My now 13 month old baby is (for the most part) a great eater. I find myself swelling with pride if people remark on it, as they see him wolfing down a plate of food that they wouldn’t have a hope in hell of getting past their child’s lips.
Then I check myself, and remember that this is far more down to the roll of a dice than anything extraordinary that I am doing. And that I shouldn’t be too smug, as he could well do an about turn at any stage and only want to eat crisps.
All Mums want what’s best for their children – that’s a given. But there is so much competition and scaremongery around diet and nutrition, that it has become just another thing for us to feel shit about. My friend’s first baby was eating mackerel pate and olives at 8 months old. We were in awe of whatever gastro-magic she was working, but fast forward 4 years and her second will only eat bread, pasta and cheese. She didn’t do anything differently, but what we seem to forget is that babies and children are individuals. If they hate the taste of mushrooms, they hate the taste of mushrooms. No amount of making a symmetrical dinner out of them will change that.
I spoke to a chef working in a Michelin starred restaurant once, who always pretended she’d left the grill on when anyone said “Oh your kids must have amazing palates!”. She had the exact same battles as any other Mother, and told me she had often fallen back on tinned spaghetti on toast. What did people expect her kids to eat? Truffle infused veal with a sippy cup of jus on the side? That’s as illogical as someone expecting the child of a dentist to grow teeth quicker, (well, not quite, but I like the comparison).
There are Mums who wear their babies’ diets like badges of honour. I met a woman recently who said she had overhauled her diet by including “ancient grains”, and so was doing the same for her two children, “Lots of quinoa, buckwheat and chia; like the Aztecs” she boasted. (It wasn’t well received when I pointed out the average life expectancy of an Aztec was about 40).
I never want to judge any Mum (apart from the aforementioned “like the Aztecs” one. She was a pain in the arse), because as I have said, I genuinely believe we are all just doing our best. If you have the time to cook simple meals from scratch, and give your babies the chance to try new foods, great! If your children love their pizza bases made from cauliflower, kudos to you all! If your kids will eat nothing but mashed potato, then don’t stress too much; it won’t last forever. If you’re often knackered and reach for the pasta and cheese grater, give yourself a break.
Food is fuel for little ones, and we obsess over it too much. Use your common sense, avoid giving your kids too much salt and fat, encourage healthy eating, try and introduce new foods as and when you can, and everything will eventually fall into place. And by all means make chia seed puddings if you want to, but equally don’t forget that the term “superfood” was invented by a marketing company.