Food - an evergreen topic that divides and unites across all cultures, ethnicities and demographics. Even babies who are not verbal yet have an opinion on what they are fed, either by reaching for more or spitting it out.
Most of us would have already developed firm preferences early in life (durian anyone?) and a lot of it has to do with our earliest exposures to food at home and the attitudes around it.
Seeing a toddler munch on broccoli with gusto and a teenager bypassing bubble tea for fruits can broadly be attributed to what their parents have modelled for them at home.
Homemaker Cherie Rogez, 34, mother to a 4 year old and 18 month old toddler says, “We don’t eat junk food at home so naturally the kids are not exposed to the sight of it. Both kids love green smoothies because they see my husband and I drinking smoothies and eating salads regularly. I make their meals daily and they don’t fuss or pick on their food because they see the adults enjoying the same healthier alternatives, like brown rice.”
Making the consumption of vegetables, healthy grains and fruits a regular sight at the dining table and even as snacks impress upon young minds that fresh produce is enjoyable. Seeing their parents try a wide variety of cuisines without anyone going “yucks!” also helps teach younger children that all cuisines are to be respected and can be enjoyed. Caregivers and parents should be conscious of the things they say about food in the presence of children.
As desserts can be gradually introduced to young children, normalise sweet treats without making it a reward nor guilt-tripping them about indulging. A young child and their caregivers can enjoy, say, a small scoop of ice cream each after dinner and everyone does not go for seconds.
Adjusting their attitudes towards what can sometimes be seen as “forbidden” foods can go a long way in inculcating moderation, a mindset that will benefit children greatly when they can buy their own food later in life. For example, a cup of bubble tea can be enjoyed on occasion. The cold, sweet, milky beverage should be enjoyed as it is without being seen as a reward nor should it induce guilt after the last bubble has been sucked up.
“We try to make it a habit to not buy too much unhealthy food too often. On our staples list are still things we need in the house like brown rice, greek yoghurt, vegetables and proteins. I think it’s really about calibrating what we need and having nice little treats,” says Sharon Ismail, lecturer, actress, author and mother of 2 teenagers.
Moderation is key but the occasional indulgence of choice should also be given some allowance in your lifestyle.
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