I love food and in particular I love eating food. I can't even narrow it down to a particular type of food because I'm not remotely fussy. I strongly dislike bananas and don't go a bundle on liver or kidneys but apart from that, I'll scoff most things. I enjoy cooking and, gradually, I think I'm getting reasonably good at it.
Despite loving food, I'm currently a fairly slim person. I'm not a naturally slim person, though. The fact that I put on five stone (yep...) when pregnant with Arran and a mere three stone when pregnant with Eilidh is a testament to that. I was going to post pictures to illustrate that I'm not lying about this, but actually just looking at pics of me at my blimpiest makes me want to cry. It's taken hard work, exercise and a hell of a lot of sheer willpower to not stay like that forever. Fortunately, I'm extremely stubborn, which works against me in a lot of situations but has its benefits. 'In the zone' my husband calls it, sometimes adding 'You're scary when you're in the zone'.
Since I have my own weight demons, as do a lot of my family and my husband's family, FOOD is a big topic that I think about a lot. Therefore, I've thought extremely hard about how I want to raise my children in terms of their relationship with food. I've come up with a set of rules that I try to live by:
1) No food is off limits. My children have always been allowed to eat some of anything that is on offer. My one caveat to that is that I restricted salt intake for them as babies and still keep a good eye on salt content. I think human nature makes people want what they can't have, and so I think forbidding any kind of food, however unhealthy, must surely make it seem golden. They can have a taste of anything sugary, salty, spicy, whatever. Everything in moderation. As they get older, I aim to help them understand that some foods are less healthy and so we eat them less often.
2) What's on offer is what's on offer. I cook a healthy meal for us most nights, and it's served up to everyone. Since Eilidh has been so easy to wean (wanting to eat proper food from a young age) it's been a dream as, apart from taking the edge off anything spicy using yoghurt, we all eat the same. If they don't like it - that's too bad. There are no alternatives offered. It's really hard sometimes if they don't seem to eat much, as I hate the thought of them going to bed with hungry tummies. Sometimes I'll offer a bit of bread and butter for 'supper' later if they really haven't eaten much, or sometimes I'll cook something I know they like, if, for example, they've been unwell and I really need to see them eat a big plateful.
3) Nobody has to clear their plate. I was raised by parents who grew up in post-war austerity. They were very much of the 'eat it all up' mentality, which is very typical of their generation. I do disagree with it, though, as I think that children are the best judges of their appetites. They know when they are full and they stop eating. Teaching them from an early age to over-ride their innate ability to assess when they're full doesn't seem sensible to me. My children are allowed to eat as much or as little as they like. It seems crazy to assume that I would be able to put the exact amount they need onto a plate in front of them.
4) Sensitive spoon feeding. Tying in with 3, I think that it's very, very easy when spoonfeeding a baby to feel tempted to scrape the bowl clean and get that last mouthful into them. Tricks like 'here comes the airplane!' spring to mind. If a child needs to be cajoled or tricked into eating, I reckon they probably don't need to eat and it's us that has the problem with the leftover food, not them.
5) Pudding is not a treat. Pudding is part of the meal, not a treat. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I don't want to help develop the attitude that sweet food is a treat. I'm sure my children can come to that conclusion on their own, but I don't want to reinforce it from an early age by saying that they can only have it if they eat up all their dinner. I also don't want to encourage my children to eat more than their fill just to get to 'the good stuff'. I often put pudding out at the same time as the main course and my kids will dip between both.
6) Food is not a reward. One of my worst 'food demons' is using food as comfort. Oh a big bag of crisps and some dip will cheer me right up. I've had a rubbish day so I need a bar of chocolate. As far as possible, I'm trying not to let my children associate food with feelings. I never give them food to cheer them up. I also aim, where possible, not to use it as a bribe or a reward. I'll admit that we did stoop to smarties for potty training, but on a day-to-day basis, when wee-soaked carpets are not the alternative, I never try to get my children to do something in exchange for food.
So there you have it - my food rules. Of course, I'm a (very) fallible human being and there are certainly times when some or all of them go out of the window, but they are what I aspire to. I also have no problem whatsoever with someone coming to my house and spoon feeding my children or offering them sweeties as a reward for being good. I'm not naive enough to think that the whole world is going to operate a certain way and I can only create rules that I want to live by, not that anyone else will care about.
You might, also, totally disagree with me. These are only my own opinions and I'm sharing them here as food for thought.