A lot of guilt can hang over how we feed our kids. We are all hyper-aware of the danger of too much sugar, the importance of the 5 a day. But society also does not make it easy for us. We live in a snack-happy world whereby snacks are accessible and easily grabbable and they readily placate our children. It is tough.
This month our aim is to break down a lot of the barriers that we face when it comes to feeding our family. If you can start making little positive changes these will quickly amount to bigger ones. And pressure-wise, some days these ideas will work brilliantly, other days a tv / screen based dinner may be the best option. You know your family best, so ditch the guilt and look for the positives.
These are our 10 top tips this month for enhancing food and the family:
2. Including the family in the shopping too can be a great idea to get them more interested in food. Their role will obviously vary depending on their age. Whether you shop on line or in a supermarket, letting them be in charge of the list can make the experience more enjoyable for everyone and gets them thinking about what you will all eat this week. Again, I can feel some of your toes curling at the extra time this might take BUT it does not have to be every shop and it could be a short trip to Tesco Express just to give them some ownership. Again, this can be a family expedition or adventure in itself.
3. Rolling up everyone’s sleeves and getting them cooking. The mess! The stress! Gah!!!! Yessss …… it might get messy. In fact, I would definitely expect the worse. BUT it can also be very cool to watch their imaginations fire and see their interest in food increase. And, at the risk of repetition, eating is a family affair. This will pay dividends when they start cooking for you. If kids have never been allowed to help in the kitchen they never will. Children are much more likely to eat what they have made. They have a vested interest. They are proud. Our recipes this month are super simple but create great results. Go on, have a go.
4. This Edition is not called FEAST for nothing. We live in a very fast-paced world. We often forget the simple pleasure of enjoying food. Have you ever been mindful as a family while eating? Often the aim is to get the kids eating as fast as possible, keep them on task so they finish or at least eat some of it and then whoosh … you are off again, clearing up, washing up, onto the next thing. But what if eating sometime is the THING? Again, this won’t be for every meal but sometimes make eating into the event. What do I mean? Have you ever done the ‘mindful raisin’ exercise? Where you pretend you have just dropped in from Mars and never seen a raisin before? Sounds bonkers? Maybe. But it is fun. You can do it with any food. And it will mean all of you take more pleasure in your food. None of this is just for your smalls. Google it. You won’t be disappointed.
5. Picture Henry VIII. This was a man who liked to FEAST. Oh yes, you did not get a waistline like his without feasting. But if you think of a medieval feast it was also about the experience. The food would have been awesome obviously, but it was not just about the food. People rocked up to a medieval banquet expecting some kind of entertainment. Music would feature (lute anyone?!) perhaps a jester or two. I’m not suggesting you start immediate lessons on the medieval harp, but it can be a great idea to bring some form of entertainment to the table. We are openly encouraging this with our placemat designs which are part of this month’s bundle. Sometimes positive distraction results in more food being consumed and everyone sticking around long enough to eat it. Playing a game at the table can be fun. This can be a simple question game where each family member picks a food to ‘be’ and everyone take it in turns to ask questions until they figure it out. With younger children, reading them a story while eating can help. Also, having music on can be great. If you go to a wedding, they will often be music playing during the meal. We like to be entertained. Try popping our playlist on ’10 songs to feast to’ and see if everyone can stay at table for the whole 10 tracks.
6. Mix up where you eat. In our society sitting at the table is the ‘correct’ place to eat. We feel pressure as parents to conform to this. And yes, sitting at table has advantages. You can see each other, it encourages conversation, less food is spilt and it feels more contained and controlled. It has the air of ‘togetherness’ for the family. But sometimes doing it differently is good too. Picnics – indoors or outdoors instantly feel a bit more fun. Involving soft toys and role play are often a winner. Bringing it down to their level onto a smaller table can also be a good move.
7. Sometime graze like a giraffe. We all love to graze. If you are happy to have a more relaxed day of eating, fill up little dishes with grazing foods – breadsticks, chopped salad etc and let them dip in and out. Not for everyday but often works well sometime.
8. A food chart on the wall can be a great idea. We have a really lovely one made by Liz Cook. It is really vibrant and shows what you get out of different foods and why they are good for you. Kids often love to know ‘why’ and this is a great way of showing them. This is really useful for us adults too because it helps us balance our own diet and we often don’t know as much as we’d like to about food either.
9. Positive not perfect is a phrase which can apply to so many aspects of parenting. Don’t place too much pressure on yourself and your family. Small positive changes are great. Give yourself plenty of time. Remember they are kids and therefore contrary. Sometimes they will love the food other times not so much.
10. Making it fun is the key. Our chef hat template is a great aid for this. Take measures to make sure you all get enjoyment out of it, then it can be something which you embed into family life.