It didn’t cross my mind when I started teaching my baby how to eat from 6months old, that I would be re-teaching myself too!
How silly I hear some say, in my 40 plus years even I would have thought I would have nailed this eating business – but it turns out that studying my child from a baby into a 20 month toddler has reminded me of some really important lessons about my own eating habits that you might also find useful:
- Eat when you are hungry: when I try to feed my child at designated ‘meal times’, he will simply refuse if he isn’t hungry. I have since learnt that some cultures don’t even have the concept of eating because it is lunch/dinner time. However when he is hungry, he will eat really well and I do value the routine of meal times to give him structure, I just try to make sure I feed him the right amount for him at each mealtime.
- Stop when you are full: my child has an inbuilt system that tells him to stop eating when he is full. What a concept! Unlike his mum, who feels the need to eat everything on her plate because it is otherwise ‘wasteful’. He doesn’t understand this concept and will simply meet my encouragement for one more mouthful, with a simple “no” and tight lips.
- Does it look appealing?: now there are definitely times when he wont even try a mouthful of food on offer to find out if he likes it, although I am grateful that more often than not, he will at least try a spoon or two before deciding. When he wont try, I have found that encouraging him to dip a cracker or breadstick into the sauce, will get him to taste it – and then we are either chomping down the bowl (assuming he is hungry and likes it) or we are at complete refusal. However, I definitely find that the more appealing I make the food look – the greater the chance he will eat it happily. In his case, that means manageable chunks and not too much on the plate, coupled with the colour and textures he prefers.
- Eat slowly: it is when I am running late that I really notice how amazingly slow my child will eat sometimes. He will take his time, looking at the food, working out how to eat it, testing it out and eventually chomping it down. It all takes time, he doesn’t just sit down and mindlessly put it away like many of us adults do. We sit at the highchair and focus on this single activity – either together or as a family, which means that we have little distractions and he can focus on his food.
- Chew properly: he will take proper time to chew food before attempting to swallow. What an amazing idea! Something I sometimes forget I should do when I am rushing about and feel the need to eat quickly – those times when I feel like I barely chew my food and certainly not properly before the next mouthful! Whereas my little teacher here will take all the time he needs to eat it properly. Sometimes he will push it back out of his mouth if he tried taking too much, chew the first lot and then go for the other half – so clever!
- Remember the water: whilst eating, he will take regular breaks to take sips of water to help him eat. He doesn’t drain the water cup all in one go like I might, but rather he sips little and often throughout the meal and entire day.
- What am I eating?: it often strikes me when I am eating something or making food – would I give this to my child? That may sound odd but hear me out, whilst I passionately believe in wholefoods and healthy choices – I also enjoy creating recipes and making foods that I would only consider to be occasional choices for me. Things like mock meats, deep fried chips, cakes, salt or sugar etc all have a small place in my own diet but they are not foods that I want my child to become used too – so while I will always try to encourage him to try my food, I am quite happy if he doesn’t show too much interest in these ones!
I am sure there are other lessons I haven’t captured here, and nor have I focussed on the days when I have no clue what he likes, wants or needs! He constantly surprises me what foods of mine he will try, from spicy curries to green smoothies, nut creams to lemons! But like other parents, I am simply doing my best to feed my child in a way that supports his growth and development – whilst remembering life and food is about balance.
p.s In the spirit of honesty, the other lessons which I wont be reintroducing do include: throwing my food and drinks on the floor; wearing my food; refusing something today and eating it tomorrow – or vice versa etc etc 🙂