It is a very famous quote that "way to a man's heart is through his stomach". For me this phrase holds true irrespective of a person's gender or age. if the food is just rightly cooked with simple flavours and it is tasty, even the children would love and you can successfully pave your way to their heart. When it comes to children and food, it is often seen as an "issue" and in many of the workshops there are experts giving advice to the young parents on how to get kids to eating. There is always a tug of war between healthy food and junk food. But before I enter into such a situation I ask two questions to myself. First, whether she has eaten anything during the given time gap or not? Secondly, What has she eaten? At home I stick to food routines but when out of the house, I give space to accommodate outside or junk food.
I can easily say that my child is not so fussy about food. I owe this to the practices I followed soon after weaning. As far as weaning foods were concerned she liked some and rejected some. And I also kept experimenting. Here are some of those formulas that worked really well.
- Start early: After weaning foods, introduce simple foods like various vegetables, fruits or cereals in the form that child can eat. let him or her get the taste of what all is there!
- Frequency & variety of the food: Whenever you are introducing any new food, let the child have it for a couple of times. Do not get disheartened when the child just turns away from it. Do some change if you think the child has a preference for. Like Daliya/ Porridge you can make it sweet , salty, with or without vegetable. Give some twists to the regular food. For this you can follow websites, food channels, magazines or friends.
- Instant acceptance and rejection: Be ready for this. There might be super quick appreciation of what you have cooked. And there are chances that your dish get instant rejection. specially when children are grown up, they will infact communicate this to you. So take it easy.
- Set meal times: A meal should be a proper meal. Setting a time frame helps the children to understand that it is like any other important tasks of the day, which have to be followed. Again there can a scope for some time adjustment but it should not be skipped regularly. Slowly you will see that their body clock for meals is also set. Slowly they will happy in independent eating.
- Plating just like yours: Yes, it really does wonders. When you make a plate for the child, try keeping it just the way you will do it for you. Like having chapatis, vegetable, dahi or whatever your menu is. Just serve like for any other member of the family. It helps children in understanding that they are equally important and loved, like other adults. and again make it a daily routine.
- Make Stories: I am very fond of stories. Personally I have used story telling as a tool for teaching almost everything to my daughter. Even food. I would make story about the food she would be eating. Story themes included type of food, its significance, nutritional value, texture, colour, geographical region etc. It helped me in keeping her off the TV and roaming around while having food.
- Having food together: Many of you must be practising this. Having a family meal all the times is not possible when you are working. But if you can have at least one meal of the day together, it would be good.
- No or very limited electronic usage during meals: these days through out we are entangled in some of other electronic device. Specially smart phones, television, laptops are occupying the prime spaces in our lives. Thus, try as much as you can, to avoid these during meals. Finishing a meal may take 15-20 min. If you can devote this time exclusively to food, then your children also get a message, an example of the right thing.
- Partners in Shopping: if you can take your children out for vegetable or grocery shopping, occasionally if not every time, it will boost their confidence and interest in food materials. And if they can help in fireless cooking then I am sure you can imagine their level of satisfaction and that sense of achievement. I take my child's help in arranging vegetables in refrigerator, cleaning and sorting of leafy vegetables.
- Your Turn: A couple of times in week, if you can just cook what your child has asked for, it will keep their interest in food intact. By doing this, once more you are assuring them that their choice is as important as others' in the family.
Your kitchen and its articles can be used to teach them not only eating right food, but also teaching maths, science, english, colours, shapes, etiquettes and many other things which you can think of. As I said in the beginning, eating better is not age or gender related. You can use, modify the above according to your child's age. Making a child a better eater is not a day's task, rather it is a practice that has to be be followed regularly. And if you are successful in doing it right, then a parent's half of the tensions are solved.