Monday 7 November 2011

“Mummy, I want Broccoli”

The words I never thought I’d hear my son say! And if you’re a long time follower of this blog, you’ll remember the earlier days and will understand why!

Seriously, he disappeared to the kitchen and I heard him open the fridge. The next thing he was calling me saying “Mummy, I want this”, I went to see what it was expecting it to be chocolate buttons or yogurt or such like. When I got in the kitchen there he was holding up said vegetable and said “Mummy, I want Broccoli”. Now, not normally one to refuse my son fruit and veg but it was less than 30 minutes to bedtime and he’d already eaten dinner at nursery plus a snack or two since being home. I didn’t now fancy cooking up some broccoli, so told him so and went back to sit in the lounge.

He comes into the lounge then holding a punnet of mushrooms “I want these”. Now,after all that stress before about how he was never going to eat a vegetable and now my son has gone the other way and turned into a vegetable fiend! So, again I say no, and I look in the fridge for something more suitable. I see a tin of beans in the fridge and think great, a minute or 2 in the microwave (still 1 of your 5 a day) but no, he didn’t want beans, He finally settled on a handful of black pitted olives! A 3 year old eating a bowl of black olives!!! Well at least I didn’t have to cook the broccoli!

So, how did we get to here.

For those that don’t know the past, we did Baby-Led Weaning with Callum. It is meant to bring many benefits, one of which is your child is much less likely to be a fussy eater as they are more open/willing to trying new things. Though, for this to be the case, you have to trust your child’s instincts to try food when they are happy to and to trust s/he will know what food they need at any time. It isn’t uncommon for babies/children to only eat one food for ages then suddenly they’ll reject it and start something else. If you don’t push them and trust them to do it in their own time, they will grow up to be much better eaters (or something like that).

That is easier said than done – when you are a parent and you see your child not getting a balanced diet with nowhere near their 5 a day (even though you continue to ‘offer’ a balanced diet) you start to feel guilty and worry that they are going to get ill or never going to eat a vegetable if you don’t do something, don’t start getting tough!

Callum was also a much better eater and tried a lot more foods before he went to nursery. He went to nursery full time at around 18 months and for the next year to 15 months he had the same meals every single week (a weekly menu that did not change ever week to week). We tried to offer him a variety at weekends but kids like routine and if they find routine they tend cut out everything else. We struggled to get Callum to eat a lot of the foods he was happy to eat before because they weren’t offered at nursery. This was different to him just not wanting them at that time and that he’d like them again later – the only foods he continued to enjoy were the same that were offered at nursery (with the addition of meat, he still liked meat).

Anyway, I was slightly less worried than I could have been because at least Callum still ate fruit regularly. In fact he was (and still is) a real fruit bat! But it was frustrating that he wouldn’t eat a single vegetable (again, even though he ate some, like asparagus, spinach and red pepper, before he went to nursery) and I didn’t want to make up his 5 a day with just fruit (and baked beans).

So here we are now. He happily eats carrots, broccoli, runner beans and peas. In fact, as you can see, he asks to eat them. He’ll go to the fridge, grab a carrot and chomp away.

So what did we do differently, what changed? We went back to the BLW way! We realised that if we were eating something enthusiastically and Callum didn’t have what we had, he would want it, so we would let him try it. We would offer him foods but if he didn’t want to eat or try them, we didn’t push it. I remembered my childhood - I was a very fussy eater. The more people made a fuss about what I didn’t eat, the more they teased me, questioned me, “just try it” they would say over and over again, the more I refused. “You’ll like this when you’re older” my Dad used to say. “No I wont, I don’t like it” I used to say. Now, my Dad was right, but if he knew this, why didn’t he just let me get on with it. I’d like it eventually so what did it matter that I didn’t like it right then. I’d probably have tried it and/or liked it a lot sooner if he hadn’t kept pushing. So we stopped worrying and stopped pushing Callum.

The other thing, I have always encouraged Callum to help me prepare food and cook. This isn’t something that changed but, since he stopped nursery full time and I’ve been a SAHM, he is able to help me a lot more often with preparing and cooking dinners – in particular, he’s own. He loves it and when he is helping me he is keen to try the ingredients we are using. He tries raw foods, he smells herbs and he tastes the cooked food (when I’m checking it for seasoning etc). Because he has been involved with the cooking of it he is usually happily eats it all up. Take spaghetti bolognaise. He helps me cook it and then gobbles up a huge portion. There is plenty left over so I put it in the freezer for a later date. Some time later, I take it out of the freezer for his dinner – he wont touch it!

Remember the basic rule of parenting. The more we stress over every step or milestone, the less likely they are to get there and all that happens is we get a few more grey hairs and knock a few more years off our life. If we have faith that they will get it in their own time, it will all just full into place. So why should food be any different. All I will say is have faith, trust they will get there in their own time, don’t ever stop offering them a wide range of foods but don’t push them, they will get there!

Oh, and don’t forget to look up how much counts as a portion for kids – it really did help to relax me when I found out how little it was. I had thought it was a lot more – probably thinking more in terms of adult portions.

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