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Our Children Are What We Feed Them! Print E-mail
Antoinette Barnardo   
Monday, 06 February 2006

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I see so many moms pop into Pure weekly, usually full of despair, dismay and utter frustration, clutching a FINAL straw of hope to finding THE miracle cure or magical pill to give their toddlers and young children which will cure their terrible eating habits and fussy natures. I hear these mothers complain bitterly that their children scoff at healthy meals, fruit and vegetable smoothies or anything which is not packaged in a colourful throw-away container for convenience.

Coupled with world statistics of child obesity and learning difficulties; I'm left with a terrible void inside and a sense of guilt that we as adults and as role models are paving the way to a life of misery, obesity and unhealthy children and eventually carrying these traits into adulthood. We as adults need to give children firm yet gentle guidelines to support them in making good choices later; we can't leave them to their own devices since neither any small toddler nor young child are equipped with enough information to make good food choices.

Let's face it; we are surrounded by fast-food outlets; peer pressure, bad tuck-shop catering, advertising campaigns and birthday parties to lead children astray in their choices around food, so it's imperative that we take the reigns early on to introduce good eating habits to young children. It's hard enough as an adult not to succumb to the pressure of convenience living so it will only work if you are SERIOUS about making challenging conventional views and sticking to your guns. Would you rather have your children be plagued by common ailments, allergies, concentration problems and learning difficulties as the result of poor diets dominated by massive amounts of refined sugars, colourants, flavourants, preservatives and excess amount of fats?

Here are the facts: kids develop a taste for junk food because their eyes rule what they eat. We are born with a love of sweet tastes associated with breast milk and fresh fruit and a dislike for bitter tastes; that's the way it's always been predating back historically. We can only learn to change these tastes by what our parents give us to eat! Statistics show; when a 'stone age' toddler turns 18months and wanders around to select his or her own food, their visual prototype is turned on. Nature honed us to be conservative in our tastes when foraging for our food in order to avoid toadstools and poisonous plants or anything too foreign or inedible. So, what I'm saying is that if we keep exposing children (irrespective of their age) to small amounts of new or varied tastes, we will make them less fussy and more accepting towards changing their behaviour towards the foods they choose.

Research has proved that babies fed on rusks, baby food, processed foods & milk go onto prefer 'beige carbohydrates', e.g. chips, white bread, crisps and all the other evils we best try to avoid these days. If you don't want your children to become 'beige eaters' you have to change their visual prototype of favoured foods by rearing them on fresh fruit & veggies (colourful foods) for which they will show greater preference later on.

So, how do we get our children and toddlers to eat these foods?
The key is in variety and to avoid repetitive feeding.

Fact is: toddlers are picky eaters; they accept few foods. Children have the inherent characteristic to accept food in a social concept (imagine how easy it is to put something in your mouth at a kiddies birthday party when everyone is displaying the same behaviour) and they will always prefer food they know or are familiar with. An example of this: think of what Big Mac's are to children in the US and tortillas and beans to children in Mexico. Neophobia is the fear for the new or the unknown so don't panic when your toddlers spit out any new foods you try to introduce to them. Persevere because this is an instinctive and primitive built-in response to avoid anything toxic given by a stranger to safeguard oneself even at those early stages of development.

These are the tips and hints I give to frustrated moms to get your toddlers and children to eat healthier foods:

  • Increase the variety of what you offer (ensure an adequate nutrient intake when you do this).

  • Give your child chances to several exposures of new food. It's only normal when they reject these attempts and foods the first time around.

  • Schedule food tasting opportunities with them and never force them to try the food.

  • Allow spitting out & beware of nausea or vomiting because this may result in long term rejection.

  • Remember, tasting leads to acceptance!

  • Don't restrict certain foods, e.g. they can't have dessert unless they have eaten their vegetables first. This will lead to rejection of vegetables and makes the dessert more rewarding!

  • Desserts should make a positive contribution to a meal so serve lots of fresh sweet fruits and yoghurt sundaes.

  • Introduce new foods twice a week and always introduce new foods with the old.

  • Use small servings so they don't feel overwhelmed.

  • Cut food into small pieces which are easy to chew.

  • Choose colourful foods (fruits, berries, crunchy vegetables).

  • Change venues of where you serve these foods for the sake of variety and leave bowls of fresh fruits and veggies around their playing area to get them used to it.

  • Allow your kids to assist you with the preparation of their food and make shapes and faces for fun.

  • Opt for healthy snacks in the form of banana, whole-wheat pretzels, mini muffins, mini bagels, dried fruits, cheese cubes, rice cakes, juice boxes, granola bars.

  • Get your kids to pack their own snacks into zip-lock bags. That way they get to choose what they want to eat and won't reject what you force upon them.

  • Remember to supplement their diets with vitamins, minerals and where possible fresh organic foods.

Antoinette Barnardo owns the Pure Health Shop in Parkhurst Johannesburg and is also a Creative Consciousness Coach. You can visit her from Monday to Saturday at Pure, Shop 22A, 4th Avenue, Parkhurst, Johannesburg or call her on +27 (11) 447 4774.

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