Children should eat what the rest of the family eats

I was in the supermarket buying sausages yesterday and I was perplexed to see that Jamie Oliver has brought out special sausages for children.  Since when have children had a problem with sausages?  I’m not a huge fan of Mr Oliver at the best of times, but I do appreciate what he was trying to do regarding school meals.  If schools provide lunches then they must achieve decent nutritional standards.  Jolly good, well done, carry on.

My problem with his children’s sausages is, yet again, one of training and good habits.

We should not give children special children’s food.
We should not be running in-house cafeterias.
Children must learn to eat what is put in front of them
Children must learn to appreciate the effort that goes into producing good food.

I am not a complete fascist and I recognise that children have less sophisticated tastes than adults and that there are some things that individuals simply don’t like.  What I absolutely can’t bear is when children (and some adults) will claim not to like something they have never tried.  I will accept that someone doesn’t like something if they’ve at least had a good run at it.  If they eat most things, there is a reasonable chance that they genuinely don’t like something and that’s fair enough.

Fussy children turn into fussy adults and there are few things more frustrating, particularly to keen cooks, to be presented with a grown-up who doesn’t like this and doesn’t like that.  It should have been trained out of them when they were children and it makes them unwelcome dinner guests.

A lot of this goes back to table manners again.  If families sit together round the meal table, all eating the same thing, enjoying good food and conversation, and let’s not forget good manners, those habits will stick.  It probably means that when your children are young, you may have to hold back on the really spicy food a bit or not give them Stilton and oysters at every meal, but surely this is not an excuse to start running a cafe where different family members are eating different food. 

I have sat at tables where three different meals are served to accommodate fussy children.  I’m sorry, but this is parental weakness, a ridiculous use of the cook’s valuable time and is utterly uneconomical.

Ideally, one ought to start from the word go, as soon as your children start eating solids.  Make food that they are likely to eat when they’re older, but without the spices and salt.  Mash it down, but leave some texture in it so they get used to having to chew or at least gnash a bit.  I made all my own baby food in big batches and froze it in clearly labelled portions.  I made soups, Shepherd’s Pie, cauliflower cheese, baked squash, fish cakes, fish pie, liver and onions, fruit crumbles, rice pudding  and so on – you get the drift.  Also, I found some great recipe ideas in Annabel Karmel’s super book on feeding babies and toddlers and I even adapted some of her recipes for all of us to enjoy.

If your children are still relatively young, it’s not too late to start clamping down.  I have Boy the Elder who would wolf down oysters and mussels when he was 7, and Boy the Younger who would live on nothing but Sunday roasts given half the chance, and deep down suspects me of trying to poison him.  I blame the latter scenario entirely on my own lack of discipline because at the time when I should have been strict I was going through a very difficult ‘life event’ and I let things slip.  However, I have since toughened up and we are making progress.

Food is put in front of them and they are expected to eat it.  I give them age appropriate portions and they don’t get pudding until a valiant effort has been made.  If they sit in front of it for over half an hour without eating, it is quietly taken away.  If I know they are being deliberately arsey, it sometimes comes out again at the next meal. The same rules apply to their friends who come for tea.  No alternatives are offered.

But don’t let mealtimes become a battlefield.  There are plenty of ways that children can exercise choice in their lives and it’s up to you to find choices within (your) acceptable parameters that make them feel independent.  Food is not one of these choices.  Fussy children become fussy adults.  Fussy adults are a pain in the arse.  I also believe that people who don’t eat well are often limited in other aspects of their lives and are unwilling to embrace new things in general.  Just a thought.

So Jamie Oliver can keep his poxy sausages and Bernard Bloody Matthews can definitely keep his twizzlers and dinosaurs or whatever other life limiting crap they turn out.  Ditto children’s pizzas, cereals and anything that’s spelled ‘Kidz’.  And while I’m at it, a note about cereals.  If the name has ‘chocolate’, ‘cocoa’ or ‘sugar’ in the title, it’s pudding.  Not breakfast, pudding.

For what we are about to receive…


Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Children, Food, Nutrition & Sensible Eating

27 responses to “Children should eat what the rest of the family eats

  1. penny

    How timely, I am on pilgrimage withbetween fifty and sixty other people. For the whole eight days of walking all our meals are provided by church groups and by volunteers who prepare instead of walking. The food that is there is what you get unless you want to walk into town on top of the 30 K that you have already walked. This year there have been no complaints. But in previouse years we have had people register at the last minute with along list os food allergies and preferences that they expect us to meet.
    I learned to try and like a lot of food by spenting time with people who speek different languages. Pansa sounded great and I was on my second helping before I realized it was tripe.

    • wartimehousewife

      Ooooh Penny – tripe is so wrong on so many levels! It just goes to show that sometimes we’re better off not knowing what we’re eating. I’m impressed that you’re on pigrmage AND the my blog at the same time! Canadian multitasking at its best.!

  2. Morag

    I will confess that my late husband was a fussy eater (his mother coos: ooh, I never made him eat anything he didn’t like) and both my children have gone through this phase. I will also admit that I will tend to cook things they like, because our mealtimes have in the past resembled the Battle of the Somme. Both of them would rather starve than eat something they (have decided they) don’t like.

    Them going to boarding school and us eating meat and two veg, usually, has minimised this. Though we have problems now if eating with friends who insist on serving “nursery food” to the children, which my two can’t bear.

    I do encourage them to experiment, but this has now left me with a 9 year old who adores asparagus, anchovies and brussels sprouts!

  3. Morag

    Incidentally, WH, I don’t agree with your comment. You must remember that “Jamie Oliver” is a brand name to many of these people who were previously feeding their children turkey twizzlers. It’s a brand name signifying decent food.

    So, whether or not we like the kiddification of any food, I believe that wholesome food which gets people off turkey twizzlers is good news. 🙂

  4. Project50

    Haha. I must confess, once I got to child number four I opted for a quiet life, then proceeded to make a rod for my own back. One of my daughters ate nothing but yoghurt and white bread (though not together) for weeks. She got sick of it eventually.

    I did almost always insist on us all sitting round the table together for at least one meal a day though. It was an invaluable during those teenage years when they weren’t always particularly forthcoming about their goings-on as conversation inevitably accompanied the meal. It also encouraged them to debate what was in the news, why their sister only ate yoghurt etc.

    I agree with Morag – Jamie Oliver is a modern day hero. WE need the likes of Jamie to persuade ‘sleb followers to eat their greens. He makes cooking rock n roll – means to an end, WH.

    And if I ever come to yours for dinner, please don’t make me eat red meat or offal. ;0)

  5. Affer

    Let’s start with the opening sentence: I was in the supermarket buying sausages yesterday.
    Why? It’s the existence of supermarket sausages that fuels the growth of ‘Jamie Oliver’ branding! The B U T C H E R is where all good sauasages come from.

    As to so-called ‘faddy’ eating, we adults have likes and dislikes – so why not children? I am the father of two healthy young-ish adults; one would only eat cheese when he was between 6 and 9 years, but now eats anything – including brains and durian fruit (not mixed); the other would eat absolutely anything, but now tends to consume only the lightly rinsed Romaine leaf. Although I am quite sure that some levels of eating behaviour can be attributed to upbringing, I don’t think it is always true. Most kids have in them some kind of sensory mechanism that drives them to seek out things that their body needs, and to reject others. But I do think that certain ‘foods’ – eg sugar-based cereals and drinks, white bread and other processed gloop – dull that instinct and replace it with addiction. To the benefit of food companies!

    What a great thought-provoking post, WH!

    • wartimehousewife

      Affer – I completely agree about butchers – but at the moment my time is so limited that I can never get near the shops before 6 or 7pm when the one extortionate butcher is shut. Also, I really, really like The Black Farmer Sausages and only the supermarket sells them (in my defence).

      As I said in the article, I recognise that we all have things we don’t like, but one has to try things to find that out and, in reality, most people like lots and lots of different foods.

      I think that mealtimes can be a place where lots of future life patterns can be absorbed, not just eating and I think these things often go hand in hand.

  6. Sue

    Yet again we are in complete agreement WH. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a book called The Food Our Children Eat by Joanna Blythman when my eldest was a baby and it shaped my approach to feeding my family.

    Real food- ie stuff I’ve made. I never buy boxed cereal-apart from anything else it is just not good value for money and uses far too much packaging.

    One meal for everybody, eaten together around the table. Definitely no special children’s food.

    Keep serving foods and eventually they just grow up and eat them.

    Conversation at the table the other day.
    Me – G (15) you’ve eaten the peppers and mushrooms! T (13) why haven’t you eaten them? G doesn’t like them either and he’s eaten them.

    T – Well G is older and more mature.

    Jamie Oliver has done a great job over the school dinner issue but I still think he’s a t****r and those sausages just confirm my opinion.

    • Lady B

      I can’t bear fussy eaters and I truly believe it all stems from over-indulgence in childhood. As children, both Lord B and I were given meals (not simultaneously you understand – we hadn’t met then!!) and if we didn’t eat it, then that was it … we went hungry. We soon learned and now there are very few things that either of us doesn’t eat. Of course there are some things that people just don’t like; for example having been made to eat broad beans at boarding school, I really can’t stand them.

      I used to enjoy holding dinner parties and out of courtesy I would always used to ask if there was anything the guests did not eat. My heart used to sink when there was suddenly a great, long list of things they didn’t eat / like. I would then wish I could think of some way of retracting the invitation! I wish I had had the bottle to say “sorry, you’re too fussy – let’s just go for a drink instead” !!

      Regarding Jamie Oliver, I’m with WH in not liking the bloke although you can’t help but admire what he has been trying to do. However, I know for a fact that I would never tire of slapping him. And I abhor food that is specifically for children, although I think children’s menus in restaurants is probably a good idea.

      PS Could we start a campaign to stop children from constantly being referred to as kids ??

  7. “We should not give children special children’s food.
    We should not be running in-house cafeterias.
    Children must learn to eat what is put in front of them
    Children must learn to appreciate the effort that goes into producing good food.”

    Amen and amen WH, totally agree 🙂
    Have you come across baby-led weaning at all? It might interest you, as it’s babies feeding themselves (no fussy pureed slop) and eating what you eat. My Grandson has thrived on it and at 18 months will eat virtually anything 🙂
    Here’s a link:

    Autumn x

  8. wartimehousewife

    P50 – you make the same point as Morag and it is a fair one.

    P50- and Lady B: when I have dinner guests, I expect them to flag up any ‘special needs’ well before they arrive. I once invited a new friend over for dinner and fed her Pork in Calvados. Only as I was serving did she point out that she was a Jewish Vegetarian. Oh how we laughed.

    And yes, I wholly support your campaign to stop children being called ‘kids’ on the condition that people will stop referring to mothers as ‘The Mums’. There’s something so patronising about it. Mumsnet. Pass me a bucket.

    Sue: How encouraging that your child can rationalise and debate so effectively!

    Autumn: I haven’t heard of ‘baby led weaning’ and I shall read that link tomorrow when I can look at it properly.

  9. On another note, it helps to mortify ones eating from time to time. For instance, when I am on retreat at a nearby Convent (about twice a year), I always aim to either eat one thing I don’t like, or if I like everything on offer, not choose the one I like the most (the food is laid out on serving tables and you help yourself). This reminds me that I am privileged to be able to exercise personal choice at all, and that food is about sustenance more than personal taste. I make sure the Nuns don’t know my likes and dislikes, so no-one is aware that when I take the hazelnut yoghurt instead of the rhubarb or pile my plate up with celery, I am inwardly bracing myself…!

  10. Sue

    I completely agree with all of this. Where I work, ‘children’s lunch boxes’ are a major annoyance to me. Why can’t they just have sandwiches or normal food like everyone else and stop all this wastage of cardboard boxes and everything else, it drives me nutty!

    • wartimehousewife

      Welcome Sue – may I call you Sue MG as I already have a regular Sue? I feel the same way about picnics. If it’s something special then by all means go to loads of trouble, but as you say, what’s wrong with a sandwich, fruit, crisps, a hardboiled egg or a sausage and some fruit juice? Hope we her from you again.

  11. Oh dear – does that mean I shouldn’t eat pastries for breakfast? They are basically cakes, I suppose…

    • wartimehousewife

      Ah Freelance – hope you’re all moved in and sane. Of course you may eat pastries for breakfast – it’s continental. However, you do seem to have an enviably fast metabolism and burn it all off and no-one can accuse you of not getting your veg!.

  12. Philip

    What stunningly good sense. You hear so little of that on the subject of children’s eating. I see the results in the school canteen, and seeth with quiet frustration.
    Thank you, ma’am.

    • wartimehousewife

      Welcome Philip and thanks for your comment. I think we’re all together too namby-pamby with children and it’s not doing them any favours. I do hope you keep reading and that we hear from you again.

  13. Between my English/American tastes and my wife being Chinese viet, my 3 year old and 1 year old have rather wide ranging tastes. As you have said why would one treat a child differently than anybody else (oysters excepted!)

  14. I do wonder just how much input Mr. Oliver had re’ Kid’o’Sausages.
    I smell super-marketing.

    I can’t help feeling sorry for Mr. O.
    He does try so hard yet he’s become just another food-pornographer.

    Linda’s current favourite is Ms. Nigel Slater.

    O.S.M. B:52

  15. penny

    I agree that we pamper our children too much. Here in the americas we have a term helicopter parents. My younger sister supervises professional exams. She always gets calls from parents asking for information or special accomodation for their child. To write this exam they need to have completed four years of uni and have worked two years. You can imagine the sympathy they get from awoman whos youngest son wanted to say goodbye to her at the door of the nusery school on his first day. We need to let our childern take risks and make mistakes so that they can grow to be strong independent adults.

    still on pilgrimage. Thus the rant and spelling mistakes

    • wartimehousewife

      We have helicopter parents as well – I think it’s a brilliant description. What’s the expression – ‘No risk, no life’

      Hope you’re having a life enhancing time!

  16. Jo Halford

    A subject very close to my heart and I must have a rant…

    When I was 6 years old my headmistress, Mrs Stringer, forced me to eat a plateful of plum tomatoes and halfway through my ordeal, I vomited copiously, mostly over said headmistress. I was such a ‘poor’ eater, my mother took me to the doctors and he said that as mum had three mouths to feed, she should be glad she had one child who didn’t want to eat (I just love his rationale). My mum occasionally gave me eggnog (beaten raw eggs in milk with sugar) but other than that I had a cereal in the morning then NOTHING until the next morning..for years! However, I was thriving. Mum stopped worrying. In today’s society, I would have been labelled with some sort of food disorder. I now eat pretty much everything…apart from tomatoes. I turned out alright (some may disagree) considering I lacked so much nourishment in my developing years.

    My children were both breastfed exclusively until they were 4 1/2 months old then with solids until they were 14 months old. I used to spend hours blitzing and freezing our home cooked dinners and feeding them to my infants, knowing they were getting the very best in fresh home cooking…I have never bought a jar of baby food. However, they are now very particular as to what they eat (although my 16 year old has evolved somewhat). I feel I have failed somewhere along the line and mostly do not have the energy other than to cook what I know they will eat. This is very limiting but mostly healthy cooking.

    I don’t think it helps that I absolutely loathe cooking and struggle with the concept that we should all lavish much time and money on cooking splendid meals and enjoy cooking them…I don’t. If I’m truthful, and WHW I apologise for this, I would just rather take a tablet in order to survive.

    I totally agree with all the ‘kidz’ food nonsense and children’s menus and all those things you were saying, but as a working single mother, I do not have the energy resources and financial means to waste on cooking a meal that my children refuse to eat.

    However, I do now feel better that I have got all that off my chest.

    WHW …your blogs are wonderful, even if they do whip me up into a frenzy now and again!

  17. Jo Halford

    ooops sorry for the long tome, I had a lot to offload!

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