Tuesday, August 10, 2010

croissants vs snails, a reminder that feeding kids isn't just about the food

Well, I'm back from France with M, digging out from hundreds of emails. Thanks for your comments while I was gone. I will get to them and give them the proper attention soon (probably next week as I leave soon for an exciting workshop in Iowa on Thursday!)

I was reminded that there is so much more at play with food than the actual food. I think I've said before that it's 90% psychology. Here is a perfect example...

For weeks before the trip I was mentioning how much I was looking forward to croissants. Really, I love them, and when in France I eat a lot of them. I never said, "M, you'll love them, you have to try them!" More of just, "Wow, I'm excited to have some croissants next week!"

So, I rode the rickety old bike to the bakery and brought back bread, croissants, pain-au-chocolat (croissants with chocolate baked into them) and M wouldn't try it. She refused for almost 2 weeks. The one time she tried it was on the day when there was only one left from the day before and her cousins wanted it. (Scarcity is a great motivator...) Then she tried it and liked it. I am convinced that had I not talked about it before the trip, she would have tried it without a fuss, as she did with almost everything else on the trip, including the snails above (bigorneau) which I refuse to eat (I tried them years ago and I am not a fan...) It creeps me out when you pull them out of the shell with a little pin and they uncurl and then curl up again. (I think you can zoom in on the photo if you're interested and see the pile of meat on the bottom right...) Ew. (I of course did not share this with M.)

On another note, I enjoyed sometimes two croissants for breakfast that are loaded with butter and flaky and delicious. I felt no guilt or shame, and by the last few days, I had kind of had enough. I didn't want them anymore. I will look forward to them again in two years! In the past, before really accepting eating all foods and trusting my body, I had often felt some of the usual, "I shouldn't really eat this..." and had more conflicted feelings and never really felt I had had "enough."

I have also been up since 3:30, so this is a little rambly.

Have you had experiences where you felt that the psychology of the situation and not the food, the flavor or texture was what influenced whether your child (or you) tried or ate something or not?
(I have never tried my Dad's home-made chutney which I think is because I was pressured so much to do so over the years...)


  1. Hi Katja -

    Environment can definitely impact long-term food biases. A hot, noisy, crowded Mc Donalds play place turned my sensitive preschooler off not just hamburgers, but red meat of any kind. It's been 4 years now! My husband had a similar childhood experience with mayo. He won't eat it to this day.

    Psychology plays a part too. While I do encourage/bribe my kids to try "just one bite" of a new food, I never force them to eat because when I was a kid I was made to clean my plate of some things that quite frankly turned my stomach. I think if I hadn't been forced to eat under those circumstances, I may have been willing to try them again as an adult. No chance now, though...

  2. Great points about how being forced to try something backfired for you. Some kids who are really stubborn or don't like even subtle pressure can even get turned off new foods by bribes and encouragement. It's why I don't recommend the "one bite rule." I do find that encouraging a try, and backing off if there is any resistance seems to work for many children. If you're happy with mealtimes and your kids eat a great variety it probably works for you, if however you are struggling with meals, picky behaviors etc you might find that not bribing works better in the long run.
    I think I will challenge myself to try a bite of chutney one of these days, or maybe not...

  3. First, I recognized the plate of pain au chocolate and it got my mouth watering! I haven't had good croissant or pain au chocolate or foie gras since visitng France a few years ago-such a delightful eating adventure!

    I agree, however, that forcing kids to try things, like in the 1 bite rule, can really backfire. When I took my then 4 year old to France, I just told him that we'd see new foods and that sometimes I wouldn't even know what it was. I didn't even tell him he'd have to try anything. I just told him that I planned on trying everything. Sure enough, because there was nothing to eat that resembled home (beyond fruit), he tried this and that and liked many things I never dreamed he would.
    When I make new things, I don't even tell the kids what's in them. I'll say things like "meat" or "green vegetables" or whatever. If I give out too many details, my 7 year old will decide he doesn't like it and won't try it.