One of the common themes on my Disney Junior Facebook Lives every month is about Fussy Eaters.
I’m reading ‘Parenting Without Borders ‘ a completely fascinating book as it talks about the different cultural habits around sleep & how we probably create neurotic and anxious children around bedtimes as we insist they sleep alone, in the dark away from us, to all the really unnecessary ‘stuff’ we seem obsessed in buying for our kids to fussy eaters & obesity.
Christine Gross-Loh has four children Benjamin, 12, Daniel, 10, Mia, 6, and Anna, 3, & they count among their favourite foods natto (Japanese fermented soybeans), broiled fish, Vietnamese pho, curry, and kimchi pancakes. Her youngest even loves brussel sprouts, a vegetable many American children—and adults—shun.
Christine talks about how parents around the world feed their kids and the difference between USA & UK and Japan and other countries is STARK ?
40% of what our kids are eating are empty calories – sugar and fat & processed food ?
A study of 4,000 children found that kids that eat that kind of diet at 3 years old have a lower IQ at 8 years old.
Portion sizes have grown too – a cookie is 700 % larger than in 1970
The price children pay for their poor eating habits is that they risk serious health issues and children today will live shorter lives than their parents’ generation.
The problem lies in our ‘personal choice’ mentality.
We enjoy SO much personal choice that we pass that mentality down to a 2 year old…… we think they should be able to ‘choose’ what they prefer.
BAD IDEA – this sets up the power struggle over meal times – kids who turn their nose up at vegetables.
By offering too many choices ( and then disapproving of what your children say they want) you run the risk of socialising your kids to fight with you over eating. The Battles Begin – Kirsty one of my clients got into the habit of asking her 2 and half year old what he wanted for tea at 6pm and then GAVE him Shredded Wheat !
Kids are holding all the keys to the 4×4 and they haven’t passed their test !
Giving your toddler ultimate personal choice over what they eat is like giving them the keys to your car and letting them drive – they haven’t passed their test !
Children are left with NO clear message – and how can they possibly know what’s good for them?
Children need to see and experience new foods at least 15 x before they feel that they know, like and enjoy it – SO many parents give up TOO easily.
In countries like Japan, France & Italy parents see it as their DUTY to EDUCATE their kids around food.
Try offering a lick, a taste or a teaspoon of something new – then introducing that food again in a week or so – think small amounts not a mountain of a new food!
ALSO the mentality of UK is ‘fast’ – we eat quickly, we’re SO busy – in school kids get about 20 mins to eat – in France they get an hour – it’s social, it’s convivial. Teachers see it as their job to educate kids about eating healthily – home and school work together in Japan and Korea and Sweden.
In the UK parents go mad if you challenge little Johnny not to eat his chocolate biscuit and crisps first – it’s called intuitive eating – NONSENSE
The healthier counties also cook FROM SCRATCH – no instant, processed food.
They include kids in shopping, cooking and eating together
This needs a MAJOR MINDSHIFT FOLKS
Think Italy – chatting, laughing, enjoying food as an important part of family life compared to eating on a tray in front of the telly !
It’s unheard of in many countries around the world to be cooking 3 different meals for the family and to be battling at mealtimes.
French parents believe that teaching your child to eat is as important as teaching them to read.
Snacking is considered rude in Japan and in France so no grazing and snacking is necessary as food is more wholesome and filling at mealtimes so there’s no need to pick at sugary snacks.
Eating Together is Important.
Sitting down and creating a ritual, routine and a tradition around mealtime is VITAL for making it a pleasurable time to bond, chat, laugh and CONNECT.
According to research in all the countries where obesity and where ‘fussy’ eating isn’t a mindset, suggests that paying attention to how food is presented has a HUGE influence on children’s choice of what to eat.
70% of children will eat fruit if it presented in a lovely bowl and left out for them to enjoy looking at all the colours!
Children like to have a choice but it’s a limited one and YOU choose what to offer them – carrots or celery ?
No country gets it totally right – have you tried ordering vegan or vegetarian in France ?
But try some small changes that over time will make a BIG difference to your child’s relationship with food – this I believe will combat obesity as well as not setting kids up to see food as something bad often associated in anorexia.
Sue’s Surprisingly Simple Tips to End Your Food Battles
- Try and cook pleasurable, healthy meals from scratch twice a week to start with and build up
- Plan ahead – make shopping lists and get your kids to shop and help you weigh out the bananas and find the broccoli
- Make a LITTLE effort on presentation – this is not about becoming obsessed with all those clever clowns, fish and intricate artwork on Pinterest
- Plan and educate your kids especially around pack lunches ! Swap chocolate biscuits and crisps over time – so not a whole bag of crisps – a little Tupperware container with a few in – include raisins or grapes instead of a sweet treat.
- Make meal time FUN – don’t nag about eating the broccoli and using their knives and forks properly ALL the time – ask open ended questions, turn off the telly and NO DEVICES at the table – kids who watch YouTube when they are eating tend to become obese as they don’t notice what they are eating.
- Create a new tradition of cookING together
- Start to plan dinners and meals with a cuppa on a Sunday so you relax and plan ahead for the week.
- Batch cook at weekends and freeze food
- Explore a simple app like the BBC Good Food App for recipes
- Don’t buy into the MARKETING MEDIA that want you to buy all that junk food – and teach your kids it’s just marketing hype.
- ‘Talk & Teach’ your children, no matter what their age about enjoying wholesome healthy food
- Balance DON’T Ban any foods – so sweets or cakes are a treat not a habit or something to expect or demand!
I think it’s helpful to think that you wouldn’t offer your child just one book and expect them to become an avid reader, would you?
So, change your mindset just a LITTLE and change your child’s love of food for the better AND forever 🙂