Via her Mum, Dietitian Laura Clark of LEC Nutrition, Emilia, aged 5 3/4 shares her vegetable diary!
..You all know by now, my Mum is a dietitian – she was one of those, way before she became my mum and I’m not sure it did her any favours when it came to feeding me.
Luckily she had the chance to practice again with my brother!
Between you and I, when I first began tasting foods aged 6 months-ish my Mum suddenly turned into a bit of a stress ball – it was embarrassing.
You see I wasn’t massively keen on the whole eating thing for a while – I just didn’t have the appetite and progressed at a slightly slower rate than my peers – which of course sent Mum into a spin because she’d read all the books, constantly harped on about nutrition being her thing and kept comparing stories with all her Mummy mates!
If I could have talked at the time I would have said, ‘chill out’ but she didn’t and instead hid behind the fridge door to spy on me (weird)!
Anyway, here we are, I’m 5 now – I’ve checked out all the latest research into nutrition and child feeding. My Mum also has lots of reflections so together we’ve compiled these tips:
First of all Mum, can I state the obvious – as children we learn from what we see – it’s called modelling.
According to food writer Bee Wilson – it’s all about the E’s – parents have a responsibility to set a good example, give us exposure and be enthusiastic (and no Mum this doesn’t mean you can always have a Prosecco at 5pm!)
Emerging research does show if babies are offered vegetables as a first food they are likely to eat more veg at 12 months. And this preference tends to track into later life. Wow Mum, did you hear that – bet you wish you could turn the clock back now!
The good news is though you’ve always kept going and veg served as part of our meals is very normal. Plus because of this whole modelling thing, I know they’re an important part of all our diets and always will be.
Were you aware that around 7 months there’s a definite flavour window – you should throw as many flavours as possible at us at this stage – have vegetable parties, serve up massive platters of the stuff, encourage us to feel and explore with our hands. Let us make a mess and invite all our mates!
Above all, celebrate and capitalise on this window as much as possible! What’s that? You well and truly missed it – oh yeah I remember now you were so pleased I was eating something that you stuck to the same things all the time and did mini high fives with the cat when I seemed to swallow anything.
Oh well – lets spread the message for others!
Did you know it’s a good idea to offer a new food to babies eight times – a screwed up face doesn’t mean it isn’t liked. And for older children it might be as many as 15 times! Try not to mix all the veggies with a sweeter food and definitely don’t hide them in a yogurt – because quite frankly we’re on to you (and if we ask for them like that when we’re 14 we’ll have no mates). Keep going and keep smiling!
Please don’t threaten us with them – if you glorify the pudding and dangle it in front of us as we try and eat the damn carrots (sorry forgot I was 5 for a second… ‘silly carrots’) then we are going to develop a hatred for them and see puddings as the prize – not great for our future food habits.
And Mum whilst I’m at it, don’t stand over me as I eat my main course – I know I faff sometimes but when I say I’m full can you believe me and just move on. I can regulate my appetite (unlike Grandpa!) and I get to eat tomorrow too, so can always make up for a bad day.
Fun stuff can work, we’re children after all – call broccoli magic trees, get us to do bunny impressions as we munch on carrots, pretend green beans are alien light sabres – if we all lighten up a bit, stuff will get eaten! We spot your anxiety and if we start to associate veg with anxiety that doesn’t give us a good message.
Finally (and Mum I might need to hand over to you on this cause it goes a little over my head), did you know none of us think as much, as we think we do, about what we eat?! Fruit and veggies are really healthy – we all know that – they even teach us that in school! But just knowing they are isn’t enough to translate to it going into our mouths.
Absolutely Emilia, well said – experiments in schools have shown that fruit intake increases simply by putting it in a pretty bowl and placing it well within reach in the canteen. We eat more biscuits if they’re left on the counter and more fruit if we can see the fruit bowl as we head out the door. The power of our environment is our secret weapon – and it is way more effective than will power. Some of us succeed at being healthy as our default, and some of us just don’t care. However, the largest proportion of us are largely influenced by our surroundings – the difference between a healthy day and a not so healthy one could be simply due to the environment we find themselves in. Food for thought at least…
Finally I would like to dedicate this blog to a friend of mine whose husband, on witnessing his 2 year old attacking a pear with a screwdriver, instinctively took the pear away. Never let a piece of fruit get in the way of other life skills!
Through evidence based nutrition expertise Laura Clark (Emilia’s Mum) aims to educate, motivate and inspire people to lead healthy balanced lives. Laura has a wealth of experience having worked in the health service in the UK and abroad for 14 years. Her private practice and consultancy, LEC Nutrition was established in 2005. She is a media spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association and also enjoys contributing to mainstream press, television and radio.