I made this menu for my daughter a while back before we started letting my daughter eat what she wanted. I felt that food just wasn’t working well for us. My daughter is a grazer and would constantly say she was hungry, and then ask me or her dad for a ‘list.’ Then we’d have to think of all the possible foods she might want and make suggestions. It got pretty tiring having to go through lists of foods the whole time!
So we got pictures of her favourite foods and made her a menu of things to choose from. Since my daughter is more of a snacker than a big meal eater there were lots of things we could get for her with zero preparation.
However the menu ended up being disappointing, when I realised that my daughter would immediately flick to the back of the menu where I had the ‘unhealthy’ options. Chocolate, ice cream and crisps. At this time I was only giving her chocolate sweetened with Stevia that I got when we were back in the UK, and I also made this delicious chocolate ice cream from avocados and bananas. More often than not these items were ‘out of stock.’ I didn’t always have the time to make ice cream, and the chocolate ran out. With crisps I didn’t keep them in the house, because unconsciously I was trying to keep her away from the ‘bad’ stuff, and try to control my own crisp addiction too!
The menu soon lost it’s appeal to my daughter when she realised that the items she wanted to choose weren’t freely available. She hadn’t picked it off the shelf for months.
However things have changed since we started to let my daughter eat what she wanted. Yesterday after a day’s travelling munching on french fries and croissants she came home, picked up the menu and asked for red and yellow pepper sticks and carrots!
The novelty of having chocolate hasn’t worn off yet. Every time she picks a chocolate bar for breakfast or a snack she looks at me with an uncomfortable expression like she’s waiting for me to tell her no, and suggest other foods that would be better options. But as I allow her to trust, and listen to the signals her body is giving, food isn’t a battleground anymore.
In the book Kids, Carrots, and Candy the authors say that when we have limited certain kinds of food in the past our children will eat lots more of it when we do relax the limits, but over time the novelty wears off. When children trust that we are no longer controlling what goes into their bodies, eating becomes out what children sense their body needs, rather than about power struggles. We’re still on this journey, still learning to trust and let go of control. But when my daughter’s munching on carrots she chose without me lecturing her about nutrition, or making ‘healthy suggestions,’ then I’m at peace with where we are right now.