Food warfare with young children

I don’t know about you, but I do remember with such clarity food wars during my own childhood. My grandma would cook in her words ’resolut weg kochen’ which means straightforward, seasonal meals with no fuss. One ingredient was a given, potatoes. Yes, typically German. Pasta was ‘für den hohlen Zahn’ (hollow tooth) as it wouldn’t fill up long enough, therefore was not an option to fill up stomachs of a big family. So my standard lunch was potatoes with melted butter. And I can promise you I have had my fair share of potatoes to meet my quota for the rest of my life. My family didn’t even bother anymore offering me animal protein, I went to extreme I would selfinduce gagging; It honestly couldn’t stand it. I was a horribly eater back then, or so did they make me believe. Looking back on all those years mixed with the experience of my own children, I don’t think I was a picky eater. I merely think that the food I was presented with was not age appropriate. I do not think of it as in spoiling a child by cooking things a little different and cater to their taste, after all we do ask our visitors how they like their tuna steak cooked. I recall, when I was a kid I was not made to eat Brussels sprouts that was deemed adult food, and I strongly doubt they said that to have more for themselves. My observation, it isn’t the taste that appals kids it’s the texture and smell. I mean even my husband and I prefer a vegetable soup more if the ingredients are shredded into tiny pieces to point of being unrecognizeable, and the best veggies are the ones that are hardly there at all. Taste buds on the other hand can be trained. And I believe kids have the weirdest taste buds anyways. My kids can identify those fake juices made out of sugar water, opposed to all other kids. And friends little kids love wasabi and lemon from 10 months onwards. So fast forward 30 odd years, and 2 kids later. My kids can’t stand potatoes in other form than French fries, a sharp display of Belgian genetics playing out. I have sworn to myself I would never force my kids through food wars. That was until the day I started weaning my kids! As I look into my childrens faces I see myself as a kid, bargaining over the yoghurt or pudding that is the light at the end of a tunnel or the end after a plate of potatoes, with the obligatory spoon of greens. Yes, in desperate times we do negociate with terrorists. We do have moments of food war, those when the favorite meal is declared most hated and thumbs go down. The kids started easy into the weaning process but then we hit the point where one only wanted orange veggies and the other would only eat food presented on top of a banana, one likes the sandwich only cut in triangles the other one only the crusts….. Negative food experience is something I try to spare my kids. So I do cook reasonable health and fresh, yet kid friendly meals. I do make sure there is at least one option they’ll like. I do know the average portion size of my kids, so if they are significantly under I do prompt to eat and never underestimate the level of tiredness or distraction, which greatly affects their appetite. Generally I do trust the lead of my kids, there are days they are less hungry than others. . In order to reduce the time of warfare around meal times we have set meal and snack times, specifically the afternoon snack takes a huge chunk of their appetite. Therefore we rather opt for an early dinner opposed to fill them up on snacks followed by being overtired by dinner time. This has increased their food intake at dinner time, they eat more of the desired food. After an early dinner we usually are outdoors energy burning and creating a spot for dessert. I try to be a good example, our little one loves to eat from my plate, at least he tries it all repetitively. Each and every single time does he bite into the cherry tomato thinking it’s a grape. In reverse so should we, keep trying and cooking fresh and healthy meals. It can take up to 8 times before your kid is even remotely willing to try. Once I find a meal they like we slowly do different version of it so they get much broader taste palettes. Generally speaking, each kids has its preferences and I believe a proper eater amongst them is a rare thing. Keep trying! The good food habits start with us parents.



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