I've always had lots of comments about how well my kids eat. I'm a little bit proud of this! Sometimes I felt a bit of a failure when it came to mummy stuff (won't go into details right now, but let's say, these things were out of my control and I shouldn't have felt bad), so I've worked hard to get my children to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
I thought I'd share with you some things I've done and that have worked for us. Please understand that I'm certainly not criticising anyone who does things differently. These are just some ideas that you may find useful!
I started Little W and Toddler W on 'solids' at about 4 months. It was just the baby cereal and rice you can buy in the supermarket. We always varied the flavours so they got used to lots of different tastes.
Make your own
At around 6 months we moved on to Annabel Karmel. Someone recommended 'New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner' to me and I decided then that apart from the baby cereal, I didn't want to ever give them premade food. And I never did! They've never had a jar of baby food. I really enjoyed making all their food from scratch. I used to spend a few hours every Sunday peeling, chopping, steaming, pureeing... But it got them used to textures as well as flavours. It was also such a good feeling knowing exactly what went in their food.
Now, I know not everyone has time to do this, but you could try with just one or two meals a week. Some recipes I also made enough of to feed all of us, like the spaghetti bolognese.
"Go on, try it!"
The other thing I did (and still do) is to let them try everything. I'd never say, "You won't like that, it's too spicy," for example. I'd let them try it and quite often they surprised me by liking it. Sometimes I'd give them a warning of what to expect! Like, "It's quite sharp/bitter/spicy" but never, "You won't like it".
Give it to them again
If they ever left anything on their plate or said they didn't like something, this wouldn't mean I'd not give it to them again. I actually gave it to them the next time we had it. I've heard it can take about 20 tastes of something to become fond of it and I found this is true. They may leave the lettuce the next 5 times I gave it to them, but eventually, they would eat it.
Don't make a fuss (that means you, by the way!)
I never made a fuss of anything they'd not eaten. I just asked if they'd finished and then took it away. I have to say, this sometimes made me want to cry! All my hard work felt wasted, but I know now that maybe I just gave them too much, or they just didn't feel like eating much that day.
Never make them something different
The one thing that every parent can do is easy! Don't give in and make your child something different!! It's probably not an issue at toddler age, but once you give in, you're giving yourself a lifetime (well, until they're about 18) of cooking different meals. If Little W says he doesn't like something, I just say, "OK, you'll be hungry then." If he refused to come to the table, I'd let him get on with it. Mr W and I would talk about our days, completely ignoring him and would always find that he'd come over in the end, start eating and often finish his meal.
"Mummy loves this!"
Lastly, we've always made sure we enjoy our food (or at least appear to!). Everything was always yummy! As Little W's got older, we've been a bit more honest and he knows there are things we're not so keen on (not much though, as we love our food!), as of course, they have to know that it's OK not to like everything. But I wouldn't do this when they're very young. Little W is four now, Toddler W is two.
So now, they eat well, they always look forward to their meals. They know many fruits and vegetables. They love helping me in the kitchen. And they often ask for fruit as a snack. Not always, but that's fine!
I'm sorry if I've made all this sound oh-so-perfect! Like I said, it's not meant to upset anyone or make you feel you're doing things all wrong. Being a parent is hard work and I certainly don't find everything easy. It's just when it comes to eating, I found I was quite good at getting it all to work. Hope you find some of these tips useful:)