Dear Mamas Episode 3 transcript: Fussy Eating

In February 2016, Emily Writes and I started a monthly parenting podcast called Dear Mamas. Our manifesto is no bullshit, no judgement, and we hope to build friendship, support and community. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher, or listen on Emily’s blog. I’ll be posting transcripts of each episode here for anyone who’s unable to listen. Huge thanks to @mamamuriel  for this transcript.

This month we talk to nutritionist Saya Hashimoto of The Kid’s Fed Up about dealing with fussy eaters. Saya is AWESOME and she calmly and generously answers all our terrified questions, like CAN OUR CHILDREN SURVIVE ON CUCUMBER ALONE?

If, like us, you’ve ever worried about what you kid is eating, but you don’t want any bullshit or judgement about it, this is the episode for you.

HOLLY: So, welcome to episode 3 of the Dear Mamas podcast with me Holly Walker and Emily Writes.

EMILY: Hi

HOLLY: Tonight we’re tackling one of the biggest parenting topics, food, and specifically dealing with fussy eaters. So, from getting breastfeeding established, to introducing solids, to feeding fussy toddlers to encouraging everyone to sit down for a family meal. Food can be one of the biggest sources of guilt and stress for many parents, I know it is for me. And tonight we’ll be shearing our experiences, our own experiences and talking to nutritionist Saya Hashimoto of The Kid’s Fed Up and getting her expert advice.

EMILY: Yeah, we’re so glad to have you here Saya its so great, when I um saw, you know, your interaction with um people on the facebook page, I just I thought, I really really want her to come in and talk to us because, you know, I think you will have seen some of the comments on that thread and you know, food, it is so stressful, I just, feel like it’s a really big thing with me, with my three year old and I have so many ways I want to parent around food, and I’ve thought about it heaps and I don’t want him to, you know I had this whole thing about ‘don’t say food is good or bad’ or has values and all these things and I begin when he’s eating, like, not eating I should say, and I say things like “oh, how about we talk about why you don’t want to have this food” or something like that or we go about um, saying you know ‘just one mouthful’ and all that and as the days gets like on and on and he still hasn’t eaten and I get more stressed out and all this and I just turn into this crazy person and I’m like “You’ll go to jail if you don’t eat” (laughter) and then I’ll be like “I’m sorry you won’t go to jail, I promise you won’t go to jail, I don’t know why mummy said that “and then he’s all like “am I going to go to jail over this chicken nugget?“ and I’m like “no , but eat the chicken nugget, but you still have to eat it but I promise you won’t go to jail” (laughter) And I just am, not a good, I find its so like, aw it just makes me – “why won’t he eat?”

SAYA: Its so basic, Its so basic, you know, its, I mean sleeping of course, but also eating, those are the two things, I think that, all parents feel like “those are what I should be doing”

HOLLY: And I think that’s what so hard about it, right, because eating and sleeping, as you say, they are basics to actual human survival.

EMILY: You are meant to just do these things, why won’t you do these things?

HOLLY: They’re meant to come as naturally as breathing and they are as important as breathing to us to staying alive and yet, they’re two of hardest things.

SAYA: But they actually are hard,like, I mean that’s the whole thing with, like food, you know, we do think of it as a simple, kind of a natural thing that we do, but actually its so complicated much more complicated than that, you know, there’s um, there’s all of these; like on the parents side, there’s this mental health of the caregiver and the physical health and their history with food, their social and cultural beliefs around food. Um, on the child’s side of course, their physical and mental development um, what stage of development they’re at, you know any history of trauma that they’ve had, genetic and environmental, um there’s quite a lot of input from those things as well, for example we’ve heard about the super tasters, um so its this thing, where if you like have a lot of taste buds per square millimeter on your tongue then certain foods taste way more bitter.

HOLLY: Is that the thing about how green vegetables, its actually natural for kids to reject some green vegetables because they taste them so intensely ?

SAYA: yeah, so, they taste much more bitter and if you’re a super taster, which is, I don’t whats know the population, then its even more bitter tasting, which doesn’t mean that you can’t ever eat those things at all, its just you probably need more exposures and you’ll have, you know different reactions…

EMILY: So is this why I’m going through like 50 cucumbers a week? (laughter)

HOLLY: Are you with the cucumber as well ?

EMILY: My child will only eat cucumbers.

HOLLY: Me too !

EMILY: Like they love cucumbers, and who eats a cucumber like that? Just like knawing down…

SAYA: Japanese people eat cucumber like that.

EMILY: Oh, well, there you go,

SAYA: and you can dip it in stuff you know

HOLLY: Yeah, cucumber and dipped in tomato sauce is big, in our house.

EMILY: Yeah, cucumber just like on its own as just an entire mass of cucumber, like we grow them now so, we can keep you in cucumbers (laughter)

HOLLY: So maybe we should start if each of us, talk a little bit about a typical meal time in our houses, um and we can bounce off you and you can bounce off us a little bit, come and maybe we’ll explore this stuff a little bit further, so Em you’ve said its quite hard work, what is it? whats a typical dinner time look like in your house?

EMILY: Ah, ok, well we do the tv trick, we park him basically in the corner of the room with tv, oh my gosh it sounds so bad.

HOLLY: its ok, we’re no bullshit, no judgement , its our manifesto here.

EMILY: I’m in a safe place, I put him in a corner with the, with tv, and because it’s the only way he seems to zone out to eat, but he doesn’t like, eat, we often will take turns and sit with him and be like “do you want another chicken nugget?” and sometimes we’ll be like “We’ll turn off Peppa Pig if you don’t have a chicken nugget” I feel so guilty saying this out loud.

HOLLY: It’s all sounding really familiar to me.

EMILY: But I think its just that by the end, like our dinner is quite fraught,because we’ve usually had, if it’s a kindy day, like, we see his lunch box that he hasn’t eaten anything, we sometimes, if we hear something about like, oh Eddie hasn’t eaten anything at creche or anything like that, and so it puts, like I…

SAYA: That’s your older ?

EMILY: Yeah, he’s three, um and so I feel really like, aw, “why can’t I make him eat at kindy and creche?” and then like he probably doesn’t have an afternoon tea, so by dinner time, we’re really quite “you have to eat something” and I’m sure that we’re making it stressful environment for him because we’re stressed out, but I just…

SAYA: Yeah of course because you want him to eat something that’s normal

EMILY: Yeah yeah and it is, I mean the juxtaposition between my one year old and my three year old like my one year old would like eat the serviette that the food is on, like he just will eat anything in sight, like just absorbs.

SAYA: Well, that’s, that’s really normal, I’ve got like, I wrote down some sort of statistics about what sort of normal range of calories it is to eat, so 960 calories to 1700 calories a day is a normal amount for a kid to eat, which is a massive variation obviously and then if you take in the 20 percent under or over depending on you know, they ate lots the day before or they did lots of exercise or not very much exercise so including that sort of variation its normal to eat from 760 calories, which is nothing, to 2040 calories which is a normal amount of food for an adult woman to eat. Which is, I don’t know if your thinking of kilojoules that’s something like 3180 to 8535 which is clearly a massive range and you know, also, maybe if we try to think of it in terms of, I don’t know um, it depends of course what your own eating is like, but um, I’ve kind of got to a point where, I eat if I’m hungry and then I won’t eat if I’m full and that’s kind of ideally what we’re, what we’re looking for kids to grow up doing.

HOLLY: Is that what they will naturally do before any, you know, you spoke before about the complexity of food and the things that play into it, mental and physical health and cultural expectations. Before any of that comes into play, are kids wired to eat that way?

SAYA: Yes, and so of course, um, you know, I think I’ve read about, like, your first son? Eddie. And so if if they have like you know, like, problems from a small ,you know, from when they’re very small obviously, that’s like traumatic and that’s gonna help carry on things

EMILY: So his health condition, do you think that may have lead into this with eating?

SAYA: Potentially yeah, cause if he’s had traumatic like experiences with food

EMILY: He’s had , he had a lot of surgeries but its been a couple of, its been about a year

SAYA: or anything around ?

EMILY: His trachea, he had three surgeries

SAYA: Oh well, well that’s so unsurprising then, like that’s just um,

EMILY: Hmmm, that’s really, coz it sounds, coz I mean, we’ve always thought that because his breathing is, is good and everything that,like,

SAYA: Its all fixed up sort of thing

EMILY: you know and um he actually seemed to eat ok around that time,

SAYA: What, how, what sort of age?

EMILY: Um around 2ish, like he had his first surgery at 3 months, so had most of them within the first year and a half of his life , um

SAYA: But that whole area is like, you know, sort of related to trauma and you know, that, I mean, I really don’t, I’m not surprised, that, because you know even just um, I mean from, an example from my own childhood like, I remember once I went to like a sports day or something and I ate this boiled egg, and I think I got sunstroke and for years after that I was just was revolted by boiled eggs, was like revolted, and it wasn’t that the egg was rotten or anything I just that I had this bad association.

HOLLY: associated it with a bad experience

SAYA: yeah and you know when you’re a kid and before your very verbal and you don’t really, you know cause and effect aren’t necessarily always clear to you, you know, you just relate that with yucky things, you know, this sort of area hurts and I don’t like it.

EMILY: Yeah, because I suppose like I thought he was quite a good eater and then it seemed like and now talking about it, I can’t figure out when that point was that he started to be really like “Oh Eddies not eating much”, “oh Eddie is” you know it seemed to be this thing where, sort of suddenly we realised, he wasn’t eating very much. And I think because he’s very very thin, and then so much of it I guess, when your parenting is like, other parents you talk to are like “oh yeah my kid only eats chicken nuggets” you know or and I guess as well , when you, I don’t have a good understanding of food, like my husband’s a gardener so we grow all our own veggies and things like that but like when you were talking about like calories and kilojoules and stuff, in my head I was like, is that a Big Mac or is that five Big Macs ? like I can’t understand what

HOLLY: relating that too, translating that to a kind of, normal portion sizes for a child during the day .

SAYA: Yeah well say a cracker would be like um, 100 kilojoules, so you know, so this one that I said before um 3180 is like

EMILY: Lots of crackers (laughter)

SAYA: yeah a pack of crackers you know, to, like, really a lot of calories

HOLLY: like an adult woman’s full day

SAYA: yeah exactly

EMILY: So I mean because, I get, I suppose its like um, you know um,with like he’ll have a couple of chicken nuggets if we’re like really encouraging him, or if he’s sitting there for like an hour and half in front of tv, he might eventually get through one or two chicken nuggets.

SAYA: And so the, I mean I do, totally understand that when you really want him to eat something and you’re really are like… but that’s something I really um, is not a long term strategy that you can. Because if you kind of think of the long term goal is, I want my kid to eat when they’re hungry. And stop when they’re full. And understand what their own sort of signals are, because you know we have so many different like short and long term sort of hormonal signals in our bodies which tell us when we are hungry and we’re full and you know, so many of us as adults of course like don’t, you know disregard that because your parents said,”finish your plate” or “don’t waste food”, and you know, and I mean, even like I’m “oh eat the things” you know I cringe the food waste, but you just have to sort of try and get past that because food waste of course is bad and I don’t agree with it but and you know, its important to talk to your kids about like not taking more than they want and stuff and like, but that’s a learning process as well, you know what I mean, like how can you know how much until. And so you can say please only take little bits at a time onto your plate rather than take like this much and not finish it, because that’s good as well like then you’re achieving something you know, you’ve got this much and you’ve finished it and then there’s that feeling of “oh I can take some more” rather than you’ve got this massive thing and like ohh…

HOLLY: (laughs) I’m thinking of my daughter in the weekend, we had dinner with some family friends and um they served roast chicken, roast vegetables and um some spinach, um and they very kindly cooled off some roast vegetables and put them on a plate for her and when she came up to the table, she just picked up the whole plate put it in front of me and I had said to them , look if you’ve got any cucumber, (laughter)

SAYA: And tomato sauce (laughter)

HOLLY: (laughter) she would eat that and they had a bowl of cucumber sliced up on the table and she just um,one by one picked up every piece of cucumber in the bowl and stacked it on her plate so what she had was just a bowl stacked high with about 10 pieces of cumber which of course she ate, you know 3 um and a couple of bites of chicken and a piece of bread was what I could get her to eat at that particular meal, um, but yeah that thing about both um…

SAYA: But that’s a totally acceptable meal.

EMILY:So It is ?

SAYA: It is, a piece of bread, a little, like not even a whole piece of bread , a bit of bread that’s some carbohydrate, cucumber that’s like vitamins and minerals and then…

HOLLY: a piece of chicken

SAYA: a piece of chicken for the protein for that little bit of fat

EMILY: I think I love you (laughter) are you serious

SAYA: A lot of the fussy eating thing is, you know, high expectations that people have

EMILY: yeah, I really wonder if we just, if our expectations are too high ? But then, I mean, we did have a barbeque on the weekend and he wouldn’t eat anything except he asked for a piece of luncheon, do you have thoughts on luncheon?

SAYA: luncheon sausage?

HOLLY: Luncheon sausage

EMILY: As a staple, like slices of it, (laughing) like as a staple part of the diet.

SAYA: Um, I think, well I think because its quite high in salt and um, probably not a high quality meat (laughter) um

EMILY: Its really disgusting, I tried some luncheon to see what the energy content was

HOLLY: oh god, I can’t, I can’t do it

EMILY: and it was the worst thing I’ve ever tasted, like, it was, but he loves luncheon, like he never has loved any thing as much as he loves luncheon .

HOLLY: My daughter’s the same except she doesn’t realise, that she, cause I haven’t told her that we could buy it and take it home from the supermarket (laughter, sharp intake of breath) she gets a slice when we go round the super market and that’s it.

EMILY: That is so clever, my son told me he wanted to be a vegetarian and I had, I told him, that luncheon like has animals in it, and he was like “well I’ll be a vegetarian but still eat luncheon”. And I was like, luncheons, out of all the things is the worst one

SAYA:Um, its definitely like, as I said before,you know, its the long term goal, so like, yes you don’t want him to eat luncheon only for the rest of his life…

EMILY: (giggle) I really don’t want him to.

SAYA: but, um, its really important, when you look, especially at that stage, so you know you’ve said 2 and a half and 3, like this. 18 months, sort of walking sort of age, I think I talked to you about it, its this evolutionary thing, so you know, you. Kids will often, sort of, once they start having complimentary foods about around 4 to 6 months ish and then up till one or one and half . They’ll eat anything you give them often, like most kids will eat like all sorts of things I mean you know, if

HOLLY: When they’re babies you mean ?

SAYA: yeah,

EMILY: Hmmm, like my, my littlest , who I call Ham, cause he looks like ham, but he um, he will eat anything, like at all.

SAYA: How old is he ?

EMILY: One

SAYA : Yeah and so that is like this really great, um sort of critical stage where you can, they have started to get some eating skills, you know, they’ve got like time to develop those skills, but they haven’t developed neophobia, so neophobia is this thing that happens you know, between something like zero and 1 to 2 years old, um, and its this evolutionary thing where kids you know, can start walking, they can go off and eat poisonous berries or what ever, this is the theory, and um and so its quite good for them to become more wary of what they eat if you don’t want them to walk off and eat poison berries, um and so foods that they previously accepted are suddenly going to become like eew I don’t really want to eat that and then so that’s a totally normal phase and what we’re trying to not do is try to, is try to embed that. We want to like, at that stage, we want to be careful to, um, let that just be that phase rather than, um,you know pressuring kids to like eat and stuff which can really back fire.

HOLLY: hmmm

EMILY: So the way that we, so could you talk a little bit about how we could make sure that we don’t imbed that ?

SAYA: mmm hmm, yeah so basically the, like as hard as this, I know this is easy to say, but, the pressuring positively or negatively and you talked about that briefly before didn’t you? Um there’s a lot of research that shows that and especially if kids are particularly thin or particularly big, um, there’s a real, and there’s been lots of research about this as well actually, so parents treat their kids differently if they think, you know they’re big or small. Whats important is not whether they’re big or small, but whether they’re tracking along the percentile that they’re at. So you know people think “ oh my kids should be in the 50 percentile” or whatever. That’s not true , if your kid was born in the 20th percentile and keeps tracking along the 20th percentile, that is good.

EMILY: Really, wow

SAYA: You don’t want them to try and, if they’re suddenly, in the 20th percentile and they’re suddenly in the 50th percentile then that’s a reason to be concerned.

HOLLY: Something’s gone out of whack

SAYA: Its not terrible, I mean it could be fine but you should check .

EMILY: This is really useful for me, because Eddie is so thin and was always under weight like Plunket appointments the worst and like doctors appointments and he’s always been under weight ,he’s very skinny, pale little, but his complexion he’s just a pale kid, um, and so I’ve always thought that he needs to be…

SAYA: Increasing…

HOLLY: He needs feeding up

EMILY: But he is tracking along. I’m mean he’s just staying small then

SAYA: No its tracking along the percentile. If they are tracking and healthy and happy, they’re probably fine. If he went down or went up, then that’s potentially concerning, I’m not saying it definitely is , but um or if your kids in the 75th percentile and suddenly there in the 100th or the 20th , that’s potentially a reason for concern and you might want to see a doctor. But it’s not a concern if they are healthy and happy otherwise and are not, you know, and if they’re tracking along their normal percentile that they were born at and they’re not suddenly like losing or gaining like massive amounts of weight, gaining could potentially be depending on your kid, in your case obviously should be ok, but. So yeah, I think a lot of people do get confused about that 50th percentile being some kind of holy grail but that’s just what

EMILY:That’s really useful information

HOLLY: And I guess, like, I’m interested in, what your saying about not letting that phase bed in, in our experience, um, you know, so, my daughter actually was very slow to, you know we started offering her complementary foods around 6 months, um, and she didn’t lose her gag reflex for a really long time, it wasn’t til she was probably about 11 months that she actually started to really take any food on board. And so she didn’t have that long in that phase of, um kind of trying everything before she started to

SAYA: Neophobia

HOLLY: Yeah, yeah yeah and I think what, I think the trap that I’ve probably fallen into is I know what things she will eat, and there’s a set of reasonably healthy things I know she’ll eat like um, cucumber, cheese, some meats like chicken and ham sometimes a little bit of beef or something like that, rice sometimes pasta and I just put those in front of her over and over again because I know she’ll eat them and somewhere along the way I think I stopped offering a range of things particularly vegetables

SAYA: That’s really common

HOLLY: because I know she’ll eat cucumber um, so, and I guess what I’m doing actually is bedding in that neophobia right, because I’m not offering her a range of things.

SAYA: so, you don’t need to worry about her nutritionally, like it sounds like she’s really got her bases covered, because what you need to, like, you know, if you’re thinking about the sort of food groups, as long as kids are eating something from all of the food groups, on a fairly regular basis then they’re probably fine like nutritionally and developmentally and growth wise and stuff   so I wouldn’t worry about that I think your on the right track but your right , I do think and its really common, cause its like

I don’t waste money on buying lots of things or wasting heaps of food, I do totally get that, but, I think um, and lots of parents do that, they’re like well I know that she’s going to eat these things I’ll buy them, um Its really important to not sort of like, spring, like new things on kids because that sort of seems unfair as well, so I think a good way to like introduce new foods, is um, have the familiar foods, so the foods that you know she’s going to eat, And then, so, you could have a tasting sort of plate, where she’ll have you know, the things she’ll normally have and then maybe add one new thing, for example a piece of broccoli or something and you know rather than at the time talk about it you could be like “oh yeah, for dinner guess what we’re having the normal things and we’re also going to have some broccoli” and it kind of looks, what does it taste like what does it look like, it kind of looks a bit like little trees I really like it coz you can dip it in mayonnaise or what ever like, you know, don’t don’t be afraid to like, you know, race it up or whatever that’s going to make it more appealing at the time (laughter) and don’t, and then once you’ve sort of said that, don’t comment on it like you know if you have dinner with your friend, the annoying friend, that’s like “oh what are you eating?” you know, “are you eating enough?” ”Oh are you not gonna eat?” that’s just annoying, like when people comment on your food

HOLLY: Do you like it, do you like it?

SAYA: Exactly, can you not comment on what I’m eating and can we just eat each what we feel like eating. And that’s sort of what like, I try to get across to parents, I do get that you are deeply invested in what your kid eats of course you are, but then you’re being that annoying friend. That’s like, you should eat that thing, your going to be too thin you know, or if your going to eat that you’re going to be fat. Its just like. No stop commenting on my food. Like so talk about it to start off with, like say “Oh we’re going to try this new thing” but also I’m not going to spring it on you, its not like that’s the only thing I’m going to serve. Um you know where going to have range of things I know you’ll like as well.

HOLLY: And its not like trickery, like I think I fall into the trap of saying, look at this yummy curry, look at this delicious thing I’ve made for you and she may not find it appealing at all.

EMILY: But what you’ve said, I mean, we’re really like that, we’re like chicken nuggets, cucumber, apple because they’re the three literal three things that he will eat and then in the morning he will have toast, plain butter on toast um, and occasionally he’ll have marmite on it if he’s in the mood.

SAYA: And does he have any dairy food?

EMILY: Oh yeah he has a milk at night still and he has yoghurt

SAYA: He’s got, he’s coverage, his calcium stuff, he has the meat, he’s having protein, iron, I mean, like luncheon is definitely not as ideal because of the salt content and stuff but your covering, he’s having some carbohydrates which is like the four food groups, yeah

dietary diversity is really important because you know you are at that stage of setting long term patterns and you know and so there has been research that looks at you know, the more limited your diet of course, like later on in life as well, its harder to get them to like new things. But you know from a nutritional standpoint like I wouldn’t be like “oh god he’s going to starve to death” or anything, he’s not and he is he’s enough roughly in the range

EMILY: Yeah, coz I guess you get you fall into that thing of like “he’s a growing boy, he has to eat more than this” you know and, and I do look at I really worry with him being slim and everybody will comment on it particularly because I have Eddie was 6lbs and Ronnie was 10lbs and Ronnie is this little fat little I mean that’s why we call him the Ham because he looks like a big thing of ham you know but Eddie is like this pale, like the difference between them sometimes seems quite pronounced even though they’re different ages. And I suppose my friend whose daughter has also you know, had tube, was tube weaned and things, and we often talk about, it feels really hard to, this juxtaposition between, how we want to parent around respectful parenting, um and things, how people are saying oh you know, just if they’re not hungry they won’t eat and just “leave it alone, you know they won’t starve themselves” and all that, and then sometimes we’re just like, yeah but our kids are fragile. We’ve gotta get them to eat, you know and so it feels like this kind of hitting up against something around like I don’t want to be this parent whose like “eat a chicken nugget or you’ll go to jail’” (laughter) you know like I also, like I feel like it feeds into this I want to protect you and

SAYA: Of course you do, of course you do

EMILY: and keep you safe and all this and then yeah we’re like, we feel like we can’t , if we mix it up then he might not eat anything and we might miss our window of like a chicken nugget or two, but it feels like your saying that we should keep introducing stuff with what we’re already doing, and stop telling him he’ll go to jail, (laughter) like so if we’re not like, because we do do a lot of the “yay you ate your dinner good job you’ll get a treat

SAYA: Even positive encouragement is also pressure, so just no commenting is really what I try to encourage like um, just, as hard as it is, try to just, not care because part of it is also like kids um, especially at that window where I said, you know, they’ve become neophobic and stuff that’s also um like coincides with terrible twos (laughter) and you know, like if you’re a kid that age, you don’t have that much power, but you kind of want some power your just starting to get some power and your like, the only thing I’ve got power over is what I put in my mouth, and my mum obviously really cares about what I’m putting in my mouth and like you know, kids are pretty good at manipulating people often,(laughs) often and not every kid, kids are pretty good at figuring out what it is that you want and at that age being like…

HOLLY: Testing the boundaries

SAYA: Yeah exactly, like “I’m not going to do that” and so its this kind of perfect storm of – you obviously really wanting them to eat the thing and them being like “I could kind of take or leave the thing, but maybe I’ll see what its like if I don’t do the thing. You know?

EMILY: Yeah, I just kind of feel like though, how do I know that there’s a reason? like how do I know if he’s hungry or eating enough or anything like that? Because I think that definitely I have created it as this thing and that there’s definitely a little bit of power and control thing with him, and or you know him asking for something at a shop and I’ll buy it thinking he’ll eat and then he’ll be like, oh actually now that I’ve seen it no.

Or like a cheese slice and he’s like “no you opened it” out of the slice therefore I cannot eat it, but then also I’m like, I feel like, if I take hands up and say leave it, what if he doesn’t eat all day ?

Pause

SAYA: he won’t eat all day then. (laughter) Um, I mean , I totally get that, that would be terrifying and awful

EMILY: But we need to go through this.

SAYA: But like, as I said before that, working with the hunger thing, and you know that might mean that he wakes in the middle of the night and is hungry and cries and that will probably mean that

HOLLY: So what would you do in that situation? Because that’s a big one for me I actually don’t know what my daughter eats at day care because they provide the food and I know what kind of food they provide, its really great healthy food, delicious food um whether or not she eats it I have no idea. Um and sometimes you know she’s very tired at the end of the day and dinners fraught often and so often she won’t eat very much

SAYA: See that’s the whole thing. Dinner is a terrible time to introduce new things, because kids are tired and you know most kids at the end of the day are sort of scratchy and um you know they’ve had all of these experiences and things happening and stuff where as if you work with the hunger at a time when you know they’re more hungry .

HOLLY: In the morning or lunchtime.

SAYA: exactly, like some kids wake up hungry, some kids don’t but if they are that kind of kid, and you know, only you know what your kids are like, but um, you sort of have to try and use those like, like those times

EMILY: The times when they seem hungriest, because he does seem hungrier when he gets home from kindy.

SAYA: Yeah that’s often a time

EMILY: He’s never hungry in the morning, but then I’ve never pushed, like my husband’s really like breakfast. He gives him those Up and Go, like the breakfast things, because my husband is just like

HOLLY: It’s the most important meal of the day

EMILY: “He cannot go to kindy without eating” and my husband has like, had spent his life being a gardener, and a tradie like their breakfasts are like obscene, like a whole. You know, but for me, I never eat before 10 o’clock I’m like, I have to have coffee and stuff before I eat. So For me, I’m kind of like “hmm maybe he’s like me and doesn’t have breakfast”

SAYA: And that’s a totally normally thing, like this idea ,you know, everybody wants to eat breakfast and its not actually true.

EMILY: So following on, its, argh, its, so kind of like, I know this stuff , I’m following in my kids lead, coz I do it with everything, so why can I do this with food ?

SAYA: Of course, its because you are worried, not, that you know , that he’s gonna like suffer or he’s gonna get sick or, you know get too thin or whatever, those are totally natural and understandable worries to have.

HOLLY: So what would you do? So this occasionally comes up for us, where if she is really tired or just not into it at dinner and she won’t eat and I think one of my bad habits is to basically make her eat a banana before she goes to bed so at least she’s had something, but some, if I forget to do that or if we don’t do it.

SAYA: How do you mean make her

HOLLY: Well I’ll offer a banana and she’ll eat it

SAYA: Right, so she likes it

HOLLY: So, She’s hungry maybe, she likes bananas or sometimes yoghurt those are two things I know she’ll probably eat near to bed time but if I haven’t done that she will quite often wake up, and maybe two to three afters after she’s gone to sleep and say “I want a banana” so, do I give her a banana, if she wakes up in the night, hungry?

SAYA: That’s a difficult one, I think, you have to, because if you didn’t give her a banana then do you think that she would stay awake all night?

HOLLY: I think it would be quite hard to get her back to sleep, yep ,

SAYA: And she wakes up and says. “I want a banana”?

HOLLY: I mean, not all the time, but this is why I’ve developed this habit of trying to give her something like a banana or some yoghurt close to bed time because, if she’s eaten a good dinner, I don’t worry about if she hasn’t I really think, I don’t want her waking up in three hours asking for food I want her to eat it before she goes to bed.

SAYA: Um, I think I would try and you know, weigh it up, like there are some sort of general guidelines which I do suggest to most people, but, I think, as I said , only you know your specific kid and um, if, if she eats, you know, a normalish dinner say 5 times plus a week or something and then those other 2 days you’re worried that she’s you know, hasn’t eaten much, then maybe give her a banana, that’s probably fine, but if she, if its more like she will only eat dinner like twice and then you um, she’s learning that, you know, if she doesn’t eat her dinner then she’ll get a banana, that’s not what you want to teach, do you know what I mean? So I think you kind of have to weigh up those things for yourself, whether you don’t want to teach that, but if its just a once or twice a week sort of thing that just happens that be she didn’t happen to be very hungry at dinner time and she did just get hungry later. Or and also maybe try and, I know this is also really difficult as everybody has different schedules and you know part of like the division of labour thing which we can talk about is that you know you as a parent decides when the meals are, the kid decides if they’re going to eat at all, you know, they should sit with you and maybe not more than 20 minutes its not a punishment but everyone should sit together and at least talk even if they don’t eating anything you’ve put familiar foods on the table that they like and if they don’t eat them, its not your problem. Um, you can even make up, you know those lunchboxes that you can get with like kind of 9 holes or something and for example say your kid likes boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrot sticks or something um and hummus and you can put them in there and then the food waste thing is kind of less of a problem because you can put that out plus put out what your regular dinner is that you’ve made, curry, or something, and then, its sort of a new thing this curry, you put a tiny bit of curry and rice and then you have these other things which they can help themselves to, so your not sort of saying there’s nothing on the table you can eat, because there are, there’s things and if they don’t eat them you can, if they like the curry , eat the curry you can put the lunch box away and bring out the next meal. Obviously not like forever (laughter)

HOLLY: The bottomless lunch box (laughter)

SAYA: I do want to like stress food safety . (laughter) But so you know, you can use the strategies and kind of like, incorporate them, including what you know of your own child. You know what I mean.

HOLLY: So knowing what they will eat and working with that, is not a bad thing and its just about not getting stuck in a rut and offering other things.

SAYA: Definitely and exposures, and like I said before, it can take 15 to 18 I think um, positive, positive exposures, so not just like, you know any old exposure, like so reasonably positive exposures to a food for it to be accepted which, is kind of a big deal, and I know like a lot of kids hate it when foods touch and that’s ok to cater to that sort of thing, not really ok to cater to I’ll cook you a whole different meal because then that teaches them that they’re going to get a whole different meal. You shouldn’t like, I don’t think it’s a good idea to not have anything on the table that they’ll eat, coz that’s unfair you know , its not really fair to like invite someone around for dinner and be like there’s nothing here you can eat but too bad because you’re a vegetarian or whatever, that’s just not ok

EMILY: Oh my gosh though the 15 food exposures and stuff this is fucking why they love luncheon, because at Pak n Save

HOLLY: (laughing) they’re had 15 positive exposures

EMILY: if every kid, If every single time and they’re all like this gross, limp piece of gross meat and then, we need to petition Pak n Save to be giving them

HOLLY: There is hope on that score though, because I remember liking luncheon as a kid

SAYA: yeah coz its salty and its tasty

HOLLY: I remember my mum didn’t really serve it but my aunty would do white bread sandwiches with um, luncheon and tomato sauce and I thought they were delicious

EMILY:Oh so gross, (laughing) I thought they were great too

HOLLY: And I find them disgusting now as an adult, so

SAYA: I remember eating cheerios

EMILY: Oh yeah cheerios they love cheerios

SAYA: They always used to always give me cheerios at the butchers

HOLLY: So tastes much change right? Even if you’re a kid and you like you know processed foods.

SAYA: Of course they do, yeah, luncheon is sweet, sweetness is the only innate, you know breastmilk’s sweet, and so we’re kind of like wired to like sweet things and you know, I’m not saying that all adults love sweet things or anything like that but, its just the one thing that we are wired to seek and those types of meats are sort of

HOLLY: Have got a sweetness about them (giggles)

SAYA: A sweetness about them, because they’re not that real sort of savoury hit but they have you know, quite a bit of salt, and stuff those are things that are just easy to like

EMILY: so If we’re turning things around and we’re getting away from the eating luncheon everyday and you’re going to jail (laughter) and, so um what are kind of your big, do you have any big bright lights tips for parents when it comes to getting their kids into like eating well and actually eating, because it seems like parents are in a way a bit split between those who are just like ‘eat, please eat anything’ and those who are just like ‘I want you to have a healthy balanced diet’ I mean, we want Eddie to have a healthy diet and all that, but we’re kind of in that stage of just, we want you to eat something and so sometimes it feels really isolating being in, when parents are like oh you know ‘kale’ and you know

HOLLY: Well doing both at once can seem really hard, like I do think its really easy to think in your head, the first thing I’ll do is get them eating regularly and I know they’re getting their calorific you know intake or whatever and then I’ll worry about expanding the range later but it sounds like from what your saying that’s some thing you should be doing both at once.

SAYA:   Just expose them, you know once, and part of that self determination thing, that we were briefly talking about before you know that power sort of thing, part of that is to help them be involved but in a quite a closed sort of way. Like would you like a ham sandwich or would you like a cheese sandwich? Not what would you like for lunch, because that’s a bit overwhelming so that’s sort of one way of sort of involving them, and the same with the supermarket, not like you know, whatever shall we buy, but you know you can choose the fruit between apples and pears today or something like that, so even it doesn’t seem like a big deal but just those couple of bits and pieces like that can help them with their ‘I want to be in charge of things” you know um, and with the sort of strategies wise I’ve got a list of things here, um I’m trying to think of the ones that

HOLLY: well the one I really like before was your kind of idea about the division of labour like it’s the parent’s job to set the meal times and put the food on the table and it’s the kids job to decide what, if, they’re going to eat and how much they eat.

SAYA: Yep that’s exactly what it is, so you decide what is going to be served but always try and include something familiar, even if its just bread, you know, I mean not everyday, but even if its just you know one thing, and also obviously age appropriate, I mean a 5 or 6 year old perhaps something a bit more complex, but also children should be able to sort of be involved with family meals um, you shouldn’t make special kid food, which is I think a thing we really do in New Zealand

EMILY: we def, we definitely do that, we do separate meals for the boys, we do chicken nuggets and like lamb fingers and fish bites and things,

SAYA: coz you don’t want to eat that everyday

EMILY: Because yeah, we just like, I have zero interest in chicken nuggets and um, unless I’m like super super hung over (laughter) but I mean it, we really have got into that thing of like the boys will eat this, we know they’ll eat this, so we’ll just give them this because it feels like its already so stressful just with this like crappy getting them to eat one fucking chicken nugget and you know like we’re trying to

HOLLY: and it’s the tired, it’s the witching hour, everyone’s tired everyone’s grumpy

EMILY: Yeah, so if we were then going, like trying new foods that they then ignored, and we’ve put in this level of effort, you know, but its interesting talking to you, its really kind of affirmed that like, its affirming in a way, coz like I knew we’d lost our way with it,

SAYA: I think a lot of people feel like that

EMILY: but you get so into this thing of like, I’m exhausted, I don’t want to have another fucking drama at dinner time, just eat your fucking nuggets you know

HOLLY: you don’t want to make something that’s going to be rejected

EMILY: Yeah and already you’re like chucking out half the food anyway and so your just wanting them to have something, and then you know, for my husband, because he does most of the cooking and stuff, its like I think he like really internalises that your rejecting me or my food and all this

SAYA: Of course, that is so

EMILY: yeah and so, but I think it is, you know quite, I think, it’s a lot about addressing what my fears are, and because I am just really worried, that what if he won’t eat it all, and I think that what you said earlier around parents and their, you know, everything they come with, like that’s really true, coz I’m like a really anxious person anyway so the idea that he would starve and it would be my fault completely plays well into how

SAYA: Those fears

EMILY: yeah and you know stuff like, I see him playing around with his food a lot and he doesn’t eat it

SAYA: That’s, that’s also a thing, you know like those cultural scripts that you know, that says don’t play with your food, but playing with your food is a way of learning about food and the textures and stuff and like yes its inappropriate to throw like you know at a certain age to throw food on the floor and stuff and you know, like, but and you don’t criticise other peoples food like saying ‘eew that’s really disgusting’ like that’s rude and I think its ok at any age to say “you don’t tell other people” that’s not nice and stuff like that but, um you know even just smelling it and licking it and then putting it back down again, like while they’re learning about food I think its really important to let those things be ok, like its not appropriate obviously for a 10 year old to be doing those sorts of things but when your like 2 smelling, you know I mean um, they pick up things off the floor and that’s how they learn about things, so to then suddenly be like , oh you can’t lick that and then put that down because that’s bad table manners that’s quite counter productive.

EMILY: Coz I think what, makes me nervous about it, is I will watch him with food and he will do this thing where he’ll like get, be with like one of his little friends and we’ll cut a muffin in half and she will eat hers and Eddie will be talking and holding his muffin and kind of bring it to his mouth but never actually eat it. And for like 20 minutes or so, be talking away to her, to everybody else and take tiny nibbles but never, so you think that he’s eating and then you look at it and hasn’t eaten anything and like I get so anxious like, is this like the beginning of an eating disorder? Is he trying to make me think that he is eating, and then I’m like, oh my gosh I’m over thinking this too much, and then I’m like, but what if I’m not? And I’m not recognising.

SAYA: Some people just are not that hugely interested into food as well, like don’t you have friends?

EMILY: That is exactly Eddie, he just seems like why on earth would I eat when I could put on a really long performance where I sing Let it Go eight times in a row (laughter) like

HOLLY: Some things are just more exciting

SAYA: You just, I mean you have some friends who for example you know they eat heaps and heaps of food they stay really skinny or the other way around, like people just have different body, eat different food, different interests

HOLLY: And some people are in to food and some people just eat to stay alive right, I’m into food and I guess if we’re thinking , if you think about your own expectations like I just kind of assumed that any child of mine would just naturally, you know, eat a wide range of foods and be eating curries and noodles and you know, what ever I put in front of her from as soon as she was born and surprise surprise, my kid is not exactly like that and part of my anxiety around this has been letting go of this idea it would just naturally happen a certain way

SAYA:I think you could take her to a kale restaurant (laughter)

EMILY:Yeah, I mean its really interesting, because we as, like my husband and I are not at all foodie people, we don’t go to restaurants or anything and if we do its like really boring white people food, like you know Lonestar or something like that and um yeah we just don’t like, we will often eat like we just do a lot of mince and stuff, coz being on one income and all that and its like sausages and all that, and we’re quite happy with that, but I’ve always been really aware that we, compared to other people have quite limited sort of, you know we’re quite happy with, um sausages and onions you know and

SAYA: It doesn’t matter as long as your, as the food groups are being covered

EMILY: yeah, but our kind of like, shall we say, ‘bogan’ lifestyle of like sausage, onions like we’re very meat and three veg actually like and um, my husband will grow the vegies and all that, so we’re really lucky because we always have a nice garden salad and things, but I’m kind of like, Eddie is even more limited than us, and is that a problem and things like that, but I think, yeah its been really affirming to hear you say that some of the things that I thought, you know, are actually sort of ok meals for him at this age, but I definitely, feel like there’s other stuff we can work on.

HOLLY: Some of the things that I’ve found really reassuring about, talking with you Saya, is that this idea of like kind of treating our kids like human beings or like we would other adults around food, like we wouldn’t comment, criticise, pressure or serve stuff we know that they don’t like, you know and that’s a really useful way of thinking about it and really in keeping with that kind of philosophy of um respecting your kids and the way you parent them, um so that’s been really useful,

(baby crying)

EMILY: Oh fuck

(crying)

HOLLY: Look right on cue, 45 minutes (laughter) (crying)

HOLLY: Really all we need to do, all we have left to do is just wrap up, um, I was just saying that I really like the idea of thinking about our children as eaters being autonomous beings and I think um, that’s a good take away for me from this conversation, um have you got any particular take-aways Em?

EMILY: Yeah I think its been really useful and quite affirming, coz I think that we have gone from, like eating has become so stressful that we’ve got very stuck in our ways in the hopes that he will eat more and that’s not really working, as well as it should so you know, I feel like I’ve got lots of ideas for going forward trying to turn this ship around you know, I think its been really helpful in that sense so thank you Saya.

SAYA: You’re welcome

HOLLY: and Saya’s business, The Kids Fed Up, um do you want to just tell us just briefly what you do there in case people want to contact you themselves for more information.

SAYA: The Kid’s Fed Up is basically I run workshop for groups of parents or groups of early childhood teachers to talk about basically, the first part is facilitating people talking about their own experiences, so if its parents or caregivers then they get to talk about what happens in their meal times and you know figure out what seems normal, or you know, is this normal, those sorts of things and then we talk about similar things that we’ve talked about now and um, I can refer them on if there’s you know, something a bit more serious than fussy eating and give them some strategies um and I also work one on one with parents.

HOLLY: And the one on one, where you would come in and visit ?

SAYA: yeah so often I would go at a meal time, or a different meal time, or I can also, yeah, it really depends on the needs of the family, so I usually talk to a person on the phone, the parent on the phone and you know and we figure something out.

HOLLY:cool, well thank you so much for joining us

EMILY: yeah we really appreciated it

SAYA: that’s alright, it was good to talk to you

HOLLY: Yeah, really um as Em says affirming and quite reassuring, um

SAYA: cool

HOLLY: And kind of exciting to, to think about how we can do this stuff in the long term

SAYA: long term, long term goals, they could be eating salad by the time they’re 16 (laughter)

HOLLY: Playing the long game, we’re actually drinking water tonight

EMILY: I’m not, I’m drinking cider, I’m holding the fort up (laughs)

HOLLY: its customary for us to clink our glasses (laughter)

ALL THREE: (clink) cheers !

musical pause

HOLLY: That’s it for another month, thanks for listening, this podcast was produced and presented by me, Holly Walker and Emily Writes, special thanks to our excellent guest Saya Hashimoto, you can find Saya’s nutrition business The Kid’s Fed Up on Facebook, Twitter or online at www.TheKidsFedUp.com. This is our 3rd episode, you can find all our previous episodes on Emily’s blog, EmilyWrites.co.nz under the podcasts tag. You can also subscribe in Stitcher or iTunes or where ever you get your podcasts and please while you’re there, leave us a review. We’ll be back next month with a new topic and a new guest. In the mean time hang in there you’re doing great.