I meet a lot of parents who are near despair with their toddler’s diet. They started with good intentions, introduced them onto solids in the best way possible. Lovingly they cooked up small pots of healthy vegetables and froze them in tiny ice cubes. For a while it was going fine, baby was eating healthily… vegetables, meat, fish… variety. They were starting to recognise cutlery as implements to eat with rather than missiles to hurl. The floor had become tinged orange, the aftermath of meal times no longer concerned them.
And then it stopped. Overnight.
Vegetables? You want me to eat them? Fish? Ha, I laugh in the face of fish. Food was flung, thrown, spurned. And in desperation, parents turned to the ubiquitous and trusted pasta as the only source of nutrients that their toddler would eat.
Next the ‘healthy eating’ guilt sets in. Loving parents began to get concerned about the total void of vegetables. The absence of anything you can remotely pretend was healthy. The odd bit of carrot if you’re lucky. Nothing, simply nothing green.
And yet, they appear to have an almost insatiable appetite for biscuits. Full of sugar and processed yuck. OK, 1 or 2 is fine. But seriously, they can eat the whole packet without blinking. You look under the chair thinking they’ve dropped them. Noooo. Check that bulging tummy sitting there all innocently. And you know what? Fantastic Mr Fox? They can sniff them out from a mile away. Hide them at the bottom of the bag? Ha! Your toddler knows! How? They. Just. Know.
So what, dear parents, are we supposed to do? Abandon all hope of salad and broccoli? Give into processed rot and live with fish fingers and packets of crisps? Or take the other path that leads to premature greying and a rather unsightly bruise on our foreheads where it’s met with the nearest wall on frequent occasion?
Don’t worry, there is a solution, a halfway house. In short, ride the storm but don’t loose sight of the bigger picture. Sure, we do want our young ones to eat healthily. Personally I can’t stress enough how important a healthy diet is. As an adult, you can seriously reduce your risk of many diseases by eating healthily and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Even in children we are seeing an increase of diseases that are linked to poor diet, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. It’s preventable and really sad.
However, the majority of toddlers, or even children don’t fall into either category. Parents, please feel free to relax. Yes, you do want your kids to eat healthily but it’s a longterm thing. A question of habits. Get them eating healthily when they’re young and they’ll continue into adulthood. It’s just like all those other things we teach our kids, manners, behaviour, maths, talking, reading, brushing your teeth. They’re all learnt behaviours that take time to practice. Once you’ve got it you’ve got it.
My main piece of advice is to stop worrying and see the bigger picture. Fighting over meal times is only going to make things worse. Take the zen approach to vegetable consumption! That doesn’t mean stop presenting vegetables. It means don’t get upset when they get thrown back at you. Don’t give up hope. You can get your children eating a healthy diet. It just takes patience and a little thinking outside the box.