My (almost) 2 year old is an eating machine, he will eat almost anything and everything presented to him and still have room for a snack later on.
He eats a heck of a lot, a hell of a variety, he’ll eat his, yours and mine if given the chance!
It’s just as well for him (and us) that he is an incredibly active toddler who is constantly on the go. Seriously, he doesn’t walk my kiddo, he doesn’t walk anywhere – he runs there.
His favourite foods are cheese – the strong punchy mature kind, bananas, marmite. He loves fish whether that’s fish fingers or fish pie and he devours blueberries and grapes in a matter of moments. He can be stopped in his tracks by the mere mention of cake. Cake is a big deal for him, don’t dare say the word anywhere near him unless you have a cake in your pocket with his name on it.
I am often told how lucky I am that he is not a ‘fussy-eater’ and whilst I do feel grateful for this, I’m not sure that it’s down to blind luck.
That is to say it is lucky that he doesn’t have any food allergies or intolerances, I feel lucky for that. But him not being fussy with food is not determined by luck it’s determined by his relationship with food.
I honestly think the reason he’s a happy contented ‘eater’ is for these three reasons:
1. Over Enthusiastic Weaning Mother
I started weaning him at 5 months, I had been thinking about it for weeks, mulling it over and sounding people out. Everything I read stressed the importance of not weaning before 6 months because of allergies and digestive issues. Looking back now I knew that kid was ready for food, he was big, he was hungry and if I hadn’t been second guessing myself all the time as a first time mother I could have started the process much earlier.
This has been the constant and continuing lesson for me as a parent so far – trust your instincts because you know your child the best. Better than any book or health visitor.
Anyway after the baby rice introductions, we moved onto more exciting and exotic territory and I remember really enjoying ‘testing’ out new tastes and recipes on him. I got myself an Annabell Karmell book and had months of fun packing my concoctions into tiny pots for the freezer. I even brought mangos for Christ sake! We went through the lot – broccoli mash, lentil purees, tomato pastas, fish pies – it was great fun and I honestly believe that I set a good food foundation for him. This wasn’t just because it was healthy and homemade but largely because of the variety of tastes he was introduced to. We didn’t just stick to fruit or root – we chucked in dairy, fish and meat and we didn’t shy away from strong flavours like garlic or onion either.
2. Different foods, in different places, cooked by different people
When he was 10 months old I went back to work part time, this meant 3 days a week he had all his meals elsewhere. Coming from 3 different sources – both sets of Grandparents and his nursery. This was brilliant because he was tasting different cooking and different meals. His food world became much wider with roast dinners, curries, paellas, olives, home-grown strawberries the list could go on and on. He was eating with different people and quite importantly I think also – other children of his age.
It also meant that he was introduced to pre-made food particularly Ella’s Kitchen pouches and pots because I had less spare time to cook. I don’t have an issue with this, I bloody loved Ella and her kitchen and so did he! They were so handy and helpful and again presented a lot of variety. I likened it to eating an adult ready meal, it’s not something you should do every day but its fine on occasion especially when you are exhausted.
3. If you don’t eat what you’re given, you will go hungry
Ok I appreciate this might be a bit sound a bit harsh but it’s a simple concept that works for us. If he doesn’t want the meal given to him, he won’t be offered a different one. His dinner is his dinner, there is not an alternative option.
We’ll give him plenty of opportunities to change his mind – perhaps try and jazz it up with a spoon aeroplane or a funny dance. He won’t be told off or bribed with pudding promises, he just won’t eat that and that’s fine let’s get on with the day.
I know this works because it rarely happens. When he was younger we went through all this on many occasions – testing the food boundaries. Can I refuse? Can I get them to get me something else? Something different? Something more? Am I in charge of this food business?
Again I think this goes back to his relationship with food – we’re not forcing him to eat and we’re not bribing him to eat. His relationship with food is his own and if he decides he doesn’t want it, that’s fine that was his decision.
Now he eats (and eats) because he’s hungry and because he enjoys it.
Anyway Happy Eating!