Mum's The Word: Giving children food for thought
Obesity and healthy eating is never out of the news for long, nor is the blame game pointing the finger at lazy mums bombarding their young ones with junk food, says Peterborough mother of two Donna Steele.
But, as the mother of two young, healthy children am I concerned? Of course.
I know from experience with my two that getting them up, fed, dressed,at playgroup/preschool on time then home, fed and off somewhere else, and home, fed and so on can make it a struggle... but it can be done. Although there is more to it than just plonking a plate of food in front of them three times a day.
When it comes to food and their future health, I think there is no room for complacency.
That is not to say I forbid my girls from eating treats, that would be cruel. They are at an age when parties come thick and fast; and with parties come cakes, biscuits, sausage rolls, jam sandwiches etc placed in front of them. But everything in moderation.
And it is not just a case of “do as I say”. We talk about why you can’t just eat biscuits, or chips, or cake - all of which they like of course - all of the time. I really want them to understand about different foods and the effect they can have on their bodies.
Now it is a small thing but I always insist that we eat at the dining room table - I think it makes the meal more important and is good family time.
At breakfast we have a selection of cereals. They aren’t the sugar coated ones but the four year old understands the colour coding on the boxes - and that the green is good but amber and red not so good.
She knows why we have skimmed milk and don’t add sugar because we talk about it. It is simple and part of the education process, a grounding for when she goes off to school later this year and has to make her own decisions at lunchtime.
At lunch and dinner they always have vegetables - green beans, brocolli, carrots on their plates. As all parents will know, this puts powers of persuasion to the test.
One eats the veg and saves the best for last. The other tucks straight into the chicken, or fish fingers or whatever. But she is learning that the greens still have to be eaten - we have been known to applaud every bite she takes or play I-spy, which isn’t easy even with a bright two year-old. But she now knows “something beginning with C” and “something beginning with B”.
In my book they are never too young to learn.
We are also fortunate enough to eat out regularly in restaurants, and the same philosophy applies.
They know if we go to an Indian restaurant, for instance, it will be popadoms, rice, naan bread, daal and curry, and they will have a little try of everything.
We try to talk to them about what to expect in an Italian restaurant or Thai, Chinese, Turkish, Greek,and the dishes they will find there.
Also, why people in those countries eat what they do.
And wherever we go, we encourage them to try the different cuisines. How many two year olds are there that like calamari, houmus, couscous and steak, or four year-olds that have tried duck, pigeon, pheasant, venison from dad’s plate? I know I certainly hadn’t at that age.
Television plays its part too, they love baking with me or with their toy kitchen, and even bathtime is interrupted with shouts of “step away from your bakes” as they show off plastic jugs filled with bubbles!
My hope from all this of course is to broaden their horizons and lay a platform for a healthy relationship with food as they get older.
And show them you don’t need a free gift to make food fun.
MUM’s The Word: Peterborough mother of two Donna Steele with a woman’s take on life in the city