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Once we all have kids, all moms can swear that their relationship with food changes forever. There’s a constant juggle for providing exciting, yummy and healthy food daily, meal after meal.
So I brought this up with our paediatrician to seek guidance, who by the way is very no medicine doctor. His thoughts on believe in the power of the body healing itself really resonate with me, hence I pretty much pay heed to everything he says.
So the chat went something like this:
Doc: He just refuses to eat anything but plain rice!
Doc: So where’s the problem?
Me: Plain rice for every meal??
Doc: Yes, so?? He obviously likes it.
Me: How will he get all the nutrition he needs.
Doc: His height, weight seem ok, is a bright boy, so where’s the problem again??
Me: Ummm…, so its ok to eat just that for as long as he likes?
Doc: Yup, you can force feed him but you do know you will change his relationship with food forever. What would you have prefer a slightly healthier child for now?? Or patiently build his palate? He will learn to make his own choices and discover joy of different flavours over time.
For now the subtle flavour of plain rice is enough to excite his simple palate.
Me: Oh ok.. that does make sense.
So that was 4 years ago! I made peace with my boy eating just rice and slowly over time discovering new things, I must share he's now 6 and isn't a fussy eater. The only thing he can’t tolerate is spicy food. Otherwise he's happy with most things we cook. That was precious learning, which I thought I will apply when I had my daughter. But well we all know that all kids are built different, this one simply doesn’t eat! She purely lives on our love and fresh air I think!
So I made one more call to the doctor. Who in turn said, well God has given her a stomach she will eat when she's hungry. OMG! I must confess that to watch a child merrily starve herself isn't easy. I couldn't follow that advice to the T. I tried a few experiments of my own, and thankfully landed up honing my cooking skills, if not anything else!
So, here is a list of fun things that I have done over the years that have helped me, increase appetite and joy both.
1. Kitchen our new playground:
My daughter is a sniffer, she has my keen sense of smell and can sniff for a quarter mile ahead of her. So, I decided to use that gift and introduce them both to the kitchen. Initially they both watched, smiled, tasted, licked, then spilled and started getting their hands dirty. Food started becoming fun. They now occasionally make their own sandwich, cut their fruit, decorate the cookies, dress the salad etc. Mostly for play and since they have put heart into it, they take a bowl for tasting and over time the nibble is increasing. My daughter loves the masala box, and has a special love for turmeric. Which hasn’t helped me make her eat more, but definitely use if she has a cough. She comes to the kitchen and says “give me haldi I have spiders in my throat.” :)
Well, that’s joy enough for me!
2. Trying new things!
It took me nearly a year to understand that my daughter doesn’t like bland food. Since my son loves non spicy food, that’s what was cooked at home. I saw her munching on spicy snack merrily and I nearly passed out wondering why she fusses at home. I now know, her palate is more lively and likes to experiment. Now, that was new to me since I too love simple, non spicy food. So, that meant overhauling the food in the house again.
Our experiments with fruit, dosa, pasta, porridge and snack are beginning to pay off.
3: Expanding palate using the favourite food as a bait. ( sadly I had to stoop to this! )
All kids have their favourite food, sugary, crunchy, spicy. So I used our love for jaggery, butter and potatoes with parathas, rice, crackers, rolls, fruit etc. Some ideas were crazy but some hit a sweet spot home. And we are still discovering.
4. Making food look good.
If the food on the plate looks happy, colourful, at times fun ( different shapes, colour etc, without killing yourself or going overboard) chances are that they will try it out. Children are naturally curious as people so having fun with their senses has it’s benefits.
5. Watching travel and food shows.
My son loves the travel and cooking shows, I have observed that the shows along with trying a few good restaurants have given them exposure to new things, expanded taste buds and sensibilities both.
So as you see, it’s been a lot of patience and acceptance on my part that it’s ok they are not getting the ideal nutrition each day, but keeping my focus on the big picture helps me keep my head cool on most days. There are other days when all fun fails and I simply let them be, and some days one has managed sneaking in goodness under a hidden cloak.
So cheers, to firstly lots of ease, fun, good health and experimentation!