I used to think nothing of the fact that my kids usually eat up everything on their plates at home, and do the same even when they are visiting friends and relatives. It was only when parents of their friends started mentioning to me that I was so lucky to have such non-fussy eaters that it struck me that not all kids are like that. “Yes,” I thought, listening to their stories, “I guess I am lucky!”
Then came the requests from parents to teach their kids to eat like mine. I was quite taken aback. “Honestly”, I told Seema, one of the moms who asked me – “I did not consciously inculcate this in them”. And after she left, I thought, I would love to help them, but how? That evening, I spent some time thinking about my kids’ eating habits from the time they were babies. I took out a notepad and scribbled what I remembered, because I believed that the clues lay in their earliest eating habits.
- As soon as the mandatory first 6 months of exclusive no-water and breast-feeding time elapsed, I gave them the usual basic food – beginning with the baby food like Cerelac, ragi porridge, mashed fruit and small quantities of freshly pulped juices.
- The kids were always given their meals alongside the adults, from the earliest months.
- When they were ready to eat normal food, I merely gave them the same thing we ate. I just gave it a good whizz in the mixie until they got their first teeth, and they were ready to chew their own food.
That’s it, I thought and I closed my notepad. Nothing interesting there, and nothing new! I forgot all about it, until the next time the same question was put across. Wait, I said, as I produced the note pad and showed it to the eager mom.
She read it and looked at me in awe. She said she had followed quite a bit of the same thing, but in my list, she had found the answers! “What are the answers?” I asked in excitement.
“Look!” she said, “point 2”. I always fed my kids separately. I fed them first, and I always set them down in front of the television or with their toys when the adults sat down to eat. Now that Madhu mentioned it, yes, it did seem like the answer. Eating together as a family must have helped my kids a great deal, because they saw the solid food on our plates and when their olfactory senses started maturing, they began to associate aromas with food types.
“And then, point 3,” said Madhu. “My kids were given special food that was rather bland in their early days”. She looked at me excitedly and said, “That must be the key, you know. I still make special food for them. Less spicy, no onions for Harsh, and no tomatoes for Maya. On the days we have baingan, it is a quick aloo dish for Harsh because he hates baingan. On the days when the family has fish, I dish up a quick omelette for Maya because she hates fish.” Still clueless, I shrugged and didn’t say anything at first.
But suddenly I realised that she had indeed found the answer. I never cooked special food for either kid. What was on the table was everyone’s dinner. If they didn’t like it, too bad. Of course, I was always sensitive to the kids’ maturing palates and was careful not to cook overly spicy food, but that was it! However, all this was never a conscious decision; it just happened because as a work-from-home mom, I am always busy and cooking separate food is just not possible. The only extra thing I did, was sprinkle some extra salt on their food because my food is consciously less-salt fare, while kids needs their daily doses of sodium, for all around development.
This incident with Madhu happened a while back but I waited to share it with Parentous because of course, I wanted to know if these two changes indeed go a long way in helping fussy eaters. Madhu told me that the initial days were rather tough, with the kids rebelling and throwing tantrums at every meal. But gradually, they got used to the idea, and now eat up things that they don’t like too, because they know that they are not going to get anything else that day.
So parents, I urge you all to do these two things.
- Sit down and eat at least one meal a day as a family. Besides helping in rearing non-fussy eaters, it also does a world of good in helping family members bond, share the events of each others’ day and relax together.
- Everyone eats what’s on the table. No special requests. It is so important for kids to get nutrition from various food sources in their growing years. Don’t try and hide their veggies in cakes and pies, because kids need to appreciate the inherent taste of vegetables. Carrot cakes and zucchini hidden in apple pies are fine as desserts, but never neglect to teach them to eat veggies and other foods cooked in their simplest form, because that’s when they are at their nutritious best.
Sharon Colaco D’Souza is a mother of two kids, a girl and a boy. She is a business management post graduate, and works as a content strategist for a living. She is passionate about home decor and design, and blogs at The Keybunch. Parenting is ‘that continuously-unravelling mystery’ for her and she views Parentous as a great place for parenting information, as well as a place to share her own parenting discoveries. She is currently working on a book idea on indigenous architecture and hopes to see it to fruition!