We all eat for a range of different reasons and not all of them are about being hungry.
During school holidays it's interesting to watch why we, and why our children eat. Is it because:
- They are bored? Often when we don't have enough to do eating provides a welcome distraction. I know when I'm totally engrossed in something I don't think about food (as much!)
- They are looking for attention? Asking for food is a good way to get our focus and have us doing things especially for them. This may not be consciously thought through in that way but the end result is that we are at their beck and call.
I have seen parents achieve some incredible things and often, given my day job resolving picky eating, this is in the food sphere :)
Often all we need is some guidance, some confidence and a toolkit of strategies to use.
That's what I love doing! Giving you the tools so you can go away and make things happen for yourselves. It is not about creating a dependency on me and my advice, but the opposite. I want you to know how to do this on your own.
What I want you to go away with is:
Holidays are fun, relaxing and the perfect time to catch up with friends and family. Often as parents we’re just hanging on by our fingernails coming into a break from routines and the daily grind with that shining holiday keeping us vaguely sane!
But I know from talking to parents that having a picky eater can put a giant spanner in the plans. It can also turn a holiday into a potential minefield. Well-meaning relatives who are able to teach your child how to eat “properly”. Being away from home and on-hand accepted foods. Traveling and routines being disrupted. There are so many places where parents are suddenly finding an already challenging task has become even more difficult.
There is no magic bullet resolution to this but there are some strategies that may make things a little easier:
1. Relax – I know my stress levels go up planning to go away and working out what food to take and how best to manage everything. That definitely gets communicated to my boys. I know when they were little in the few days before a holiday their behaviour used to disintegrate. Hmm, cause and effect?
As we are the most important relationship our young child has, it’s important that we are as relaxed as possible – especially around food. If we are stressing, they will pick up on this. The more relaxed children are the more likely they are to want to eat. As parents we often set the atmosphere without even realising it. How can we create an environment that enables us all to relax?
True or false?
In general, fussy eaters prefer foods that are beige, and uniform and without surprises!
This makes sense. A cracker for example, has that lovely predictability and uniformity. It will always look, feel and taste the same.
Picky eaters often have remarkably similar diets consisting of foods like cereals, toast, crackers, plain pasta and nuggets.
However, I know from speaking to 100's of parents that there are also children who, although very selective when it comes to most foods, have some weird likings for left of centre foods.
I know from talking to parents on a daily basis that many have decided that multiple meals are a no-go. YES!!
- I think cooking more than one dinner per night should be illegal :)
How we do this though can have an effect on long term outcomes.
If we "dumb" down our dinners to suit our pickiest eater there are several knock on effects:
1. Our child has no example to follow. If we're serving everyone nuggets and chips then by default what our child gets used to eating and sees everyone else eating is only their favourite foods.
2. If we serve only our child's favourite foods they are not being given the opportunity to eat something new.
3. Most parents do not enjoy eating the same foods as their picky eater. This means that the pleasure goes out of eating for everyone. Parents role modeling joyful eating is very important.
I advise we do the opposite and set the bar high. We want our children chasing us and having a long-term goal to eat the variety of foods that we like to eat.
This doesn't mean that our child has to eat a Vichyssoise or starve :) But it does mean that we serve what we want to eat and give our child the opportunity to eat it.
It's been a very busy time for me recently but very exciting too. I have spent the last few months working on the new book. Actually, it started as a book and has morphed since then.
I started out with the goal of putting together a book that would help parents of picky eaters to support their child to add variety. So often when I'm speaking to parents they feel really stuck. Their child has a list of favourite foods and moving from these seems impossible.
This was my goal. To give parents the tools they needed to make the move from toast or crackers or plain pasta to something else. As I was writing however, it moved from being a book to being a very practical, very user friendly guide. It takes you through the "how". If our child is only comfortable with toast how do we gently move from there.
I have a local artist creating the pictures and local businesses helping to digitise, to publish and to promote.
Like most things worth doing it's taking a lot more time than I expected but the end result will be something that is totally unique in the marketplace. A guide that shows you in simple, gentle steps how to get from what your child eats now to a new food.
I am hoping the first draft will be ready this month and have asked those on my newsletter list for volunteers to read and give feedback.
We can move mountains, especially when it comes to our children. Often we're desperate to help them but we're just not sure how to do this.
I work with so many families where there have been food struggles for years for their picky eater. The parents have tried everything they can think of. They are not lazy and lax, giving in to their child's food whims. In fact, I find the opposite. Parents have done everything bar trade a limb to attempt to get their child eating more variety.
Nothing is more satisfying than giving these parents a plan and watching them fly. Often all they need are some tried and tested strategies and a new approach.
This has happened twice in the last two weeks. Two sets of parents, two 8 y.o. boys. Two plans and two families who are already adding variety.
You are the most important component in supporting your child to eat well. Do not downplay the power of a parent with a plan :)
Last weekend I ran a personalised picky eater program for a Mother's Group. One of the members hosted it at her house and we all gathered for a relaxed fun session on a Saturday.
The Dad's were in charge of the kids and the Mum's and I worked through the key issues they were facing. All had preschoolers and so we targeted their main pain points:
- getting the kids trying new foods
- disrupted dinners
I am happy to tailor a program to suit a group and include time for a Q & A to tackle all those burning questions.
Even if your child eats reasonably well it's a great opportunity to get reassurance that you are on the right track and to get some insight into how to provide a positive approach to food and feeding.
It's also the perfect chance to ask questions around specific issues and to learn some fabulous strategies around how to set things up for maximum chance of success.
If you have a group - Kindy, Mother's or other, I am happy to come to you in the Wellington region or do via video-conference if not (people can log in from multiple locations).
The price is deliberately low so it is accessible. Please get in contact if you'd like to discuss.
Judith is passionate about good food and is even more passionate about enabling other people to enjoy the wide variety of fresh food available today.