With childhood obesity on the rise there is a lot of debate and conversation on the topic of how we can raise our children to have a healthy diet and to discourage them over eating. As somebody who always strives for a healthy lifestyle, this is a particularly important subject to me and I feel so strongly about raising Darcie to have healthy food habits and a really positive relationship with food. For me this doesn’t mean banning chocolate from the house, forcing vegetables into her or restricting her portion size, instead it’s about balance, about eating your five a day but also treating yourself to a piece of cake every now and then.
I’ve seen first hand how damaging it can be when controlling what you eat spirals out of control, and the effect it can have on a person if they start to see certain foods as ‘bad’. If we start to see foods as ‘bad’ or out of bounds then what does that say about us when we eat them, it can lead to feelings of guilt and low self worth. These aren’t feelings we should have about food, as humans we eat for sustenance but also for enjoyment and there is no shame in enjoying your food.
The health visiting team in my area recommended to us that we didn’t give Darcie much refined sugar or processed foods before her first birthday, and it will come as no surprise to anyone that knows us (Dan in particular) that we stuck to this religiously. Those first six months of weaning Darcie onto solid foods can only be described as a total success, there were hardly any foods that she didn’t want to eat and she really enjoyed (and still does) eating fruits and vegetables with every meal. We did baby led weaning which meant she was essentially eating the same foods that we were, she was able to see us enjoying them and in turn enjoyed being a part of that. I became used to the odd comment about ‘surely she can have a biscuit?’ at baby groups and feeling like the mean Mummy at Easter when she didn’t get any chocolate eggs. But I am so glad that we stuck to our guns as by the time her birthday rolled around she had a diverse range of foods that she loved and firm favourites like oranges, raspberries and cheese.
She didn’t know that she was missing out on these sweet foods and was more than happy having her own treats, I’ve seriously never seen anyone get more excited over a punnet of raspberries. The same went for her drinks, she has only recently (at 13 months old) tried juice or any drink other than water and milk. We had a cake smash for her shortly after her birthday and she couldn’t have been less fussed about eating the cake, I actually think we would have been better off doing a watermelon smash instead! Slowly we have been introducing ‘treat’ foods to her, she absolutely loves chocolate but would still choose a handful of blueberries over a Jammy Dodger. Her first ice cream experience was a seriously underwhelming experience but in hindsight we probably picked the wrong flavour. We are now two months in to this introduction of sugary foods and it has been so much fun. I have such a sweet tooth and I love introducing her to my favourite treats and seeing her reaction. We often go out to a cafe and share a piece of chocolate fudge cake and it is one of my favourite things to do together, she loves sitting up in the highchair, making friends with everyone around her and enjoying her cake.
As she grows up I want to continue exactly as we have been doing so far, having the odd treat here and there and it being a positive thing, not for it to be seen as a ‘cheat’ or something to be ashamed of, and also bringing out strawberries and blueberries for pudding as well. I want her to continue loving the food that she eats and eating it for the right reasons; that she is enjoying it and that it is fuelling her body. I’m going to keep introducing her to different flavours and textures and encouraging her to enjoy whatever she is eating whether it be a Bulgar Wheat salad, a spicy curry or a sticky brownie. There is a time and a place for all different types of food and I will never tell her that a food that she wants to eat is ‘bad’, as long as she always has a balance between all the food groups and maintains a positive attitude towards food then that is what I consider to be ‘a healthy child’.