This article confirms what I already believe - and consistently preach! Getting children interested and excited about food - not just eating it but about the food itself - has an impact on their choices.
A previous study I reviewed showed that pre-schoolers who are read stories, sing songs and play games about fruit and vegetables eat more of them than their peers. A considerable amount more and, not just initially but for 12+ months afterwards.
Many children I work with eat a wider range of food at daycare or Kindie (many don't so don't panic if this is your child) and so having this additional focus in the early years would be superb.
Much of our learning about food starts early so the more positive the connection the better placed we are to raise a generation of confident eaters who are comfortable tackling a variety of wholefoods.
I always tell parents that fixing fussy eating is simple:
All we have to do is get children confidently trying new foods with the view to liking them. That's it!
This is simple, but as you can appreciate not always easy.
My approach is always to see how we can inject joy back into food. Make it something that is looked forward to and is fun. This seems paradoxical as often with a hesitant eater it's the opposite. Meals become a trial and food worrying or at best tolerable.
I am all about pulling children into a world where food is exciting and pleasurable.
Pushing them to do something they don't want to do - like trying some broccoli - often makes things more challenging rather than easier.
But, imagine if you could present food that they are happy to eat, even though it's something new?
That's what I LOVE to do. Find those foods that rock for your child. Then show you how to approach meals and food in a way that supports trying these.
It's not necessarily a quick process but that's OK. Each step forward for our child means a new menu item. Every new item on the menu opens the door for another step.
Every journey begins with one step. Once our child takes that first step we know it's going to be just a matter of time. And the more steps they take the more confident they become they can take the next one, and the next ...
That's something I hear all the time. And no, it's not because I'm the world's best conversationalist ;)
I am often just the first step in resolving eating issues for your children.
Reasons parents take so long to talk to me:
1. They feel that their child's eating will get better.
2. They don't want to put emphasis on the eating, concerned that it will get worse.
3. They are worried that their child's eating issues are too dire to resolve.
4. They know their child is growing fine and has lots of energy so what they eat is not a huge problem.
5. They don't have the time and energy to commit to anything else.
Reasons parents should get in contact!
1. I offer a no obligation, no cost initial call. It's often really cathartic to talk to someone about an issue as emotive as this.
2. Children's eating patterns often worsen rather than improving. Bad habits form over underlying issues.
3. We can work with children with very, very limited diets and make progress. Every step is a good step.
4. Eating a very narrow range of foods can be very limiting over time, not just from a health but also a social point of view.
5. I am a busy, working parent so get that time/energy is limited. However, resolving eating issues often creates rather than taking up time. One family meal anyone?
If you've been listening in for a while but haven't been sure whether you should get in touch, take it from not just me but everyone else - you should :)
I'm having a good news week :)
Last week I worked with the parents of a 9 year old girl Ruby (*) who had eaten no fruit and no vegetables for 7 years.
She has a pronounced fruit phobia but would eat soup that had veggies cooked in it - as long as it's all strained so not a trace of them remain in the bowl.
We changed the approach to food with the emphasis being on fun, family and relaxing (I know it's often hard to imagine how that looks in a house with a selective eater). But that was a main part of changing how Ruby was able to view meals.
I had an e-mail from her mother yesterday to say that she'd eaten corn. Not in a soup but on a stick, like a lollipop. Woo hoo. This is retold with her permission as she is also suitably delighted.
Not everyone sees a miraculous turn around like this but from my experience it's not that unusual. Many children have been struggling for years. Knowing that food is a huge hurdle but not knowing how to get past the blocks.
Having a parent confident with plans and a way to "fix" the problem can provide a life-line that the children almost grab onto with delight. It enables them to all of a sudden overcome blocks that have been there for years.
I will never peddle a miracle cure but just sometimes it almost feels like there are some out there for the taking :)
(*) name changed to protect privacy
I'm not sure whether it's my age, my hormones or my life in general but I seem to get a lot more emotional these days!
The same is true of my eldest who is fighting the upheaval that being a teen brings.
What I have found though is that food can have a huge impact on how we feel. This is especially true of children who have less of a filter. It affects their moods, their behaviour and their ability to manage complicated and busy lives.
Listen to this story though for a lovely, happy ending :)
This morning I was delighted to bump into a parent who I'd given some advice to a few months ago. She has a teen who is competing at a fairly high level in his chosen sport.
She was really worried as he didn't seem to be eating enough to sustain him and wasn't putting on muscle. He was also eating a lot of cheap, white carbs and not enough greenery.
We looked at ways to make simple changes that would improve the quality of his diet and how to focus more on nutrient dense and sustaining foods. And of course how to get him on board with the changes.
I was really rapt this morning to hear that not only is he eating better and better (even being OK with chunks of veggies in the tomato-based sauce ;) ) but that his moods have changed dramatically. He is so much happier and more well-balanced.
She said that the change is so obvious that on a Saturday morning when he's irritable and lethargic she knows he can't have eaten. It's like a switch flicked on and off.
This is something that I have heard repeatedly from families I've worked with - that their child is a different person when they eat a more balanced diet.
I know that I would find coping far more challenging if I weren't eating well.
What's happening in the food environment is one of my big soap box issues!!
Last week the local school had a sausage sizzle (with great sausages from the local butcher) for the cross country so I took down some platters of veggies.
The children have the opportunity to help themselves to a selection of raw carrot, cucumber, capsicum, cherry tomatoes and daikon.
What always fascinates me is how children approach food and what influences them. If I offer the platter to a group and one child enthusiastically grabs some then their friends are more likely to do so too.
If one child asks what the daikon is and wants to try it, others are more likely to follow.
I have parents who tell me they now buy daikon as their children have tried it and enjoyed it at one of these BBQ's.
I also got a lovely e-mail on Friday from a lady I worked with a few weeks ago Liz (*). She has a daughter who is a hesitant eater and two boys whose diets were becoming more restricted as she began to cater more for her daughter's limited tastes.
Every Journey starts with a Single Footstep
I love this philosophy and it's very much what I believe to be true when it comes to eating.
We have to search out a way to make a tiny step in a new direction possible. Often as parents we feel we've tried absolutely everything and are stuck.
That's where having someone look in from the outside can be super helpful. We can see things that you're not able to and I'm happy to take a look at your specifics (at no cost).
Once our child is able to take a little step it proves to us that there is hope, that they can do it and over time all those small steps add up to big strides.
As our child is able to take more and more steps their confidence builds and it becomes easier for them to make progress.
This is all overcoming selective eating is about. Being able to take one little step and then another.
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.