It was never our intention to create little foodies; that came about by accident. All we wanted were ‘conflict-free’ mealtimes, and the ability to sit down as a family over one meal, not two.
Let me start from the beginning.
I didn’t meet David, my husband-to-be, until I was 35. By that time, he was divorced with two young children.
Being well into our thirties meant we had a better idea of what we wanted (and didn’t want) in a relationship so, almost before I knew it, we’d moved in together and I’d inherited a two-year-old and a five-year-old.
David and I were working full time as lawyers, so it was always a race to get dinner on the table before the little ones passed the ‘hangry’ point of no return.
David did his best before I came along; wanting to ensure the kids ate nutritious food. But his repertoire consisted of two or three meals on rotation; pesto pasta with tuna and peas (tasty and nutritious), roast chicken and vegetables (for extended family dinners) and fish fingers (the kind that come in a cardboard box from the supermarket). And his limited time meant he was simply eating what he fed the kids.
The kids were like most other kids at that age; fearful of new foods and ingredients. Added to that, our two-year-old refused to eat any form of meat at all (and was anaemic) and our five-year-old was sticking steadfastly to a diet of only ‘white’ foods.
David and I love food, and dinner is by far our favourite meal of the day. We very quickly decided that we would need to make dinner times work for all of us, which realistically meant cooking only one meal after work, not two. So, we had to find a way for the kids to enjoy eating the foods we did.
‘One meal, not two’ was our philosophy very early on.
We started naively and without much thought, with the old-fashioned approach of ‘eat what’s on your plate’. We very quickly realised that this could (a) be traumatic for the kids, and (b) encourage over-eating, neither of which we wanted.
We adapted our approach to one of ‘you must at least try everything that’s on your plate’. Over time, this proved the best approach when coupled with a number of other factors (all discovered through trial and error).