|Kitty will eat perhaps a third of this|
I have recently noticed an unusually high number of women confiding in me that their toddler hardly eats anything. "He's only eaten two of those Organix carrot stick thingies today," said one on Twitter. "And I bet he won't eat anything else for the rest of the day." Others fret about fruit and vegetables. "How," they whisper, "do you get Kitty to eat vegetables?"
Answer: I DON'T. I read, earlier this year, a book that changed my attitude towards Kitty's diet and therefore my whole life, as I was so neurotic and anxious about what she ate. The book was called My Child Won't Eat! by a Spanish nutritionist called Carlos Gonzalez and it is the most brilliant book on childcare I have ever read. And as you can imagine, I've read a lot.
He basically says this:
1 It doesn't matter how much your child eats. Your child is not small and spindly because it doesn't eat, it doesn't eat because it is a small and spindly child. You cannot, he says, turn a chihuahua into an Alsatian by making it eat a lot.
2 Your child will naturally, as long as he is given a range of food to choose from, balance his own diet. It might seem like the child eats no fruit or veg, but even a little lick of broccoli here, a nibbled end of carrot there, a tiny bit of apple somewhere else, will fulfill his nutritional needs. The important thing is that fruit and veg are offered, not that they are always finished.
Small children, says Gonzalez, have tiny tummies so they go for very calorific, high energy foods - cake, sweeties, chips, toast, crisps etc; fruit and veg are all very well but they are mostly water and fibre, useless is large quantities to the small stomach.
Children in deprived areas of the developing world will become malnourished faster than adults because they cannot physically fit enough of the sort of food that is available (vegetation, berries) in their tummies in order to draw out the relevant nutrients and calories.
3 You are very unlikely to be able to cajole, bribe or force your child to eat more than it wants to, to the extent that you will alter the child's food intake in any significant way.
So, he says, don't bother. You will only upset yourself and the child.
Put the food in front of the child, let the child/children get on with it for a reasonable amount of time and say nothing about uneaten food. Never try to get more food in than they want. No "here comes the airplane" or "you have to eat this or no pudding" or anything.
"Hurrah!" I screamed, after finishing the book. I threw it over my shoulder, rubbed my hands together and vowed from that day forth not to give a shit about how much Kitty eats.
She gets food, three times a day, with snacks. She gets carbohydrate, protein, fruit and vegetables. But I do not care - DO NOT CARE - how much she eats. I cannot begin to tell you what a release it has been.
And, further, I have now banned any cooking at lunchtimes. She gets a cold lunch every day and she loves it. She has
1 carbohydrate - crackers, bread and butter
1 sort of cheese - chedder, Jarg, Dairylea, mini baby bell, whatever's floating about
1 veg - carrot sticks, cucumber, baby tomatoes or a bit of sweet pepper
1 dollop of hummous if we've got some
1 protein - some leftover chicken, or ham, or a mini pork pie
Then she has some fruit and a biscuit.
And I can't tell you how great it is not to have to cook or fucking wash up pots and pans at lunchtime as well as dinner time. And there isn't a big hot lunch stink about the house AND if she's not in the mood to eat much, you can usually put back the uneaten stuff rather than throw an entire fish-pie-and-rice concoction in the bin.
I feel like women must have felt when they first started doling out the Pill - liberated. I feel, in fact, as relieved as when I confessed to Kitty's paediatrician Dr Mike, (when Kitty had a fever of 104 for three days), that I was worried that she would get brain damage and he said: "When was the last time you heard of someone getting brain damage from a fever?" And I said "Err," and he said "Unless you put her, with her temperature of 104, in a sauna, she isn't going to get brain damage." And I said "Ok," and have ceased to worry about fevers, too.
One can wind oneself up terribly about the strangest things, when there are so many better things to get your knickers in a twist over. Like steaming!! I have had the most terrific feedback on my miracle cure and have already this morning dispensed two separate specific steaming instruction miracle cures.
I can die happy.