When my brothers and I were young, my parents were very particular about our eating habits. This is not to say that they were particularly worried about what we ate but rather worried about what we Didn’t eat! Yes, That's right. We were allowed to eat anything we wanted - in moderation of course. What was a cause for worry was not finishing our food.
We were never allowed to leave the table without finishing what was on our plates. A grimace or grumble about the taste of certain foods would earn us a reprimand or a quick rap on our knuckles. There was no such thing as “I don’t want that” or “I don’t like this.” That was simply not allowed. So much so that we grew up eating anything and everything.
That was good because that meant that food was never an issue with us. We could eat anywhere and my parents would never have to worry about what food the kids were going to eat. I can still remember my father smiling proudly whenever other parents used to pass comments about how “good we were” because we ate everything without complaining. Hey, you’d eat anything too if you knew how strict my father was!
I remember him regaling us with stories of how children in other parts of the world were starving and that we should all be grateful that we had food on our table and how by not eating our food we were depriving starving children of a meal and yes, you get the idea. I also remember thinking that my father’s argument didn’t really make sense as even if I didn’t finish my food, there was no way that a child in another part of the world could get my food anyway. Yes, very logical but completely selfish.
That childhood ‘training’ has stayed with me till today and there is nothing that I will not eat nowadays. Sure, I have my preferences but I still eat everything. I find it very difficult to actually pinpoint a food that I will not eat. I can tell you a lot of food that I don’t particularly like, but there is nothing that I will not eat.
I’m trying to pass that on to my children and that is why I was rather upset the other day to find that my son was picking onions out of his food. When I chided him, he gave the excuse that “onions make me feel like vomiting.” I found that rather hard to believe because he has enjoyed breaded onion rings before and has also never complained when eating food with chopped onions in it. This was apparently an aversion to ‘visible onions’ and had nothing to do with making him feel like vomiting. I insisted that he ate every piece of onion on his plate and when he looked at me with his doe like eyes, I immediately started on that age old story about starving children in other parts of the world.
I have a whole host of nieces and nephews who are also picky about their food. Some wont eat any meat other than lamb. Talk about rich tastes! Most of them refuse to eat spicy food or at least whine a lot when it comes to eating food with chilli in it. Fortunately my own two kids relish the spiciness and piquancy of curries and other Malaysian goodies. My own kids also will usually eat anything that is put in front of them.
This just reinforces my belief that children will eat what they are exposed to. I firmly believe that it all lies in their upbringing. If from an early age you allow your children to be picky eaters, they will always be picky eaters. However, if you insist, bearing any allergies, that they eat everything and anything, then they will always be happy to try new foods and will never have any trouble eating anything.
It may seem harsh to ‘force’ young children to eat what they don’t like but I think this just builds character and also imparts a valuable lesson that we should be grateful for whatever food we have to eat – regardless of whether we like it or not. There are too many people, both children and adults alike, that don’t even have enough food for their daily meals to allow us to let our children be picky about what they eat.
I also believe that if you try something often enough, a soon as you get used to it, you will find that its really not so bad and you may actually wonder why you disliked it so much in the fist place. Who knows, you may even start to like it.
So the next time someone tells you that their child is a picky eater, ask them how their child got that way. Same thing too if you, yourself think that your child is a picky eater. How did they get that way? Picky eaters are raised and not born. Expose your kids to all sorts of foods and insist that they eat everything on their plate. That way you can be assured of NOT raising a picky eater.
That’s what I think anyway…
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