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I love you, eat your broccoli

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It all starts as a Mother To Be- eating for two. Immediately we’re thrown into the deep end, having to make positive food choices for our developing baby. Saying goodbye to soft cheese and wine was hard. But I foolishly thought that in 9 months time things would get easier... boy was I wrong.

Sure the first few months with a new baby are relatively easy, there is one thing on the menu, and one thing only.... feeding a baby is pretty simple. But then the word ‘Solids’ enters the conversation, and our first food choices as a parent need to be made.

We all make different choices- we all do the best we can with the knowledge that we have at the time. 

What we put in our bodies is pretty important stuff- it affects all aspects of our well-being and so when it came to feeding my kids I wasn’t going to make this choice lightly. With my husband on board, we made the switch to organic and started buying our first veggie boxes (from FROG before it actually became FROG!), we said ‘No’ to packet foods, We said ‘No’ to Farex and grains... I got my blender out and started to concoct my own mash from fruit and veg. My food journey with kids had started.

Things started off pretty easily, the biggest rejection I can remember was when I tried to feed Mr J mashed up broccoli. To be honest, things didn’t go down too well that night, and most of it ended up on the floor. Lesson learnt- babies have tastebuds- be wary of over-doing that broccoli goodness!

But all in all I thought I had things sussed. 14 months later enter Baby A. Given that I’d only just recently been through the decision process that comes with solids, you’d assume things would be pretty simple. But as it happens, we continually learn and grow, take on new information and make different choices. With having 2 children under 2yrs, I decided to put the blender away and try Baby-led weaning. We delayed solids for a bit longer with Miss A and then let the fun begin. Sure most of the food ended up on the floor or on her head, but the time I spent cleaning the floor made up for the extra time I didn’t have to spend in the kitchen- a place I prefer to avoid. Baby led weaning worked for us- Miss A loved it, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

As kids grow, so does their hunger. Feeding that hunger can become the focus of our reality for a while, never do you leave the house without something to feed them. Food is the main topic of conversation between parents. Hungry kids can make your day a nightmare.... those little critters can be very vocal when you’ve forgotten to bring snacks- usually in the most public of places!

Finding healthy snacks that were quick and easy became my life. I became well acquainted with searching Google for recipes- ‘healthy’ and ‘easy’ were two words that were used in most searches. I realised that when kids are hungry they will eat most fruit and veg.... so I stuck to my guns and avoided packets and convenience foods. I started filling the freezer with homemade goodies. We said ‘No’ to cakes and sweets- often to funny looks from others around us. I was a mother on a mission. These growing kids were in training and my mission was to limit junk food if it was the last thing I did. At the time I questioned how I was going, but looking back 9 years later I’m pretty proud of my efforts!

Eating healthy food takes effort. It starts at breakfast. Our toaster had stopped getting a work-out a few years before, when we ditched that regular loaf of bread. Cereal is not welcome in our house. As Cyndi O'Meara said– you’ll get more nutrition eating the cardboard box the cereal comes in, then the cereal itself. Don’t get me wrong... we did try cereal for a short time until I realised how much that breakfast was affecting our morning routine. It may be quick and easy, but cereal doesn’t feed kids for long- before I knew it my two little birds were squawking for more food and I was back to square one. So we made the switch. I fed them porridge loaded with so many super-foods you’d question whether it was still OK to call it porridge. I fed them eggs- lots of them. Every meal was filled with good saturated fats, and as many health giving ingredients that I could possibly squeeze in. We have a term for it in our house, it’s called ‘Hippy-ing it up’ and when mum does it the family cringes- yes I have been known to over-do things on a regular basis, but fortunately I’ve managed to get away with a lot of it too, a ‘win’ is always the highlight for me . So they stopped being hungry all the time, and I started to breathe again.

When school started the lunchbox dilemma became a part of our lives. How to feed kids food they like, that’s healthy and that makes them feel ‘normal’ at school (this last point was a major issue for little Miss A). When Mr J started prep he was confused – what should he eat in ‘Sandwich break’ when there was no sandwich in his lunchbox? Food they usually love at home started coming back un-eaten- my vision of creating the perfect lunchbox was beginning to crumble. We had a problem.

After much trial and error, we knew we had to come up with a plan. My husband was OK with sandwiches- I was not, but I was dreading school lunches so much, that we decided on a solution that worked for us- he was to be in charge of Sandwich Break, I turned a blind eye, and the kids were allowed to have sandwiches (my only compromise was that it had to be on oat sourdough bread and be nitrate free). My mission in the lunchbox challenge was to be in charge of fruit and snack breaks. So to this day he makes the kids a sandwich in the morning and I fill the remainder of the lunchbox up with as much healthiness as I can. It works for us- as long as I don’t have to actually be responsible for putting a sandwich in their lunchbox I can live with this solution- after all I lived on peanut butter sandwiches and I survived! My food journey is as much about learning as it is about letting go. I’m slowly getting there.

Snacks and dinnertime are much easier these days. Our house is still packet-free. If the kids are hungry they can have a bit of fruit (yes this is limited in our house too) or they can munch on beans, carrots, cucumber, red capsicum, tomatoes, nuts or we make popcorn or something similar. When they don’t like a particular veg, I’m known for serving it up over and over again so they finally give up the fight- pumpkin has been one of my recent successful accomplishments. When they like a veg, I make sure it’s always there for them to eat- I accentuate the positive.

Things run pretty smoothly now. Miss A’s class award last year was for eating the most cucumber in Year 1. But finding a balance is still part of our journey, for instance Mr J ate 10 carrots before dinner the other night (the small frog ones) and ruined his appetite, so then the next dilemma arose- can there be too much of one good food? Should we be limiting it? Yes I’m still looking for answers! 

In the end though I look at my kids, and I see happy, vibrant, energetic kids that play well, learn well and sleep well, so I figure what we are doing is working for us.

I often wonder where I’ll be on my food journey in 10, 20, 30 years time... Will my journey and beliefs have changed? Looking at the relationship I have with my own mum, I still get regular food advice from her, so I’m guessing that this journey is probably not going to end anytime soon. Only time will tell. 

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