So a complete pleasure to take part in this podcast with Rachel Holmes. Take a listen for super nutrition tips, it’s an action packed podcast, no chitter-chatter but just full on content and at just over 30 minutes it’s a great length too.
Totally love to hear your thoughts!
Is there a best diet to be on?
Feeding your kids – what to do and what not to do.
Tips to take away and use today.
Weight loss advice.
Should we be going gluten/dairy free?
Feeding your toddlers!
My struggle with feeding my kids.
Rachel is a fitness entrepreneur, a presenter and a trainer. She is inspiration in her energy levels and all she achieves. I’ve followed her and been to her course as a fitness instructor for many years.
Let’s talk childrens menus when eating out. This can be a topic of division in my mind and in general amongst parents. I doubt many people choose where they eat out based soley on the kids menu but when you are eating out with small ones it is hugely important.
Often childrens menus are high on beige foods and low on colours. I’m talking fishfingers, nuggets, burgers, chips, potato waffles with maybe beans or peas but not much else. I totally get why, as a restaurant you want children to enjoy their meal and hey, it’s only one meal. So does it really matter?
I think it does. Children are little adults, as an adult I want choice, flavour, foods that I don’t usually eat at home, foods that make me think and that my tastebuds explore. Beige food menus are devoid of a variety of tastes, textures, fibre and colours. All things we want kids to be eating.
Now for my kids eating out is a complete treat. We don’t do it that often. I also don’t tend to offer “beige meals” often at home, unless they are requested. Not that I am against those foods, they have a place. However, I prefer to go for plenty of veggies and variety, aiming for homemade foods when I can. So we may have fishfingers from the freezer but I’d serve them with a mixture of veggies, potato wedges, with the skin on and thus provide a range of nutrients, fibre and tastes. Nuggets and fishcakes can totally be offered as part of a balanced diet but do they need to make up the majority of children’s menus when eating out? I think not. Let’s get some balance on the menu please.
If we start to offer variety and treat children as little foodies maybe they will start eating in this way? Having had a boy who was anti-vegetables I’ve had first hand experience of how consistency, being non-judgemental and continual exposure works. So if we only offer beige foods they will only eat beige foods! This is part of the basis behind raising intuitive eaters, as parents we offer a range of foods and let them choose how much and what to have.
My crazy kids actually get a bit excited about a kids menu but at times I get “why is my food not as nice as yours”. Which has led to us ordering an adults meal for the kids to share or of course sharing our own meals. I do remember at a wedding the sausage and chips being shunned in favour of the delicious buffet. When travelling I encourage the children to try cultural foods and things they have not had before – with varying results but it’s all about continuing to promote these values and ideas.
Eating out is about pleasure and enjoying meals different to those at home. My 7 yr old especially loves eating “adult meals”. So I love places who make small versions of the adult menu. In my mind this is how it should be. Yesterday we ate out at a restaurant that did an amazing menu with kid friendly versions of their dishes – no chilli, smaller portions and some meals where all the foods were separate for those, like my boy, who would have wanted to pick bits out. They were also happy to make changes to the kids meals. My children were VERY happy.
It’s all about enjoyment, choice, variety and #empoweringkids to do this. I see it as part of intuitive eating, letting them choose what to have and how much to eat. My kids are very different in their eating and how they eat but all loved their lunch out today.
In a completely perfect world we would eat when hungry, stop when full and eat the foods our body tells us to eat. However few of us are that tuned into our bodies signals. We are bombarded with outside signals for example the media, advertising, other people, shops, restaurants – food is all around us.
You walk down the road and pass someone eating a burger, “hmmm I fancy one of those now”. Then you pass a billboard advertising ice-cream, “oh I could eat an ice-cream later”. Then someone in the office has a birthday so you have a slice of cake. Later on the radio is advertising a meal deal which makes you think of buying one for your lunch. In the shop you are standing waiting to pay and see a cereal bar so pick it up to nibble on. All those extra signals that are overriding your actual body signals. It’s all so easy to be overwhelmed by the external and takes a lot of quietening ourselves to hear the internal cues.
Many people I work with cannot actually initially pinpoint what hunger feels like. I ask how hungry they are and am met with a confused look. Hunger on the one hand is quite a simple idea, your body is hungry, it tells you, you eat. Other the other hand it is complex, so complex. There is head hunger, body hunger, stomach hunger, emotional hunger.
Here is my 7 year olds take on how she knows she is hungry. I think this is such an important conversation to have with children AND adults. So have a think this week, how do you feel hunger and how hungry are you before you eat?
Ever get the feeling that the children in the house are in charge? Oh my days, I know I sometimes feel like I just run from child to child doing things for them!
Letting them be in charge of some things can be empowering and really positive. When you think about it there isn’t that much that they are actually in charge of. That can be hard as these little people want a chance to grow their independence and show their preferences. Eating is one of the ways that they can do this. So from a very early age they can show which foods they like/dislike and how much they want to eat. As parents it is whether we take note of these signs or think we now better! I’m trying to raise my children as intuitive eaters but it is hard as often I think I know their tummies better than they do. I then have to sit back, breathe and let them lead. When you are in a rush or have other children to also look after it can be frustrating to do this but we are setting our children up for life. I want mine to know how to pause, think about how their bodies feel and then respond accordingly and not be rushed because I have a schedule.
I find toddlers fascinating as they are so in tune with their bodies. My 22 month old will literally refuse to eat when she doesn’t want to, there is no way I can force her. She now chooses what she wants to eat from a selection of foods and she tell me when she is hungry with “Eaaaaaa” or “Snaaaaa”. A funny example this week was when I made a cake for Mothers Day and then we had some for pudding. However the toddler shunned it and ate a bowl of peas instead!
As we grow up eating becomes more complicated. Foods plays more of a social role, there is an enjoyment factor and just seeing things that you fancy. Advertising, being around food, media and other peoples food choices also influence us. This is why I think it is SO important to encourage our children to build great relationships with food whilst they are young and to continually reinforce these principles:
Listen to Hunger – eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. Think about your hunger at the start, middle and end of mealtimes. I sometimes talk about hunger being a butterfly in your tummy that grows to a dinosaur. Where are you on that scale?
Listen to Fullness – this can be fun with kids. My 4 yr old boy pokes his tummy and that can help him connect with how full he is. My 7 yr old girl just knows and will leave her food for later.
Eat a balance – I teach my kids that all foods are great but that our bodies need balance for energy, protein for building, fat to keep us warm and protect our organs and all the vitamins/minerals to keep it working properly.
There are no good/bad foods. I love this conversation with my children. We’ve used plastic foods to group them into food groups and then talked about what all the foods contain that is great for our bodies. Instead of foods being good/bad for us I talk about how we need to moderate foods that are higher in sugar due to our teeth and balance our snacks as biscuits don’t keep us full for long.
I’d totally encourage you to let your children lead a bit more with food. If you want more tips on how we do this at home then do let me know.
Freelance Dietitian specialising in helping those with Eating Disorders and a Media Spokesperson for the profession.