“Who knew the hardest part of being an adult would be deciding what to eat
every single day for the rest of your life?”
Said someone on the Internet at some point... I can’t accredit this quote to anyone because it mostly appears in funny memes. For most stressed out, busy people though, it’s far from funny.
The only thing harder than this ‘adult’ task?
Deciding what to feed your family too. And then actually cooking the meal. Serving it and praying they’ll eat it. And then cleaning up afterwards.
Battling with their (and perhaps your or your partners) dislikes, preferences and for an increasing audience; dietary restrictions, can be a relentless nightmare.
Often resulting in take out, convenience foods and plates of rejected food heaped into the bin whilst you quietly (or not so quietly) sob in a corner.
To give you a little background, I am a (recovering) fussy eater, who now has two kids, so I know this struggle all too well.
Now I won’t lie to you, as someone whose business revolves around food, I am a bit nervous to share this level of truth with you. Because recently I have felt like my Full Freezer system has been failing me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not given up on my love for the freezer, but I have found it’s de-stressing qualities weren’t solving a new challenge that I have been facing.
SPOILER ALERT: having sought Julia’s help I had the lightbulb moment that I needed, through which my freezer is now my best friend again… more on that later...
The challenge I faced (and continue to face) was my son turning 22 months, and all of a sudden deciding that he doesn’t want to eat a lot of the things that he previously would.
At first, I persevered, serving up food just to have it pushed away. But as the rejections grew, I’ll confess I fell into sticking to what I knew he WOULD eat (for those of you that know me, you’ll know how much I hate food waste).
I knew I was wrong to not keep exposing him to different foods but finding the strength to serve food that I knew would not get eaten was sooo hard. It just felt so wasteful.
But as someone that WAS a ‘fussy’ eater, I want so desperately to give my kids a more positive experience with food.
And so, I did what I have learnt to do over the last few years when I have hit a wall.
I sought help.
Now in the past, I would have thought it crazy to seek out an expert on this sort of thing.
But what I have learnt in recent years is that some of the most fundamental things in our lives are things that we have never been *taught* to do. Things like cooking, cleaning, organising and dare I say it, raising kids.
And although there’s lots of information out there as to WHAT we should feed our kids, what we really need to know is HOW to feed our kids.
Enter the lovely Julia, who has taken me from stressed out, to calm and confident.
Julia Wolman (A.K.A. The Family Food Coach) is a Registered Nutritionist and mother of two. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience helping families to eat healthily and happily.
What particularly appealed to me about her, was her calm and diplomatic nature. Nothing preachy or judgemental here. Just the support to move forward positively.
So, if you’ve made it this far, I want to share three things that I learnt from working with Julia (there are many more, but these are the big game changers for me).
MY 3 THINGS…
1. LOOKING BACKWARDS TO HELP MOVE FORWARDS
Before we spoke about my son, Julia asked me about my own memories of food growing up.
I was FUSSY. Around age 2, I started refusing foods and without the expertise of someone like Julia my Mum did what a lot of parents do. She fed me ‘kid food’.
But I was a challenge even when it came to simple meals. To this day, I still don’t tend to have sauces (such as ketchup), and I have a very vivid memory of refusing to eat any more fish fingers because I once found a bone in one.
The more that I thought about it, the more I realised that I still have a lot of engrained negative beliefs and behaviours.
What I found really interesting (and horrifying), was that these have been holding me back from feeding my kids a greater variety of foods, without me even realising.
Although I know that plenty of people’s children eat the same meals as their parents, this has always seemed something a bit out of reach.
I can now see, that by having meals that are for ‘us’ and for ‘them’ I am repeating my own history.
Now some of you may judge me for this. You may find it hard to understand, but with that, I encourage you to think about your own history and experience with food.
If you grew up in a house where there was huge variety, and a very positive eating atmosphere, then that will be what is engrained within you. You’re ahead of those of us that struggled with food growing up.
And before you judge my Mum, when I talked to her, her memories were very similar to mine. So, my experience was clearly a repetition of hers.
I wish my Nana were still around so that I could learn about her memories of food with my Great Grandma – I bet they would be quite similar!
TIP #1: Don’t let your own food history define your child’s food future
2. BABY STEPS MY FRIEND, BABY STEPS…
The question I would get stuck on from this though is HOW do I get my kids eating the same meals as us?
The answer? Baby steps…
It is so easy for us as adults to fall into the habit of loading up our kid’s plate with something new and expecting them to just eat it.
But (as Julia explained to me) most kids need to be exposed to different foods before they’ll be willing to try them, and this can literally mean just having it in the same room, or at the same table as them.
They may need the opportunity to play with this new food, to squish it, smell it, smear it.
What Julia helped me to identify was that I was avoiding this because I found the food waste really stressful, and as a parent I wanted to know that my kids had SOMETHING in their tummies.
Julia helped me see though that I could expose my kids to new foods, simply by only giving them very small quantities alongside other food that I know that they like.
By regularly exposing them to these foods, and even letting them play with them, I am giving them the opportunity to accept them, and to at some point try them.
If I never serve something because they ‘don’t like it’ then I’m simply removing the opportunity for them to try the food.
*MY LIGHTBULB MOMENT*
Now this feels a little embarrassing to admit but going through this process with Julia helped me to see how my own Full Freezer System can help me do this. As all of my veggies (for example) are individually frozen, I can literally cook one piece of broccoli, 5 peas, or a few slices of carrot.
Whatever tiny amount that I need just to expose my kids to those foods that they have never tried, or previously rejected.
Julia also suggested that I save a little of whatever meal my husband and I are eating for the kids to try for lunch the next day. I try and cook enough so that I can have the same if I am eating with them too.
I love this, as it makes lunch quick and easy, and I can expose them to different foods without having slaved away especially for them.
Tip #2: Exposure to foods is vital, so as a first step, use your freezer stash to cook tiny portions of new foods, and serve these up alongside foods that you know they like.
3. IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE PERFECT (AND REMEMBERING THE BIGGER PICTURE)
I have regularly heard in the past that a key part of getting kids to be confident eaters is to sit and eat with them.
We usually do this at the weekend, but during the week it can be tricky due to our routines (and the fact that I know if I eat my dinner at 4:30/5pm then I will end up eating more later!).
I will also confess, that since Josh got old enough to feed himself, I am guilty of tidying up the kitchen whilst the kids eat (we have an open plan kitchen so I’m only a few metres from them).
Whereas I always used to sit with Ellie, I think I have convinced myself that it’s okay to leave them to it because they have each other.
What Julia helped me to see was the long-term impact this might have, and the little changes that I can make.
My ideal situation is that we will one day regularly all eat dinner together and eat the same thing. So, my focus is now to just take little steps to move us in this direction.
For example, if routines and timings mean we don’t eat dinner together all the time, then we at least eat with them whenever I can (mostly breakfast!).
I also now stop and sit with the kids whilst they eat their dinner, either having a small portion of what they’re eating, or eating something that I’d like them to try so that they are exposed to it without feeling pressured.
Tip #3: Identify how you want your mealtimes to look. Then look at little changes you could make to move you in the right direction. Don’t strive for perfection or compare yourself to others. Just start with small changes. Every little effort will help towards creating Your ideal scenario.
If you’d like to learn more, why not watch this Facebook live interview where we discuss further helpful advice around feeding fussy kids and creating a positive eating environment.