Having spent now 3 weeks on Jenny Craig and eating what the kids are calling ‘low fat rainbow food” I’ve not yet been able to convince my kids to join me in a plate of colourful foods (veges). In fact, in 7 years, I’ve not been able to convince my kids to eat a plate of veges (unless it doesn’t look like veges, different story then!)
Having caught up with a number other Mum’s and girlfriends during the school holidays and at various birthday parties, I’ve discovered, with glee, that it’s not just my children who have eating disorders and it’s not just me who has to make more than one type of dinner per night. When I say eating disorders, I don’t mean that they’re pre-teens and watching their weight. I mean that they flat out refuse to eat anything good for them and there’s some very quirky eating behaviors there too.
Let me give you an example, last year when their class was working in the vegetable patch at school, Mr 6 promptly announced to his teacher that there was no possible way that he could assist in this lesson because he was allergic to salad (he’s worked out that allergies at school are treated very seriously).The number of times I’ve had the quiet little chat from pre-school teachers asking me to pack a more ‘healthy’ lunch for Miss 4 are numerous, so I do, and every day the cut up apple comes home uneaten and Miss 4 is understandably starving.
Children and food is a tough one. I’m astounded that only two of my four children will go to the fridge, pull out a raw carrot and cucumber and eat them whole. They’ll eat ham, sushi, tuna, chinese, thai, indian and a variety of food but not all foods. If asked a preference between pizza or Sushi Train for dinner, the answer will always be sushi. We’re yet to conquer salad as vege’s all together in a bowl is way too daunting for them.
The other 2 only live on carbs, dairy and sugar alone. Pasta & Cheese, Cheese on Toast, occasionally a tuna bake, a sausage if I’m lucky and perhaps a sausage roll or lasagna is about as far as the other 2 kid’s diets will go.
The weirdest thing is, however, that all four of my kids will happily devour a bowl of mashed vegetables perhaps with a bit of melted cheese on top but all four refuse to put a steamed vegetable or steak/chop or meat near their mouths (the disclaimer here is that they won’t eat my mash as apparently my mash is revolting, they will gobble up my Mum’s mash with no hesitation). Somehow when veges don’t look like veges or are called by another name (mash) it’s acceptable to them. I have to be careful though, mash can’t be served 7 days in a row or they’ll be onto me.
Whilst talking to a couple of girlfriends at a Disco party tonight, I discovered they all have a similar problem where at least one of their children refuses to put fruit, vegetables or anything remotely resembling red meat near their mouths. Another friend has a child who, since he started eating, has only ever eaten the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She has to arrange the food on the plate in the exact same way for each meal, she has to crumb the meat the same way each night, the meat has to come from the same butcher because it’s cut in a certain way and she’s even been allowed to let her little guy take his ‘own’ lunch to daycare because he would otherwise starve if offered the daycare food. She’s concerned, naturally, that this isn’t normal but I have to say he’s one of the most intelligent, entertaining little kids I’ve ever known. Far more advanced than my lot were at the same age. He just knows what foods he likes and the way he likes it (let’s face it, as adults, we’re a bit the same!)
The guilt of if they’re eating the right foods for such young kids overwhelms all of my friends (phew, phew, phew, it’s not just me!) and each morning, like me, they line up the children’s multi-vitamins (disguised as Gummi bears covered in sugar) and the Vitamin C robot lollies to ensure that if they can’t force feed them with what they need, they’ll bribe them with what looks like a lolly (and secretly wrapped with loads of goodness). Whether these vitamins do anything for the kids well being, I will never know but they sure as hell give us all peace of mind that there’s a little goodness going into their growing bodies.
The fight over food is not one I can go through over and over, I’ve tried it. I end up more stressed than anyone and we all end up in tears. The endless threats, the going straight to bed with no dinner (more guilt), the ‘there are children in China, Ethiopia, India who would be so grateful for a meal like this’ lecture and the all important ‘when I was growing up I had to eat everything on my plate’ rant. Even I feel like a hypocrite with that one, I can remember Mum and Dad trying to convince me as a child that brussel sprouts were good for me and that’s I’d eat them when I was older because they were delicious – bullshit. They’re gross, always were, always will be. There’s nothing worse than being made to eat something that honestly makes you gag (sorry Mum, but they just were gross).
When it comes to kids and food, this is where I hear the wise words of my friends with grown up kids ringing in my ears, ‘don’t sweat the little stuff’ – uh huh, don’t worry too much, they’ll get round to eating all the right foods when it matters most (most teens get into health and fitness long before we did as kids). As long as they’re eating something and weight isn’t an issue (obesity in children is on the rise), they’re active and they do manage to take in the occasional piece of watermelon or broccoli, then they’ll come right when it matters. I just wish I’d talked to my friends about it earlier, certainly made me feel like a more normal Mum!