By Theresa Albert, Toronto Nutritionist
Even though we may have gotten into this parenting thing together, sometimes mom and whoever else is key to the parenting decisions are not such a great team. Our parenting styles are often from opposite ends of the spectrum and if we don’t talk about that during the early stages of child rearing it plays out eventually, whether we like it or not. After all, we all “come to the table” with our own set of issues and expectations.
Ironically, the worst place to have a heated debate or controversial conversation is at the dinner table, over food. Unfortunately, it is also often the only place we sit down face to face in our hurried world. And when the topic turns to what is actually on that table, that’s even worse. Feel free to air any dirty laundry you wish before baby comes along but when he does, it’s all fresh and clean linens from here on in. (Well, except the tablecloths because they will be a disaster from here on in).
Stress hormones are designed to tell the body what to do when in danger. We feel fear in our gut first (ever heard of gut instinct?) and that sends messages to the brain to set up a cascade of chemicals into our hapless systems. One of the first things stress hormones do is shut down appetite. If you think about it from a survival point of view, that’s a good thing. You wouldn’t want to be feeling like you are so hungry that you need to stop and pick some berries when you should be running away from a bear.
This is all true of adults but it is especially true of children who are little emotional machines. They have no way of figuring out their world other than sensing the tone and mood of what is going on in front of them. They likely know an argument is brewing before we do and their bodies as well as appetites will act accordingly.
Disagreeing about how and what our kids are fed is fine. Doing it at the table or within earshot is not. What mom and dad need to do is find some way to agree or at least compromise on a method before baby is even eating solid food. Have a chat about how you feel and write it down on a piece of paper. Keep that written understanding in a cookbook in the kitchen where you can refer to it in a pinch and add to it as the needs of your child change.
This document need not be a weapon; it can be a source of humor. “Hahaha, remember when we agreed that we would never have more than one glass of wine with dinner so Joey gets the right message about alcohol and its place in a healthy life? Ya, ha! Pour me another, those grade 10 math grades are freaking me out!”
Agreeing on HOW you will handle topics like table manners and portion encouragement (or control) matters just as much as WHAT you will serve. It is often the case that one or the other parent has a “preference” against say, peas. Preferences are allowed, accommodated even but they shall not be spoken. They are known, avoided and/or overlooked. Just as you will expect your child to do: acknowledge that peas are a part of life that will sometimes be served, one may quietly avoid them on their own plate if and when they appear. Try them when they are served in a new format, with a new sauce, on a plane, on a train, with a mouse, in the house…you never know unless you try. And then, agree to politely keep your mouth shut about them. At least long enough to swallow.
Fresh Spring Pea soup
Recipe By: Theresa Albert, DHN, RNCP
Serving Size: 4 Preparation Time: 0:15
1 tablespoon grape seed or extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery – finely chopped
¼ cup water
6 green onions, chopped
5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh mint -- chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley -- chopped
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup plain yogurt
Warm a large pot over medium heat, add oil and chopped celery, stir for 1 minute. Add water and simmer to evaporate. Stir in green onions.
Add stock, bring to boil. Stir in mint, parsley and peas and gently warm through for 5 minutes. Use a puree wand to blend right in the pot or empty into a blender.
Stir a dollop of Parmesan cheese and yogurt into each bowl.
About the Author:
Theresa Albert is a nutritionist and food communications consultant. Her Food Network show,Just One Bite! aired for 5 years on both Food Network and BBC Kids. She is currently a trusted on-camera correspondent for CTV Newschannel as well as CBC and regular health expert on the daily lifestyle show, Steven and Chris which airs internationally.
Named one of Canada’s Top 25 Tweeters by Today’s Parent Magazine and one of Savvymom.ca’s 35 Favorite Bloggers, she is called for comment from every major magazine, newspaper and television outlet in Canada. She has a weekly column in the Metro Newspaper and regularly writes features for Today’s Parent, Canadian Family Magazine and blogs at Huffington Post.