mangia, mangia…

EAT, EAT!! These are the favourite words of Bru’s Zia Maura who lives in Genoa, her whole life centres around feeding her family and guests and she is not happy until you finish everything and more on your plate. Alessia wouldn’t last a day with her. I spoke briefly when I started this blog about feeding in the first year, like all new moms I started off with the best intentions that my child wouldn’t be one of those “non veg eating junk loving brats”. I never used a jar once, her meals were cooked fresh every 2 days, her menu consisted of the best – sole, veal, organic chicken, organic veg, fillet, I left nothing to chance. There was no chocolate until well after her first birthday, she was off bottles completely at 20 months, she devoured a bowl of broccoli as if she was eating a bowl of ice-cream, life was good…..

But nobody prepares you for the transition from baby to independent person! It wasn’t long before my vegetable filled bubble was burst, you don’t notice it happening at first, it starts with the appetite becoming a little bit less, not eating a big bowl of dinner like she used to but you don’t really worry, it’s probably just a phase and she doesn’t need as much food as she used to, but then you wonder how she can fit that big adult size  Magnum that her deaf Italian grandmother(she has selective hearing when I object) has given her! It was nothing short of amazing really how she changed from the perfect eater to the worst possible eater overnight. She basically just stopped eating, she wouldn’t touch a vegetable in its true form, eating meat went out the window unless it was ham, yogurts and fruit were just for babies, she became obsessed with chips so we weren’t left with much! Bread, pasta and soup were our saviours! She never ate breakfast, point-blank refused,  the only food I could get her to eat was pasta or soup so this was the only way I could get vegetables into her. I varied the pasta dishes between simple tomato and basil, pesto, bolognese and a courgette, aubergine and tomato sauce(liquidised) with lots of parmesan on top. She always ate soup too which helped with my stress levels immensely as at least I knew she was getting veg, she was great with fruit but then decided to go on strike(maybe she will be a future public sector worker) and my stress levels were back on high alert! She would have lived on “hang samiches” if I let her. 

We were always force-fed as children with threats of eating our stew for breakfast if we didn’t finish it like most Irish children of that generation so I always swore I wouldn’t take that approach with mine as I don’t think it works. When her eating habits started to change I tried to go with it and not force or blackmail her even though it was a bit of a struggle when my concerned mammy side wanted nothing more than for her to eat. She would go some days on a slice of toast or a little bit of pasta and there would be lots of untouched plates of food at different stations in the house in the hope that she would pick at them or “graze” at some stage during the day. To be honest I never became too worried as  I knew that if she was hungry she would eat and she wasn’t going to starve, she loved to help me cook and could tell you what each vegetable was so I knew she had an interest in food so we plodded along like this from age 2 to 3! She goes to creche part-time and they never had any worry about her either so I knew it after a while it was probably normal at this age.

During this time she also became addicted to chocolate, no matter how hard you try there is no point in fighting this one. I think they have an actual chocolate chip or “chopolate chick” as she used to call it in their brain that requires vast quantities of chocolate to survive. Her day centred around where to get her next fix, she would wake up in the morning and her first words would be “I WANT CHOCOLATE”, I kid you not and then a tantrum would ensue after being told no! As kids we rarely got chocolate and when we started earning our own money we went completely chocolate mad and all got fat for a while so again I swore I wouldn’t do this either so she got a chocolate treat everyday. I never gave her jellies or any of that sugary rubbish, just buttons or milky bars! She knew where the chocolate press was and wore me down many a time and got 2 chocolate treats in a day and when she was with her grandparents she might aswell have been at Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory…

I have to admit I did find this period quite awkward and sometimes worrying but I’m glad now that I took the approach I did. Even if she said she wasn’t hungry I always cooked her something simple and fresh whether it be pasta or scrambled eggs etc and I knew she would eat hardly any of it but I still persevered and threw lots of lovely home-made food in the bin. We don’t use jars or tins of processed food ourselves so she never got it either even though it would have been easier for me as it was going in the bin anyway but I always wanted her to have a taste for food so everything was always made from scratch. I always got her involved with the cooking even though it was a nightmare with the resulting mess, she would be so enthusiastic when  prepping the veg etc and telling me how she was going to eat it all and then wouldn’t look at it when it was ready! I let her start cracking her own eggs and she now cracks all of her own eggs when making scrambled eggs and gets less shells in them than I do.

She turned 3 in November and we are beginning to see a big change the last couple of months, the fruit strike(I still gave it to her a couple of times a day and she would eat a tiny bit) became a little bit of a problem a couple of months back when going to the toilet became a little bit difficult and hurt her. I had a bit of a worrying week when she became afraid to go because “her poo was going to hurt her” and she kept it in for 2 days. It was awful, I felt so sorry for her, she was in obvious discomfort and pain but was so stressed and afraid she kept it in(it even leaked, sorry if TMI) I had started to tell her in a casual way every time she went to the toilet that it was hurting her because she wasn’t eating fruit and that she would have to eat more apples to help “it fall out and not hurt”. It worked and she started eating fruit again, every time she needed to go she would ask for a piece of apple first and a slug of water and off she’d trot and declare at the top of her voice even if in a public toilet “THE APPLES MADE MY POO FALL OUT AND IT DIDN’T HURT ME”!!! She now eats 2 0r 3 pieces of fruit every day on her terms mind you, I cut pears and apples into chips without the skins, I have to remove all the pips and strings from mandarins, she’ll only suck the juice out of an orange but won’t actually eat it, she would eat a full punnet of grapes and HAS to wash them herself and she has yet to finish a banana but do you think I care:)

She is gradually becoming a normal eater again, she’ s eating cereal every morning and finishing her bowl for the first time in over a year, she will eat half a sandwich(tuna or ham) for lunch which she makes herself, she eats chunks of parmesan or Wexford cheddar, I hate cheese strings and all that processed cheese, laughing cow is the only one I will buy. She will sit down with us and eat roast chicken and potatoes, meatballs, lasagna with mini meatballs, parmigiana, she still won’t eat veg but still eats all her pasta dishes and soups. We had a bit of a breakthrough last week, she wouldn’t eat anything green except pesto for some reason or fresh peas from the pod which we grew last summer, I tried to trick her with frozen peas and tell her they were from the garden but she knew straight away(we are no match for their cleverness) so any herbs or green soup etc were out of the question. Last week as usual she helped me make spinach soup and washed all the spinach, I expected her to turn her nose up at it but she wolfed down the whole lot and declared it was the nicest soup she’s ever had. I nearly fell over, she actually brought some to her grandparents the next day too and scoffed it all again. To say I was in shock was an understatement!!

Re the chocolate, she still has a treat every day but will sometimes just eat half of it and leave it there, it doesn’t bother her really, she never asks for another! I’m always of the opinion the more you can’t have something the more you want it so it’s just a normal part of her everyday life now that some days she doesn’t even ask for one. If we go out to eat she will have a small bowl of soup with bread or some mash with a bit of our dinner, she’s not too bothered with chips anymore, sometimes she’ll eat them and sometimes she won’t!

It is so important for me as a mother to feed my children well, their health and well-being is my biggest responsibility so it is up to me to make sure that they are fed properly with fresh, home-cooked food so that their hair is shiny, their skin glows and they are rarely sick so food is very important in our house. I hope we are on the right road now but if I’ve learnt anything over the last 3 years every time you think you have them sussed they go and move the goal posts so I won’t get smug or complacent just yet…….

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