E+E Column: ​’Just try it, you might like it…’

This evening I managed to sneak a whole head of cabbage into our tomato and lentil soup without the kids noticing, or more importantly, complaining. It got me thinking though…why are kids universally so weird when it comes to food? With a few exceptions and the odd very specific dislike, most adults I know are very open minded when it comes to trying new foods and are amenable to a wide variety of foods. Every child I know, in contrast, is either very limited in what foods they will eat, are adverse to trying new foods or have gone through a fussy period that has now passed. 
It’s been the subject of countless books, articles and discussions on parenting forums and seems to be an issue that has plagued parents for generations; for once, not a new phenomena. But why? I can understand a certain reluctance to eat when they’ve been interrupted mid-play or when they have friends around. For a small person, there are a lot of things that must seem a lot more exciting than eating. But then when they are hungry, why is there often such resistance? 

At first I thought it might be a throwback from evolution, perhaps their gut instinct is to stick with what works. If they know what foods they like, what makes them feel full up, what helps them grow, perhaps they don’t want to deviate and try something unknown that might make them feel ill or not nourish them? But then perhaps (probably!) I’m reading too much into it. Perhaps it merely comes down to issues of maturity and control. So much of a child’s life is controlled and organised by their parents, food is possibly the one area where they feel that they can claw back some control. No matter how much cajoling, admonshing and bribing a parent delivers…ultimately, the child is the only one who can choose what they let pass their lips. As adults, we are able to choose what we prepare for our meals but rarely do we let children choose for themselves with the exception of sandwich filling or cereals. It must be pretty frustrating to have to eat what you are given, even if you don’t fancy it and to not be able to choose what you want to eat. Even worse when your parent presents you with something you’ve never eaten before that looks a bit odd…

I love getting a weekly veg box but it does sometimes present problems as I struggle to creatively serve some rather obscure veggies in a manner that the kids will accept. For the record, Sophia does not like kohlrabi fritters, neither of them particularly like chard pie and everyone (myself included) struggled with roast oca’s (a small knobbly tuber)! I’ve finally concluded that the best approach is to prepare a mix of familiar and unfamiliar meals over the course of a week, to try and always have something on the plate that I know they’ll like and most importantly, just to relax. At the end of the day, they’re not going to starve and if they don’t like takeaway curries or roast lamb quite yet, I’m sure they’ll grow to like them one day and for now that just means more for me! 

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