Is it possible to have your children gorging on a tofu stir-fry with brown rice and asking for second helpings? No problem, says Jude Blereau, Perth-based author of Wholefood for Children. “Taste develops according to what is experienced,” Blereau explains. So, if you, as the parent, enjoy healthy, nutritious food on a daily basis then your child will more than likely adopt these same habits. If you choose to order takeaway pizza, your child will come to understand this as the type of food that should be included in their diet. “When this happens you are passing on a profound disconnect,” Blereau says. Children require nutritious fuel not only to function on a daily basis but also to build bone, muscle, tissueall the building blocks they need as an adult.
What if your child is a fussy eater? When dinnertime is joyful and food is a delicious experience, fussiness tends to leave the table, says Blereau. Giving in to your child by serving them lasagne (which they are demanding), instead of the stir-fry that has been prepared, is not setting healthy parent-child boundaries. “I’m so shocked at how many young parents let children run rings around them,” Blereau says. “You are not a restaurant!” On the other hand, encouraging your child to finish his or her plate may not be a healthy habit to enforce. “You, as the parent, must be attuned to your child,” explains Blereau. “You should be able to recognise when they are challenging you or when they have actually had enough to eat.” Allowing your child to respond to and understand fullness will help them to appreciate the connection between food and body.
By establishing a healthy and robust food culture within the home, your children will be able to copy this behaviour throughout their life. Blereau suggests eating together as a family, and for parents to take the time to prepare home-cooked meals. “The best way to make sure children adopt healthy eating habits is to feed them good, real and delicious food, from day one.”