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Eat what you’re given!

(67 Posts)
SandMason Mon 16-Nov-20 16:07:17

Hi all,

Has anyone on here successfully managed to get their young kids to just eat what they’re given? A lot of mealtime advice is geared towards raising adventurous/healthy eaters, but to me it’s more important that they are respectful of the food (and by extension of the effort/time/money that’s gone into providing it) not wasteful, and grateful for what they are given. Am I deluded in thinking that it’s possible to teach these values around food and mealtimes? I’m allergic to the sight of them poking disapprovingly at food when elsewhere in the world there are kids eating out of rubbish bins. Not even that extreme - I mean how many families globally are in a position to provide a range of healthy meals and snacks at intervals throughout the day? As opposed to say, here’s the pot of what we’ve cooked, eat from it! Has anyone achieved this? And how?

OP’s posts: |
Medievalist Mon 16-Nov-20 16:20:26

Some of my earliest - and most unpleasant- memories are of sitting in front of plates of food that I either didn't like or else was too full to eat, and being told that I couldn't get down from the table until I'd eaten enough.

I don't have a very healthy relationship with food.

With my own kids, as soon as they were old enough, we would discuss what we were going to eat or I would cook food I knew they would enjoy. I know some people would frown on this but I was quite happy to adapt meals to suit different tastes, or even cook different meals. Nobody was expected to carry on eating once they were full.

My adult children all have healthy relationships with food.

Maybe my approach was wrong and a reaction to my mother's understandable attitude of not wasting a scrap of food which presumably came from wartime rationing.

SnuggyBuggy Mon 16-Nov-20 16:24:46

I agree it isn't healthy to encourage children to carry on eating after they feel full. A balance has to be struck here. I try to encourage mine to eat what we are eating and then offer a boring alternative like toast if she wont eat any dinner.

Findahouse21 Mon 16-Nov-20 16:26:48

My daughter is 6 and very mature. She genuinely doesn't like a lot of foods and textures. She desperately wants to, but tells me tgat she doesn't have the right taste buds. She apologises often. I see no point in trying to force a dinner down her and nobody tgat I would trust to feed her woukd want her to eat a hated food out of 'politeness'

difficulttod Mon 16-Nov-20 16:30:01

I let them choose meals sometimes but sometimes I explain we are having a certain meal because we have ingredients that need using.

They get pudding once they've either eaten enough of something they like (as in are full), or tried a bit of everything if it's something new. I know some people think that the idea of pudding as a reward is unhealthy but it works for us.

I don't make a big deal if they're not hungry but I encourage them to say that rather than just mess about.

mindutopia Mon 16-Nov-20 16:32:05

Yes, generally, but it has to be age appropriate. A two year old can't really appreciate this concept, but you can not overindulge every whim at mealtimes.

But I think older children, assuming they don't have any particular special needs related to food/sensory issues, yes, it's possible. I try to make a mix of foods that mine like and don't really like. My older one (7) doesn't ever have to eat anything she doesn't want, but she doesn't get anything else and after a point, she doesn't get more of what she likes unless she eats what she already has on her plate. I think it's about learning to be grateful for what you have and not being wasteful. I'm pretty hard-nosed about it all so she knows these are my expectations, and generally she does mostly eat what she's given, even if she may not always eat all of it. I think it would probably be different with, say, pre-teens and teens who can probably just make their own food if they don't like what you're serving.

audweb Mon 16-Nov-20 16:33:35

Would you like to just eat what someone else chooses all the time? The forcing children to eat what’s in front of them because other people starving is a weird angle to take it from. I remember hearing that when I was a kid and it made no sense. If you want them to be aware of that get them involved in learning and charities and activism, but don’t make them just finish what’s on their plate because another kid is starving somewhere.

There are other ways to make them respectful of the process. Let them join in with shopping and cooking and choosing together so they can see the costs and processes.

Beechview Mon 16-Nov-20 16:33:40

I do this. I have 3 dc with differing tastes so it can become a pain. I don’t make food that I know they genuinely dislike and I make sure that each of them can get a request in that week.
They know sometimes it’s just about tolerating a meal and other times it’s really enjoying it.
I just never wanted to get into the habit of making different meals.

Annasgirl Mon 16-Nov-20 16:37:52

No, but then I have a DC with medical eating issues. But you go off and feel superior with your perfect DC OP - I'm sure shaming other people's parenting makes you feel better - because why else would you do this?

Oh, and you are not alone - the number of people who have told me "just put it in front of them and make them eat it" including my obese MIL and SIL. Until you walk in someone else's shoes, please do not tell them how to parent their DC.

LittleMissLockdown Mon 16-Nov-20 16:38:59

Some of my earliest - and most unpleasant- memories are of sitting in front of plates of food that I either didn't like or else was too full to eat, and being told that I couldn't get down from the table until I'd eaten enough.

Likewise! I hated cheese growing up but my aunt in particular was of the opinion that I should eat it and be grateful that someone had cooked for me. I got very good at spending hours sitting at a table apparently being stubborn.

Guess what nearly 30 years later I still dont like cheese and I have no intention of putting my children through such unnecessary trauma and stress all on the basis of needing to be grateful that an adult had prepared a meal they had no say in.

mynameiscalypso Mon 16-Nov-20 16:40:55

Medievalist

Some of my earliest - and most unpleasant- memories are of sitting in front of plates of food that I either didn't like or else was too full to eat, and being told that I couldn't get down from the table until I'd eaten enough.

I don't have a very healthy relationship with food.

With my own kids, as soon as they were old enough, we would discuss what we were going to eat or I would cook food I knew they would enjoy. I know some people would frown on this but I was quite happy to adapt meals to suit different tastes, or even cook different meals. Nobody was expected to carry on eating once they were full.

My adult children all have healthy relationships with food.

Maybe my approach was wrong and a reaction to my mother's understandable attitude of not wasting a scrap of food which presumably came from wartime rationing.


Same. It's one of the causes of the years of eating disorders I've suffered. I am determined not to inflict similar on my child.

SnuggyBuggy Mon 16-Nov-20 16:42:53

Also I can't speak for everyone but the starving children thing didn't work on me anyway.

SandMason Mon 16-Nov-20 16:44:01

Thanks for the responses, to be clear, I’m not talking about force feeding or finishing a plate after they’re full, more like what @Beechview said about ‘tolerating’ food you don’t necessarily love, but is perfectly fine out of respect, and because you need to eat.

OP’s posts: |
SnuggyBuggy Mon 16-Nov-20 16:45:56

I think reducing availability of snacks and junk food can help you enjoy ordinary meals more. I even find that as an adult.

Finfintytint Mon 16-Nov-20 16:45:58

We always provided varied food with choices which meant there was something for everyone. I can’t remember cooking alternative dishes for DS because I knew he’d eat some combinations on offer ( never the fish, as apparently I was trying to poison him, lol).
He’s an adult now and has recently stated “ We never ate the same thing twice”. Not true but his false memory is endearing. He’s a pescatarian now too.

Mustfly Mon 16-Nov-20 16:50:01

Like most aspects of parenting, this comes down to the blend of personalities...of the parent and child/children. Added to circumstances.
My eldest was and still is at the age of 12, incredibly picky. From weaning onwards he was a nightmare. For years he only ate scrambled eggs on toast or cheese sandwiches. Even now it's beige food only.
My two younger sons...eat anything and everything! They have their dislikes, but oh the relief of realising it wasn't all my fault! I'm a fairly laid back parent, paired first off with an incredibly stubborn and sensitive child...I'm not arguing and stressing three. times a day every day about meals when I can't win. It's a faff cooking twice, but no-one said parenting was easy!
He passed for grammar school, is about to go off for county cricket trials as soon as lockdown ends...he's managed ok on the beige food! And I appreciate how lucky I am that my other two don't have his food issue.
I never worry about the smug parents...kids have a funny way of eventually knocking the smugness out of you! I've had a bad eater, a bad sleeper, a late potty trainer...they were all marvellous in other ways and I'm just doing the best I can!

WhatHaveIFound Mon 16-Nov-20 16:50:28

It's hard isn't it. Apart from the early weaning i've never made seperate kids meals so they've always eaten what's put in front of them at a family meal.

However I don't force them to eat it and don't make things that i know they're not keen on. There's some juggling with meals as DD has at times been vegatarian and DS is a commited meat eater.

I remember being forced to eat spinach when I was a child and it took me a long time to like it. It taste a lot better when it doesn't come out of a can!

LittleMissLockdown Mon 16-Nov-20 16:51:11

more like what *Beechview said about ‘tolerating’ food you don’t necessarily love, but is perfectly fine out of respect, and because you need to eat.*

The trouble I have with expecting children to tolerate food they dont actually enjoy is that I as an adult don't have to do that so why should I inflict that attitude on my child? Fpod should be enjoyable.

If I go to someone's house for dinner they've usually asked me as the guest what I would like to eat. If I go to a restaurant then I choose something I will enjoy. Children have decades to develop their palette so why not give them food you know they will enjoy whilst they are still young. It just seems like making an argument for the sake of having something to argue about.

diplodocusinermine Mon 16-Nov-20 16:53:00

I wouldn't serve up something I know someone didn't like, but fussiness is dealt with by serving a plain alternative and no pudding. audweb - DH eats what I choose all the time, because I'm the one who does the cooking!

I agree with people who say perhaps get the children involved in the shopping and cooking, or perhaps they choose one meal a week - if they choose pizza every time, make homemade pizza and ring the changes with the ingredients.

I saw enough friends run themselves ragged cooking 3 different meals every day trying to cater for food fussiness (NOT genuine food issues or real dislike of a certain food) that I swore I would never go down that route.

User415373 Mon 16-Nov-20 16:53:42

There is definately a balance. I have a very healthy relationship with food. When I was growing up it wasn't something I liked every night - but I didn't have to eat it.
The 3 of us kids each had favourites and mum cooked a variety through the week. On curry night I'd eat rice and naan bread because I don't like curry. On spag bol night my sister would eat the spaghetti and garlic bread because she doesn't like bol.
I was grateful to my mum as I saw her struggle so much. It was never forced and every now and again I'd give it another go.
Very useful for later life too. When teaching abroad, hosts would cook all sorts that we weren't used to. It was eat or go hungry and many of the other volunteers went hungry and ended up ill because they were used to always having what they liked and had never just ate for fuel.

Hadalifeonce Mon 16-Nov-20 16:54:16

I know where you are coming from, I never forced my DC to finish if they were full, I tried to generally make meals they liked; but it really used to grate, if they had something new and just stated they didn't like it without trying.

The worst was a snack of mango, DS flatly refused it, I tried encouraging him to try it, started getting really frustrated, DD had eaten nearly all of it before DS reluctantly took the smallest piece he could find, he absolutely loved it and wanted it every day!

Glitterinthegrey Mon 16-Nov-20 16:55:53

It really depends on the child - my oldest has always been fussy, and has issues with texture that prevent her eating some foods. She has also got an incredibly strong gag reflex, and if she doesn't like something has actually vomited at the table before. No point forcing the issue, it would only make matters worse. That said, I don't just let her eat rubbish, she still has a healthy diet. We just accept that if she says she doesn't like something, she's not going to eat it and that's that.
My youngest on the other hand eats more or less everything she's given, and even if she doesn't like something she'll polish it off if she's hungry and just ask not to have it again.

midnightstar66 Mon 16-Nov-20 16:56:05

Mine eat most things as I kept just serving them it when small but making no fuss of they didn't eat. If it was something they seemed not to like then I'd put a little bit rather than loads. Almost everything has been eaten eventually. I never made separate meals, just made sure there was something in each meal everyone liked. Now if they say they don't like something I know they genuinely mean it and I wouldn't force them to eat but I also wouldn't cook what I know they really won't eat. They both eat more than most adults I know

BackforGood Mon 16-Nov-20 16:56:06

My thinking is similar to @mindutopia's.

I am also a person - like, I suspect the overwhelming majority of my generation (I'm mid 50s) - who was expected to eat what was in front of them and expected to eat it all up. I don't have a poor relationship with food, nor does anyone else I know, my age. There isn't the correlation that is implied by one or two folks saying they do. I would actually say my 'relationship' is pretty positive, and helpful. I will try anything, and am appreciative of the effort that someone has gone into making a meal for me, even if it wouldn't be my choice.
For my own (now adult) dc, they too have understood the message "This is what the meal is, take it or leave it". Like many (most?) families, we were at work in the day, and then in and out in the evenings for actiities and hobbies, and we were also on a budget. There just was never the capacity (budget or time) to start producing a menus of choices for a family meal. Now, before anyone has a hissy fit, obviously we would avoid anything one of them hated with a passion, or, of course, one could have more broccolli and no sliced beans, or whatever, but if that day it was spag bol, then spag bol it was for everyone.

BefuddledPerson Mon 16-Nov-20 16:56:59

to me it’s more important that they are respectful of the food (and by extension of the effort/time/money that’s gone into providing it) not wasteful, and grateful for what they are given

This sounds genuinely quite weird, you're saying that mealtimes are all about the person who prepares the food, and the food itself, rather than the person eating the food.

I think your approach to food is very authoritarian and old fashioned. I wouldn't approach my children this way.

For the record, my kids ate very well and nine times out of ten without fuss. But if they didn't like something, I respected their view without taking it personally.

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