Festive family meals – happy holidays or a recipe for stress?


xmas24For the most part, children’s mealtime behaviour happens behind closed doors.  However, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or a feast day from another cultural tradition, big family meals mean eating in front of many people  – often a time when parents of fussy eaters feel judged.  Many parents tell me that they avoid revealing the full extent of their child’s restricted eating because they are embarrassed about it or feel that it’s some kind of reflection on them. At big family meals, there’s nowhere to hide.

If you are worried about making it through to the new year without any  food dramas, follow these three tips: Continue reading

Toddlers – feed them the same as the rest of the family!

My last post was all about what research tells us about the importance of eating together as a family whenever possible. When I  came across a study earlier this week about the impact of feeding children the same meal as the rest of the family, it seemed like the ideal follow on.  Eat together – eat the same.

bigstock-Beef-Fajitas-42692830My model, EAF, is based around a few key principles and rules. One of these, which I have written about elsewhere , is “Serve everybody everything“. The logic behind this  has several strands to it.

1. The factor that has the most influence on how children eat is how the people around them eat. This is what psychologists call modelling. It makes sense then, that if children are given the same food as the adults in their family, they are more likely to consider more foods and flavours acceptable than if they are given separate, blander dishes. Continue reading

Why Family Meals Matter

Since ancient times, eating has been a communal business. We celebrate with food. We use food to mark significant cultural occasions. We re-group at the end of the day and share a meal along with our news. In recent times, however, there are so many demands on our time that the family meal is no longer the institution it used to be. Some research conducted in the UK a few years ago found that 10% of families never sat down to a meal together, with a further 10% saying it only happened once a week.

bigstock-Family-Eating-Meal-Together-At-46447096So what is the value in eating together as a family? As children get older and busier, it becomes logistically more and more difficult to get everyone together at the same place at the same time to eat the same thing. And does it really matter? Continue reading

Food, Learning and Fun – a guest post by Junior Chefs Academy

UK based Junior Chef’s Academy is all about helping young people to make smarter choices about healthy eating by making food education fun. I feel strongly that getting children cooking is a vital part of helping them form a good relationship with food (plus it’s fun! ) so I invited Junior Chef’s Academy to contribute a guest post about the value of getting children into the kitchen, handling and learning about food. Here’s what Junior Chef’s Academy director, Sue Cooper had to say:


Sue Cooper of Junior Chef’s Academy

So much of what children learn about food depends on context. I know this is a subject that Jo has covered before but I wanted to underscore some of her very important messages and to give our own perspective on the importance of positivity when introducing children to new foods.

I say ‘our’ perspective; I’m writing this post as a director of Junior Chefs’ Academy – Britain’s leading provider of practical food education workshops for primary age children. We started out as a small family business back in 2005 and we now work with around 50,000 children every year, visiting schools up and down the country.

In a previous post, Jo said that children are “little emotional sponges” and that seems absolutely right to me. They really pick up on a mood and that can strongly affect their response to an opportunity. In all our workshops, right from the word ‘go’ we do everything possible to generate a sense of action and excitement. Partly, that’s because we think that’s the best way to keep kids engaged and absorbing information, but it’s also very much about creating a strong association in their minds between food, learning and fun. Continue reading

In this short film I help mum of two, Michelle, with her little boy’s picky eating…

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 14.24.53 (1)It was a huge pleasure to work with Michelle – I wanted to share this video so that other parents can understand that they are not alone with their concerns about picky eating. It is a really common problem and can cause a huge amount of stress to parents and children alike. Luckily, there are some straightforward changes that you can make to family life which will make an enormous amount of difference.

Mess and your picky eater

Child In PuddleI have a two year old. This means that a lot of my time is spent picking food up from every visible surface (and some less visible ones… it’s amazing what the underside of a booster-seat can harbour). Sometimes this is frustrating, sometimes it’s plain disgusting. It is, however, essential. Here are three reasons why messy mealtimes are so important:

1.If you are feeling stressed and worried about mess, your child will pick up these feelings

So much of picky eating is about emotions.  I have written elsewhere about how children are little emotional sponges, subconsicously sensing all the feelings around them, even if they cannot always understand or interpret them. If you are anxious about your child making a mess, she will feel anxious too. This will without doubt negatively affect her eating.

2. If you make a big effort to avoid messy mealtimes, your child will learn that food  can be threatening

Continue reading

Your diet during pregnancy can help prevent picky eating

Eat a varied diet during pregnancy

Eat a healthy and varied diet during pregnancy

Doing what you can to try to prevent your child becoming a picky eater does not start with weaning. It does not even start with how you feed your new-born (although there is some interesting research about the impact of breastfeeding on  children’s food preferences). It starts in pregnancy.

According to the very informative ‘what to expect’ website, babies are tasting the amniotic fluid that surrounds them from about 21 weeks.

Researchers at the Monell Chemical Center in Philadelphia,  found that what a mother eats in pregnancy heavily influences her child’s palate. The New York Times quoted researcher Julie Menella who was involved in the study. She puts it bluntly:

“…where you start is where you end up”

Menella and her colleagues concluded that the greater the variety of foods you eat during pregnancy, the more open to a wide range of flavours your child will be.

An Australian study described in the New Phoenix Times, found that Continue reading