How to create a foodie for life

January 7, 2016 , In: Figuring it Out, Toddler , With: 14 Comments
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Creating A Foodie For Life | RoastedMontreal.com

While browsing photos on Flickr I came across Emily Mitchell and fell absolutely in love with every aspect of her work.  I wrote to Emily to see if I could use the above photograph for my previous post on Adventurous Eaters.  The turnaround was too short, but when Emily read that the photo was to be used for a post on food struggles in toddlers she replied with the most amazing response.

My son will eat just about anything (as will my daughter), but this didn’t happen on its own. We travel a lot, and you cannot have picky eaters when you travel. They have to eat what they’re given when you give it to them, because you’re constantly on the move, constantly experimenting, moving, going long hours, eating wherever you happen to be. We stay out late, we enjoy good food, we enjoy good wine and long conversations. And our children tag along. That is just our lifestyle. It’s not unusual for us to be out at a restaurant for close to 3 hours, and the children do great. Even when they were just 2 and a baby, we’d take them to 5-star restaurants. This summer, they dined with us at their first Michelin star restaurant, Le Petit cave in Saignon, France. They ate everything. And the owner invited us back.

We were able to travel several weeks in Canada in the fall and again in the winter, and spend all summer in France without issue. If we hadn’t trained our children to know and love good food, we’d have had mid-afternoon meltdowns over Goldfish and cheese sticks in a country where they didn’t exist. Instead, they ate pate and escargot and salads and all kinds of foreign cheeses and exotic foods. They ate Andouille sausages, quiche, rabbit, steak, and duck regularly without complaint.

Our philosophy is that if a child is hungry enough, he will eat what’s in front of him. So what we do is simple: starting around age 3, they must eat at least 2 regular-sized bites of everything on their plate, or the entire plate is re-served to them at the next meal or snack time and they must eat it all before they are served any other food. We are religious about this rule. We have served plenty of dinner leftovers for breakfast. I’ve taken leftovers out to restaurants. I’ve taken restaurant leftovers home. Some think our strategy is unfair, but it works. And to me, the health benefits outweigh the risks of their temporary discomfort and unhappiness. When sickness makes the rounds at school, our children almost never fall ill.

With our first child, I think we only had to re-serve a plate a second time on 7 or 8 instances before we no longer had a problem. With our second, only 2 or 3 instances. There was only one time I had to serve a meal more than twice. It was tortellini, and it took 9 times! And I did feed him milk and a mercy banana during the course of the day-and-a-half-long battle. After that, we agreed the children would be allowed dislikes and honor them respectfully within reason. For my son, it’s tortellini or tuna. For my daughter, it’s tomatoes. So when those things are served, they just get larger portions of the other side dishes and may get themselves bread if they wish. And neither likes tootsie rolls. My son won’t touch cotton candy, and he’s also quite picky about artificial dyes now. He tells me that fruit snacks are “not real food.” And he can recognize other fake foods as well, like colored cereals, cheese puffs, and bologna. GoGurt, for example, also really weirds him out. And he thinks single-serve applesauce squeeze packets are a strange and wasteful idea. I can’t say I blame him.

I got the idea that our children would not be resigned to “kid” food one night when we were travelling through Utah and I saw an episode of Bizarre Foods in our hotel room. The host showed a little Brazilian girl a plastic jar full of peanut butter without a label on it. He asked her if she would eat it, and she scrunched up her nose and giggled in joking disgust, as an American kid would if you suggested she eat a cricket. He irreverently squeezed the jar of peanut butter at her until it looked like it would ooze forth. And they both laughed. I watched her happily eat what the rest of her family ate. And that was it for me. At the time, my eldest hadn’t started solid foods yet, but I knew from that moment how things would be.

We rarely order from a kid’s menu, unless it’s a burger joint. They eat food from our plates. We never, ever cook a separate meal for them at home. And now that they’re 3 and 5, there are rarely ever snacks, so they are hungry for dinner.

The result is grateful, adventurous eaters who are at home wherever they go in the world. No arguments, no pleading. Better nutrition. No portable applesauce required.

Wow.

I’ve re-read her email about ten times and every time I just am so amazed. Thank-you Emily for opening up my eyes to other ideas.

What do you think?  Do you think it’s way too intense or a very short amount of hard work for a lifetime of benefits?  

And lastly, thanks to Emily for not only the detailed response above but wonderful responses to my other queries and for her beautiful photography in particular.  I really fell in love with it to the point where it inspired me to start to fall in love with doing photography  again and in a professional manner.  Her photos were the first family photos I ever saw and said ‘yes – I get this and I want to do this’.  They changed my world.

 Check out her website and watch her videos.  This gal is amazing.

(Photo Credit Emily Mitchell at Everyday Films)

 

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  1. Reply

    Yes yes yes! This is 95% what we do in the Morrice household, inspired by our frequent travels, church being during dinner time on Sundays, and of course our love for food. I agree that we need to allow for some dislikes, because we have them too! But I’ve read that they should try something 20x before being allowed to declare a dislike. Oli’s is salmon, which breaks my heart because the girls and we parents adore it. Lily’s is avocado, which is similarly saddening! Our one difference is we do many 2 meals- because we eat when our three are asleep and I don’t want my food reheated haha!

      • Michelle
      • January 7, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Emily! Very impressive! I have heard that they need to try something 20x too – I’m impressed that you are so persistent! I think I need to try harder but sometimes I just am so frustrated I give in. Who knows – maybe some day your kids will change their tastes and like those foods – you never know!

    • Kristen
    • January 7, 2016
    Reply

    I’m kind of 50/50 on that approach. I feel like my job is to provide healthy and delicious food (and to provide lots of different food experiences) and my child’s job is to eat as much as he wants to eat. Some days that is one bite of everything. Some days that’s 2 helpings of everything. I’m ok with leaving the uneaten portions as options for the rest of the day…but I don’t think I’d push it much farther than that. I think the ‘clean your plate’ rule can lead to its own food issues (it may or may not…it definitely depends on a LOT of factors).
    I think it is ok not to like things…I don’t like blue cheese, I don’t like ketchup…both of those things I didn’t like as a child either. But I did learn that revisiting foods is always a good idea…I didn’t like tomatoes until I was an adult, same with feta cheese, spicy food, and numerous other things. I like the idea of serving a variety of foods throughout the week and modelling trying new foods.

      • Michelle
      • January 7, 2016
      Reply

      I think it’s so interesting to hear what everyone has to say on this. Everyone has a different approach with their kids and find what works for them.
      And, I don’t like blue cheese either. Yucks!

        • Kristen
        • January 15, 2016
        Reply

        Yes! That’s the great thing about life and about parenting – everyone does things differently. (Which is extra helpful to know when things aren’t working the way we’ve tried them…there are always other options to try)

    • Jennifer
    • January 7, 2016
    Reply

    Interesting.. as I have told you before, Lila is a good eater, but since the holidays my biggest challenge is to get her to SIT down. Once she does, she’ll eat what’s in front of her, but getting her to sit has been a struggle, all she wants to do is play. I have started to eat my own supper and tell her this is her only chance for dinner, maybe i need her to understand that this could very well become her breakfast too. thanks for sharing, it’s giving me a lot to think about as I start really dealing with boundaries and behaviour post holidays.

    • Susan
    • January 7, 2016
    Reply

    I agree with Kristen’s comments above. I find the “two bites of everything or the whole plate gets re-served” rule to be very rigid and punitive. You might be interested in checking out Ellyn Satter’s writing on kids and food. It seems that turning mealtimes into a battle can cause problems down the road (in addition to being unpleasant for everyone at the time). I think that continuing to offer a variety of foods, prepared in different ways, in a low-pressure environment, is the way to go. My kids generally eat a wide variety of things, but will occasionally eat a meal of nothing but bread; other times, they might eat only the broccoli. One day they can’t get enough carrots, the next day they won’t touch carrots. It seems to all balance out in the end. I don’t quite understand the peanut butter anecdote. I don’t think peanut butter is inherently such a terrible food; what meaning did the little girl’s disgust have to the author? It’s great that she ate what her family was eating, but wouldn’t it have been even cooler if she had been willing to try something new?

      • Michelle
      • January 8, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Susan,

      I am finding it fascinating how everyone has a different take on this. In publishing this post both myself and Emily knew it would bring about a wide range of thoughts from people who loved the idea to people who would think it was just wrong. Thanks for letting me know about Ellyn Satter – I’m interested to check her out!

      xx Michelle

    • Steve
    • January 8, 2016
    Reply

    Fascinating! Good advice for a new dad here- seems the idea is to keep food rejection outside the realm of possibility. Dislikes, sure, one bite and quit, sure, but you’re gonna try it. Not trying it is simply not part of the vocabulary. Thanks!

      • Michelle
      • January 13, 2016
      Reply

      Glad you liked the article Steve!

    • Linh
    • January 13, 2016
    Reply

    I don’t have my own children yet but I definitely agree that this is the way to go. I grew up with foodie parents myself and just from doing similar things to those mentioned in your post, I was never a candy. junk food type. I actually preferred home cook meals growing up and fast food was only if we were in a rush – last resort. I’m a strong believer on developing your palate (sp?) as a child and once you grow up, it’ll be so familar and habitual for you to eat healthy. My dad grew up in France so he would always make me eat weird stuff like blue cheese (i love roquefort but that is because he constantly made me eat it), cold cuts, cheeses, boudin, etc Same thing with my mom who has a very strong Vietnamese background and always made me try things so i’ll be more open to less generic foods.

      • Michelle
      • January 13, 2016
      Reply

      Sounds like you’re set! That’s great that you were exposed to so many foods when you were little – what a wonderful experience!

  2. Reply

    I loved this. My son is 15 months and he eats everything. We have been big on not giving him snacks throughout the day since he started solids (which wasn’t even a conscious decision to help him eat more at meals!) and he has consistently eaten what we eat. I have a bit of grace the first time we introduce a food (let’s say its spicy curry chicken) and he has a bite and doesn’t want more… in that case I let him eat more of the other foods on his plate but I don’t offer him a substitute just to make sure he will eat. He is always hungry enough to eat and if he doesn’t want what’s on his plate then he clearly isn’t hungry!
    I wondered how you made this work with other family members though? I feel like when we leave him with his grandparents I spend a solid day or two undoing habits he learns there because they feed him snacks all day long and if he doesn’t like the first bite of a meal eggs they go and add ketchup or offer him something totally different..

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Michelle Little

Writer & Photographer

Originally from the prairies and now in Montreal, I love exploring new places, eating great food and modern design. I'm mom of two wild things and paper and cake make me happy. Photographing your cutie family would make me very happy.

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