Children and parents eating the same meals

14 May 2013
Now that we're looking after Jamie occasionally, it's brought back a lot of memories about how things were when my own sons were babies. They both started eating porridge - the same one we enjoyed, then grew up with all of us sitting at the kitchen table for meals; there were no special foods. Our sons had completely different eating preferences. One would eat anything and everything, first time. The other was a fussy eater. He wanted to know what everything was, what was in it and if he hadn't seen it before, well, we had a struggle getting him to eat.

Our beautiful grandsons, Jamie (left) and Alex.

I come from a long line of very practical mothers and homekeepers. I clearly remember my mother advising me to give my sons chop bones to chew on, to simply puree or mash what we were eating and feed it to my boys and if they weren't going to eat, allow them to leave the table. I gave them the occasional chop bone to chew on, and they loved them. I think many of today's mothers might be shocked at the chop bones, but at that time, it was a fairly common practise. The boys happily sat there chewing away, tasting the flavour and getting a very small amount of nutrition. The purpose of the exercise was to get them used to seeing us eat and for them to eat the same food. It also helped them develop their taste buds and to be ready for meat when we introduced it later along with pureed vegetables.

One of my boys was allowed to leave the table when it became clear he wouldn't eat a particular meal. Once he left the table though, there was no coming back. Not even for dessert. Soon he learnt that lesson and then slowly developed his palate for a wider range of food. I sometimes remember the difficult days of refusing to eat and crying but they only lasted a short time. When new habits were established, that lasted forever. 

I read this very interesting article in The Guardian last week about children eating the same food as their parents. It reminded me that in Australia, almost all restaurants you go to will have a children's menu. That children's menu is usually made up of pizza, fish and chips, chicken nuggets and chips or burgers and chips. I have never understood why children couldn't just have smaller versions of the main items on the menu. Why don't they eat what their parents eat?

I've been really pleased to see Jamie eat a wide variety of foods ever since he started eating solids.  When he started snacking, Sunny and Kerry put different foods on a plate: fruits, vegetables, bread, crackers, cheese, chicken or meat, and let him choose what he wanted. Usually it was the entire plate. Now that he's eating with us, and sharing our morning tea and lunch, he eats what we eat. Last week that was pea and ham soup with toast fingers, the week before it was roast pork, red cabbage and roast vegetables. He also eats all the delicious Asian food Sunny cooks. During the day he will snack on fruit - we have organic oranges growing in the backyard at the moment, so he's eating those. He eats a small piece of whole orange cake or a homemade biscuit for morning tea. He drinks either water, milk or juice. I might ask Sunny if I can try him on warm milky tea when the days are a bit colder.

I think getting children to eat well is a problem in many homes. It can be really difficult at the start and if you're stressed after a day's work, sometimes you just want everyone fed so you have time to relax.  And there are so many different ways to get the same result. What happens in your home? Is, or was, it a battle every day or was it easy for you? When did you start solids and when did you stop giving milk as frequently?