Food preparation and kids are two things that have to go together. But it seems to also come with a ridiculous amount of stress. Too hot, too cold, too lumpy, too spicy, what’s that, I don’t like it…… The amount of blogs I’ve read about how to get your kids to like healthy and broad ranging foods is mind boggling, and I still ended up winging it.
I’ve read that there’s a “flavour window” between around 4 and 18 months within which you’ve got your greatest shot of them trying (and liking) lots of healthy things and are more likely to try (and have a taste for) new foods in the future.
So I read that at the end of “the window”. Great. Apparently we still have a shot though and persistence is the key. If you offer a new food, they reckon, and your angel doesn’t like it, try introducing it 5-10 times (over time – not in the same sitting! 🤣) before giving up. Personally I think 10 times might be a bit much for my kids but I get the theory. Their tastes seem to change so quickly, it feels like one week they don’t like something they always loved and then love something they hated.
When I started my lifestyle changes, one of the things I really wanted to achieve was sitting at the dinner table to eat together instead of early dinner for them and later dinner for me. Because of work hours and habit, I’d never really managed that before, so it took some working out.
Another barrier was the food itself. I give them healthy food (allowing for a weekly nuggets fallback) and things that are tasty and different but I like things that are more adventurous again. But also, they need carbs (growing boys), I do not (far too grown up around the middle and the butt), so how to align meals to suit both?
I started introducing new foods a bit at a time. First, brown rice (instead of white), chickpeas, soba noodles, and started re-introducing food that had been rejected in the past. Brown rice was picked up immediately. Chickpeas took a few goes. The jury is still out on soba noodles, but the journey of experimentation goes on.
I’ve tried the smorgasbord approach (lots of little things to try but not big amounts so it’s not overwhelming). This helped to bring back capsicum and cheddar cheese. I made messy food – tacos – so they could have fun building. I am still working on this as I’m hoping they will start to like coriander and fresh salsa and avocado (all refusals currently).
The most enlightening thing for me was that prior to eating together at the table, food was very functional for them. It was a thing they had to stop playing to do, before they could go and play again. Now, they are developing table manners (they’re boys, it’ll take a while) and we talk about a lot more subjects – including food. They can tell me not just what they don’t like but why they don’t like it. For example, I’d been plugging away with curry and stir fry. It turns out they love them, but the don’t like the veg folded in. If you keep the veg separate, they woof the lot down like there’s no tomorrow. Who knew?
I realised they didn’t have a vocabulary around food, so now I make a point to ask their opinion about my menu planning and cooking. They even want now to learn recipes for themselves and have just learned how to make flat bread. Even though my heart stops every time they go near the gas hob, I have to let them have room (safely!) to explore and enjoy creating.
And me? I just keep reading those blogs on how to do more stuff and hope my boys don’t notice I’m winging it.
Parenting is awesome. But it’s hard. Like, it’s really hard.