some cheese. Let them play with it – yeah, I don’t believe in the ‘don’t play with your food’ philosophy. I wanted the kids to touch, squeeze, smear their food – it just made them familiar with the textures and tastes. Mushy peas was always a favourite that went EVERYWHERE!!
I weaned from 6 months onwards (according to advice in the UK at the time) and I didn’t use added salt, or sugar, or anything but a sprinkle of herbs if I wanted to add flavour. My daughter only knew 2 drinks – milk, and water. For a treat? She got blueberries or raspberries. No cookies. No chocolate. No juice. And you know what? She was perfectly fine. Why? Because she didn’t know anything else. This misconception that kids love sweets and chocolates only prevails because that is what those kids are exposed to. Now, at age 7, does she like sweets and chocolates? Well of course! She’s a kid! Does she eat healthily 90% of the time? Absolutely ! She’s my kid!!
I now have two children. They are healthy, happy, balanced, and carefree. They’re loud, they drive me crazy, and sometimes, well, I want to ‘return to sender’! I am strict with them – whether it’s food or anything else – but it’s all worth it when they are crunching on carrots and celery and cucumber even though there’s a bar of chocolate nearby. Oh they’ll ask for a piece at some point, for sure, but at least I know that by being a bit of a control-freak mama in those early days has led to, hopefully, a lifetime of good, healthy choices on their part.
There’s so much more on this topic – and I will certainly cover more – however, those two munchkins require mama’s attention 😉 Yes, perhaps another blog post on ‘Surviving the School Holidays’ would be appropriate!!