Thursday, 12 March 2015

The futility of fretting about food

Every now and then I fall into the trap I mentioned in a previous post about not reading parenting books and I start to read advice about feeding your child. Or I read one of those ubiquitous bloody articles about how wonderful French children are and how they eat everything and it's all because French parents are so wonderful and blah blah blah it'll only be a matter of weeks before your toddler is eating octopus. Which is why I now have a freezerful of lamb and mint burgers, salmon fishcakes, moroccan lamb casserole, and assorted other delicious meals, all of which LittleBear has persistently and repeatedly refused to touch.

LittleBear is three, and therefore is, almost by definition, a picky eater. Yes, I'm sure your children eat quinoa and spinach curry, but back here in the real world, my son is pretty suspicious about anything that I assure him is yummy food. And all those tasty things that other children like? Uh-uh, no way.

Chicken? Nope, that's meat

Sausages? Only if they're Tesco Finest outdoor bred pork chipolatas. You can try giving him another variety that to your unrefined palate looks, smells and tastes identical, but one bite will be all that passes his lips, and that might be handed back, semi-chewed, with a firm shake of the head. I don't know what's in those sausages but I need some of it right now. My sanity may depend upon it.

Pizza? Nope, that's got tomato sauce on it

Pasta bolognese? Nope, see above.

Meatballs? Nope, see above.

Pasta and tomato sauce? I think you know the answer.

Any food with a sauce? Nope. Sauces are the devil's work.

Any food that might have touched something in a sauce? You might actually be trying to poison LittleBear.

So, with this in mind, when an email fell into my inbox offering a 'webinar' (and my loathing of that term almost deserves a post of its own), I was tempted. The topic is Weaning and Toddler Eating and among the topics addressed is the holy grail (second only to sleeping through the night):

Tackling fussy eaters

Yay! I thought. This could be really handy, I thought. Some useful ideas for getting LittleBear to eat, I thought. And then I saw that it was being run by someone who has written "Top 100 Recipes for Brainy Kids". Seriously? Seriously?! Someone has actually managed to find yet another way to prey upon the fears and insecurities of parents. It's not enough that we love them, cherish them, help them to learn and grow, teach them to be kind, decent human beings, raise them to have self-confidence and self-esteem. Obviously, what we should really be doing is trying to make sure they have an edge over everyone else. We should be pushing them harder, making them brainier, forcing them to play the violin when they're 18 months old. And if you're not feeding your children the "right" things, then you're failing as a parent.

You only need to know one or two teachers to know that diet is important for attention span and health and therefore ability to learn, but actually trying to make your child brainy by feeding them the right foods? It's only a small step from there to Gwyneth Paltrow. Or maybe I've got it all wrong, and the book is recipes for the kids who are already brainy. Just for the special ones, not for those nasty plebby kids. Maybe it's just trying to appeal to the smug parent who thinks little Algernon is destined for a Nobel prize and must therefore be fed accordingly.

I guess I should be grateful to the woman who wrote the recipe book, as the rage it has induced in me has snapped me out of worrying about LittleBear's food habits and reminded me not to read the books/websites/newspaper articles*

* delete as appropriate

Meanwhile, if I reconsider LittleBear... his current favourite food is pasta with cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and peas, slathered in butter. A close second is rice with peas, corn, green beans and carrots, slathered in butter. Basically, if it's a vegetable, ideally slathered in butter, he loves it.

Now you're beginning to think he's the perfect middle class toddler, and I'm just pretending to complain about his eating habits as a means of bragging about his marvellous vegetable consumption. I assure you, I'm not. I am delighted that he eats vegetables, and given BigBear's relationship with fruit and veg, I'm marginally surprised too. I'd just quite like him to eat something else as well.

When LittleBear was two, he had a two-year health check, and one of the things I was asked about was what he ate. Foolishly I was honest about his almost total absence of meat consumption, and his only intermittent willingness to consider fish. And I was met with what I now realise is the standard response of anyone who's never wondered where a vegan gets their protein from, "That's OK, as long as he eats eggs and cheese and other dairy products".

LittleBear doesn't eat eggs. Or rather, he claims he does eat eggs. When I ask him how he likes his eggs cooked? "In cakes". Of course, silly me. Do cakes count as a staple foodstuff? I think they do now.

LittleBear sometimes eats cheese, but only in small quantities and not when I would find it convenient for him to do so. Of course, when he was much smaller, he lulled me into a false sense of confidence by hoovering up mature Gruyere. Now medium cheddar is a bit adventurous.

So where is he getting his protein from? Let me reassure you.

A three year old needs about 15g of protein per day. A pain au chocolate has 4g of protein in it. We're sorted.

Footnote: for those of a worried disposition, he loves beans, milk, yoghurt, rice, fishfingers, and wholegrain bread. I'm not just feeding him on pain au chocolat and hoping for the best. Not every day anyway.

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