I realise lately that one of my major battlegrounds with my children is in the arena of food. JJ has always been a fussy eater, preferring baked beans to any other kind of veg, refusing to eat rice, and for quite some time pasta, hating peas, shunning pretty much anything green really. He is also a fiend for demanding unhealthy snacks and I have had very little opportunity to curtail this trend as his father is a lifelong ‘bad snacker’ and huge multi-packs of crisps, cupboards full of chocolate bars and ice cream are always ‘appearing’ in the house unannounced! On the two days of the week when the hubster is alone with the children for any length of time he invariably takes them to the Golden Arches ™ for lunch – I know this because our house is absolutely littered with Happy Meal toys!
It is also a very rare occurrence for us all to sit down together as a family to eat a meal as the hubster’s random and varied shift patterns mean that he is generally hungry at all the wrong times, and I often cook different meals for the children and eat my dinner after they’ve gone to bed.
Lately they’ve been having their meals out in the garden and this has only proved a negative for JJ’s eating habits as he tends to have one mouthful before running off to park the Little Tikes car, shoot head first town the slide or cycle laps of the lawn. Nothing I say can prevent this from happening (he’s suddenly into the “if you say/do that I’m not going to be your best friend” phase – essentially my name is mud for even hinting at an intelligent and sociable pattern of calm and focussed mealtimes!).
His little brother is much better for eating up and trying more variety of foods but he can’t help but pick up on his brother’s bad habits and want to join in.
I will readily admit I am weak-willed, a bad mum, who invariably caves and loses this battle.
I envy others who can parent with their partner as a team and maintain a united front – I feel that this is one key area in which it would be so helpful to break bad habits and instil good ones. Healthy snacks only in the house would be ideal, but I fear that even with this measure in place it would be a hard slog to de-program a child who has come to expect everything from Wotsits to Jelly Babies on demand at any given moment.
I feels like I’m making excuses but I find it very difficult to find the time to lovingly prepare healthy meals that my kids will most likely, eat. Working part time means that the children are all over me when I’m around and they need constant supervision at this age. The last thing I feel like doing after they’ve gone to bed is use any of my precious left over time sourcing and preparing toddler meals.
However, I have had a little success lately and in the past, with a couple of hidden veg recipes. I stumbled across the website of a woman who dubs herself ‘The Sneaky Chef‘. It’s all incredibly American – her real name is Missy Chase Lapine!! But I quite liked her coloured purees. Purple – blueberries and raw Spinach leaves blitzed; Green – steamed spinach, broccoli and peas); White – cauliflower and peeled courgette. I have in the past made her chocolate brownies with the purple puree (sneaky spinach – tee hee!), and lasagne with the green puree sneaked into the tomato sauce and the white sneaked into the cheese sauce! I actually made the lasagne (minus sneaky white puree) last week and just as an example of how fussy JJ is, even though he likes carrots, he made me pick out all the finely diced pieces he came across because he didn’t like the ‘crunchy’ texture (which frankly amazes me as those babies had been fried, boiled and baked during the course of preparation!).
Another recipe that I tried out last week was a new one for me (recipe here!) although not dissimilar to an Annabel Karmel recipe I tried last summer – Sainsburys Little Ones chicken burger with grated courgette and sweetcorn in the patties (I also substituted grated apple for grated carrot as I know JJ has a love-hate relationship with our little orange friends). I thought this might go down quite well as they tend to enjoy food which is easy to pick up with little hands and dunk generously in ketchup! EJ did so well, finishing off his two burgers whilst JJ did at least (eventually) get through one and a bit with a bit of broccoli & carrot on the side – broccoli getting another look in thanks to pre-school!
I really liked this recipe as it is pretty much a meal in a burger with the chicken, fruit & veg, breadcrumbs and an egg in there to bind as well. I’ll definitely make these again, although maybe not immedidately as the children are also wont to go off things previously enjoyed for no apparent reason other than over-familiarity!
I have to say that I always feel happier when healthy food has gone in – I feel like a better mother, I feel calmer and more in control. So when I read about other people’s children snacking on pro-biotic muesli bars and happily swigging pure water it still gets me down, but at least I know I’m trying (unless its a bad day and then all I want is happy children and I’ll just have to live with the sugar rush!).
*Just as a footnote to this – I have to share this question from JJ yesterday as he carefully examined a half chewed jelly baby: “Mummy, why does sugar hate teeth?” – difficult to answer but gratifying to know that this fact is bouncing around inside his little head!).