“I end up finishing my kid’s dinner
worry he isn’t eating enough
And then eat too much”
^^^ a message I got from one of the ladies last week
And I get this.
Most of us come from family backgrounds where
You had to finish your plate.
“There are people staving our 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 3 and the other 1), and coach who’s worked with hundreds of ladies across Wiltshire to 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…
Kids will only eat about 60% of what they’re served
And this is NORMAL
Well, the researchers at Cornell University propose these 3 reasons:
1* Kids don’t know what they like and dislike
2* They’re not sure how hungry they are
^^^ which begs the question, do you know what true hunger even is? I’m not talking about the type of hunger you get when queuing for you coffee in Costa
3* It’s normal for kids to serve themselves too much
Of course, eating chocolates 20minutes before dinner is another story…
BUT…as for us grown ups?
^^^ Yes – me and you.
We eat with our eyes
You will – on average – eat 90% of what you serve yourself
So, serve yourself a bigger portion and you WILL eat more.
^^^ smaller plates can reduce your food intake by 22%
And what I’m leading up to is this:
1* Let your kids experiment with food and be OK with the fact they might leave some…nearly half in fact!
2* 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…
It’s like my daughter (3) might say
“I don’t want breakfast”
So I say “ok don’t have it”
She then sits there…
and I leave it there and don’t eat it (the old me would just eat it)
She knows she’s not getting anything else..
And one of two things happens:
1 she ends up eating it (think about it, if someone was forcing you to do something, would you want to do it or would it put you off?)
2 she’s hungry later on and will eat anything (be it mackerel, eggs, tuna, vegetables, carrots etc)
The biggest thing to remember?
Worry that they’re watching you
I very much doubt that my 3 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
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 this can stay with us into adulthood.
Most people who binge on foods
Will often does it at the end of the day when they’ve been stressed / they’re now tired.
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).
Then you have the good vs bad food debate..
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.
I’ll finish with this:
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.
And that even applies to trying to help and influence other la who you want to take more care of themselves
Matt “my two cents” Fruci