If we look at the last elements of a child learning how to eat, in essence they are related to one thing only: food.
Most particularly, how it tastes, how it smells and how it feels like.
These three make up the core of the food story children tell themselves at every meal and the hardest to get right.
- Because they are entirely subjective. What I like to eat might not be the same with what my child likes to eat (for example, spicy food).
- Because, in the case of kids, their preferences vary so much, that you begin to wonder if they truly like any food whatsoever.
How many times have you made something that wasn’t eaten, only to be fully devoured the next time?
PIN IT FOR LATER
Because you don’t know what will be eaten or not, it’s hard to cook anything in any way.
A strategy I like to use is to present a plate that has:
- one safe food (something that they always eat, in at least 90% of the cases)
- one food that that they might or might not eat (there’s a 50% chance they’ll eat it)
- one new food or something that they previously rejected
The idea behind this is that, because we never know the story that goes on in their heads, we try to cover as many options as we can and give them the power to choose what they want to eat and learn to pair foods that they like.
We might not fancy fish with some pieces of mango on the side, but for them this combo might be a winner. That’s why there is no wrong or right food to serve with anything when it comes to feeding kids.
Oftentimes, my meals are just a mix of whatever leftovers I have in the fridge and those are the most successful ones actually. *shrug*
- Because we live in a day and age where things happen fast, even food, and there is no time left in the day for us to actually think about what we put in our mouths.
It’s easier not to think about what we eat.
It’s easier not to cook and just order a takeaway.
It’s easier not to make an effort to cook from scratch because they might not eat it.
It’s not our fault. Until we had a little tummy to feed, we lived in a world of comfort foods, of meals that are highly repetitive, of pastas and pizzas and bread.
But in order to maximize our child’s learning of taste, smell and touch, those things are not enough.
How can we expect him to learn to like broccoli if all we’re doing is boiling it over and over again?
Because here’s the thing, and let this be engraved in your brain:
Repetition is the mother of all learning.
And if we repeat the same things over and over again, our child will get bored, will lose interest, will not be exposed to new textures, tastes or smells.
He won’t know what good food tastes, feels or smells like.
So, for us to give our kids the best chance of learning how to enjoy any type of food, our best and only option I’d say is to learn how to cook it as much as we can, to the best of our abilities and in tune with our financial situation.
Honestly, that sounds a bit harsh, but it’s the truth.
Ellyn Satter (I keep coming back to her) mentions this in her book Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook.
You want to raise a confident eater? Learn to cook.
You want him to enjoy his food? Learn to cook.
You want him to learn how to eat? Learn to cook.
And if you think this is an effort not worth making, you will be eating that food too (remember the Modelling part?). So I really don’t know where you stand to lose in this situation.
You like to eat? You want your kid to eat the same food and enjoy it? Learn to cook it.
You want him to learn to love broccoli? Learn to cook it. Then you eat it too. On repeat.
Bored of boiled broccoli? Learn to cook it in another way.
Learn to cook food in various ways. Learn to make it taste good so you’ll like how it tastes. If you like how it tastes so will your kid, once he sees you eating it.
I had to make that paragraph big and bold because that’s the essence of the whole feeding problem right there.
Not picky eating.
Also, learn to wait. Things don’t happen overnight. This is a kid who doesn’t know the ways of the world and everything for him is a story (go back and read the part about Stories).
For myself, to understand why feeding my kids certain foods like eggs or broccoli was such a challenge, I had to go over all these aspects of the matter and analyse each one and read stuff on the topic. And make experiments, cook, try again, find another way to cook, try again.
Until one day, they just ate. And then ate some more. And maybe they stopped eating again. And then go back to it just like nothing ever happened.
It’s a rollercoaster. I can’t describe it in any other way.
If you and I now agree with this conclusion and what I’ve said so far, let’s see how you can improve the way your food tastes, looks and smells like.
Cooking is an art, yes, that’s why there are college degrees in the Culinary Arts.
But as a mom, I don’t have time to do a degree. Or the money.
So my only other option was to do this on my own.
And what better resources and tutors than the almighty internet and other people who cooked before me?