“My kid is a fussy eater”: According to who?
Firstly, kids and food is a hot topic. Everyone seems to be obsessed with making sure their kid has ‘eaten enough’. Me included!
Especially when you spend time cooking a meal that they said they wanted and ate yesterday, only to say “I don’t like it” today. Ever heard that one?
The thing is, most of us come from backgrounds where we had to finish out plates because ‘people are starving out there’. So already, we have our own biases here. I get this, my Nonna (Italian Grandma) would even say things like ‘I won’t bother next time’ after I’ve eaten a huge plate of pasta and meatballs and decline a second plate.
They mean well. Food is a form of love. But this sticks with people throughout childhood and even into adulthood. I work with several ladies who have a poor relationship with food. One of which actually said to me that as a kid she would be told that she was a ‘good eater’. So, when she feels down? She does what she remembers she is good at…Eating!
But before I go into this, I just want to say that I am coming at this topic from the point of view of a nutritionist, dad of 2 girls (one of which is 2 and half years and the other 9 months), and coach who’s worked with hundreds of ladies across Wiltshire transform their relationship with food. In other words, this is just my opinion RIGHT NOW based on my experiences and I am open to change my opinion on this…
I should also say that I battled with anorexia as a child (you can read more about this in an interview I did with the Swindon Advertiser here https://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/15704587.i-was-scared-of-eating-matt-frucis-journey-from-anorexia-to-personal-trainer/).
So, let’s get into this…
Children and hunger
Children are in tune with their hunger. Now, if you think about it and put yourself in the child’s shoes, they may not fully understand the concept of ‘time’ (especially toddlers / younger children), so just consider this when you expect a child to sit down and always finish their breakfast, lunch and dinner when you want them to eat it.
The problem here?
We can then become worried that they are not eating enough…
And I get this. There’s been a few times with my 2 year old daughter where she hasn’t been interested in her lunch. She didn’t eat much breakfast, either.
The tendency here is to keep giving her something until she finds something she likes and eats it. I mean, we always have room for dessert, right?
But what I find has worked for me? Is that a hungry child will eat. Now, I am only speaking from experience, but at dinner, she will then eat ANYTHING: olives, mackerel, broccoli, peas..I could go on. Maybe this will change? I don’t know.
But my point is that they will eat when they’re hungry.
And I get it. It does become EASY to then go into ‘give them a snack’ mode. Problem then? They don’t eat their dinner. They snack / pick all day.
So in summary on kids and leaving food? It is NORMAL for them to do this. They are exploring, distracted easily, testing boundaries, may not like the food, and – hey – they may just feel a bit off. Have you ever been put off your dinner by something? Don’t feel like eating?
Worry that they’re watching you
I very much doubt that my 2 year daughter was born with a love of mackerel, peas, eggs, olives, yoghurt, and blueberries. It’s probably because she sees me eat them. Monkey say, monkey do, as they say.
But more than this, consider that they are listening.
“Oh aren’t you a lucky girl” <<< we often say this to a child who has an ice cream or a cake
“urghhhhh” <<< We often say this to a child trying a vegetable
Just like with anything, where your attention goes, your energy goes. And – for me – this makes something out of nothing. They’re listening to this.
It is a bit like giving a child a chocolate or sweet when they hurt themselves. Consider what this may be teaching them. When stressful things happen? The go-to thing is to eat to ‘feel’ better.
And I am not perfect. My daughter has pretended to take a picture of her dinner with her toy phone before because she has seen me do it
(not that I actually see that as an issue, especially in a world where they are going to have to grow up using technology or will be left behind).
Good food? Bad food?
You see it everywhere in the media. “Don’t eat this”, “Don’t eat that”, “there’s 5 sugar cubes in that”. Truth is, not every food you eat has to be eaten for their lack of sugar, high in vitamin C or the fact they’re organic.
In fact, I think – too often – we forget the psychosocial aspect of food, in that if everyone is eating birthday cake and you are not allowed it, what is the cost of this in later years? Restrict and binge? Maybe. Who knows?
Anyway, going back to good vs bad goods.
In reality, the difference is actually in nutrient quality. Some foods have more nutrition than others. That is it. The problem? We make a big deal about having to eating the ‘high quality’ foods in order to get to eat the ‘low quality’ foods, like cake and chocolate. In other words, we put foods on a pedestal. Thing is, it is human nature to want what you can’t have.
Something that we do with our kids (without actually meaning to but it seems to work well) is put all of the food out in the middle. So we have things they like, some things they haven’t tried and others they maybe don’t like. Some are full of nutrients, some less so. But the interesting thing is that they can choose what they want here. And the foods are on a level-playing field. There’s no pressure to eat her veggies. She will watch me, no doubt. Copy me. She enjoys serving herself. It’s a reminder that they learn from you.
As they say, kids are our biggest teachers. It’s what you do that counts, not what you say.
Avoidance is never the answer
I appreciate that as kids get older, they will go through stages of not liking foods as they develop tastes and also get influenced by others. This is normal. I never ate Brussel sprouts as a kid. My grandad still to this day won’t make Brussel sprouts at Christmas as he assumes, I don’t like them. What’s the saying? You have to try something 13 times to see if you like it…
Either way, just like with your fears or stress, avoidance is never the answer. Don’t stress too much about it, keep trying new recipes, overcommunicate, be the change you want to see and remember:
8/10 people who say they hate oysters…
Have never had one…EVER..
You cannot expect anyone to do something that you are not willing to do.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. I could go on. I would love to hear your views.
Nutritionist, Founder of Fruci Fit and The Fit For Life Body Transformation Programme.