From cradle to table- my principles of baby, child & family eating

Wow, in the UK, and I’m sure all over the developed world baby and toddler food is a big business!  Purees vs baby led weaning, pouches of fruit and yogurt, special recipes to ‘hide’ vegetables and smother tastes in something sweet (think a popular child food chef, and her fish in orange juice recipe…interesting eh?).

Did I really miss a bit of spinach?!

Did I really miss a bit of spinach?!

In our family we eat well,  I want our children to eat well and to eat what we do, not to think that they get something bland and sweet and soft, while we eat ‘grown up food’. While I don’t feed my 18 month old rare steak, she sure as hell enjoys lamb tagine, quinoa and spinach.  There is no need to encourage a sweet tooth, to hide anything green or indeed to cook a different meal for each member of the family.  Which leads me me to my first principle of good family eating,

1. Feed the children what you eat.  Don’t add salt to the dishes, we can all do without it, and if grown ups want to add it to their plate, then fine.  Make sure that the food is balanced and clean (homemade without ready made components), and well cooked.  Purée if that’s your choice of baby feeding, or leave in breakable chunks for those self weaning, or if your toddler is like mine, eats just about everything with her hands.

2. When you put together meals, look at plate proportions.   Our national health service bangs on about 1/4 of the plate should be protein, 1/2 starch and the remaining half vegetable based.  This is not only a good rule of thumb for adults, but also according to paediatric nutritionists, babies and toddlers too.  Remember that protein doesn’t just mean meat, beans and pulses are wonderful for us all to eat.

3. Include children in mealtimes, from the vegetable washing, the cooking, the table laying, the pretend jobs that you can give them (‘here darling, whisk this small cup of water for me please, it’s a very important part of dinner’).  They love to be involved they love routine, give them some ownership, and ingrain this as part of your day together.   Even if you are defrosting frozen leftovers, and washing salad there are buttons to be pressed and foil to be scrunkled.

4. Include a bit of raw something (vegetables based) where you can.  So many nutrients are lost during cooking, along with enzymes that help digestion and well being, but cooking for children requires you to be careful with germs and bugs, so choose carefully how to add raw to your meals.  Spinach is a great one, it makes an easy purée for babies.  Or follow Parisian ideals and present your child with a bowl of raw veggies before dinner, stop the pre dinner whining and get the vitamins in here first, after that I feel much more relaxed about what actually gets eaten at the table.  Which brings me nicely to my final point…

5. Stop the snacking!  I was a seasoned snacker (I looked like one too) and it made me picky about which bit of my proper meal that I ate.  Distract a hungry kid before dinner with activity, its unlikely the child is actually starving, provide a varied plate of food for dinner, and be pleasantly surprised.   

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Categories: Principles of Eating

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