If there was any doubt in my mind that parents’ eating habits have a direct impact on those of their kids, Ayaan removed it this week. Here’s what happened:
As a part of my new diet, I am supposed to have a bowl of salad as soon as I get home from work. So the other day, I was having a bowl full of radish and beetroot, drenched with lime juice – overall, hardly the most appetising of thing to eat and I was bravely plodding my way through it. Ayaan, on the other hand, was significantly more excited by this ‘yummy’ stuff that Mama was eating so he went and got a bowl of his own and demanded that I waste no time in putting some ‘sallet’ into it…
I was pretty sure that this was just a case of ‘I want to have what you are having’ and that the sour and pungent salad would be unceremoniously ejected from his mouth once it made contact with his tongue. But that’s not what happened – he made a bit of a face but he chewed, swallowed and asked for more and ended up having almost a fourth of my serving. So now I am going to make sure that I eat the salad before his dinner everyday and let him pick from my plate… another incentive to stick to my diet change.
That being said, I have to say that I have no complaints about Ayaan’s eating habits. I am knocking on wood while writing this but he isn’t too fussy about his food, eats almost everything that we do and eats without too much resistance (most of the time). Now I know some of you would think that I should just thank my stars for the sheer dumb luck of it all but while I am willing to give him credit for being a good eater, I also believe that I had something to do with it. Because there are some thing that I hold sacrosanct in the process of raising a healthy eater and I do think these things has atleast something to do with the way things turned out. Here’s some of the stuff that I did that I think contributed:
- In his two-and-a-half year old life, Ayaan has eaten not more than five meals in front of the television. Two of these occasions happened when he was really sick and this was the only way I could get some sustenance into his little body. And the other two happened when I had to feed him at someone’s else’s house and the TV was the only way of getting him to stay in one place for long enough to eat a reasonable amount of food. I believe this is important – not because research shows that TV dinners cause obesity but because I think no age is too young to learn how to eat food for the sake of it and recognise and accept (and hopefully savour) every morsel that goes into your mouth rather than open your mouth and swallow like a zombie, rapt in the moving images on the idiot box.
- The same thought also applies to the concept of entertaining him while he eats. Because to my mind, this is again akin to fooling a child into eating. And here I don’t mean talking, singing or otherwise interacting with a child to make mealtimes fun but things one does to distract him while another bit of food is quietly shoved into his mouth with tactics such as ‘Look there, birdie!’ I have even seen moms carry stuff like cut fruits to the park which they keep periodically popping into the kid’s mouth while they play.
- When he is at home, the only place Ayaan eats in (since six months of age) is his high chair. To start with, I think chasing a child around the room while feeding him is way too exhausting a concept. Also, I am not the most patient of mothers and the few times that I have had to attempt such a feeding style have not been very pleasant – both for me and Ayaan. Moreover, when you chase a kid for his food, you are subliminally sending him a message that eating is something that he does because you want him to do it rather than because he wants to do it.
- I can set my watch (or more likely my mobile phone, since who really wears watches anymore?) by Ayaan’s mealtimes. I have to admit that part of this arises out of that fact that Ayaan has a control freak for a mother and my car pool members, amongst others, will vouch for my obsession with punctuality. But also because I believe that this helps his hunger patterns to settle down into a rhythm that we are aware of and can therefore cater to. Irregular meal times are more likely to confuse kids in terms of when to expect and therefore readily accept food.
- I have never really allowed junk food to be an option, even when we went through a couple of low-eating phases. Because like TV, I think junk food is the easy way out to nourishing your child and I’d rather suffer through the worry of these temporary phases of nourishment rather than encourage a lifelong addiction to junk food. Also, I know there will soon come a time when he will develop a desire for stuff like chips and chocolate thanks to his school friends but I see no reason why I should seed the process and further enable it by stocking the stuff in my own home.
- I have tried not to let my own tastes and biases get in the way of what I feed him. In fact, we have started eating some veggies that we earlier turned our noses up at – beetroot and eggplant being prime examples – because I decided to introduce them to Ayaan’s diet. As a result, he eats stuff like palak paneer (spinach with cottage cheese) with great relish.
- And lastly, I’m just plain stubborn. I struggled through 11 months of breastfeeding with Ayaan resisting me all the way and these struggles continued into the cow milk era as well. There were months on an end when all I could get him to drink were couple of ounces at best but I just kept at it and gave him milk everyday, twice a day and gradually (over one and a half years) that quantity started to inch up and now finally he has a full glass of milk twice a day.... even deigning to drink half of it by himself.
So anyway, that’s my two cents worth on the subject. To those who think this is all a load of crap, just remember that most of the above are MY views based on MY experiences. They are not based on any research and are therefore not facts. So please just read this as my opinion on how raise a healthy eater (that seems to be working for ME) and feel free to disregard or disagree (politely please).