PARENTS

Three Into Four: How To Feed Your Children (When You Can Barely Feed Yourself)

14/08/2014 16:53 | Updated 22 May 2015

Three Into Four: How to feed your children (when you can barely feed yourself)

Now that Liv is eating solids, I'm always in the kitchen: planning meals, making them, cleaning them up, feeding someone or multiple someones... and then forgetting that I also need to be fed and devouring a box of chocolates in a starving panic at lunchtime.

Or I'll have some brownies, a piece of cake or maybe the marshmallows I was saving for the sweet potato mash I was planning to make later. I'm still breastfeeding, I'll tell myself. I need the energy - and Liv needs the milk.

But I'm starting to get frustrated with myself. How am I supposed to teach my girls how to eat happily and healthfully when I can't manage a balanced meal? And no jar of Nutella is safe in a room alone with me?

I thought I was doing a pretty good job - Diana eats a variety of foods, and I think she sees me eating lots of vegetables, fruit, seafood, whole grains. We don't have treats with every meal and I usually do my Nutella-scoffing when she's asleep.

But on the last day of our holiday in Aix, as we were enjoying one of the multiple ice creams of our trip, I turned to D and explained that life wouldn't be so indulgent back home.

"Tomorrow we're going back to London, and reality, D. That means we can't have ice cream every day," I said.

"OK," D said, delightedly scooping another mouthful of strawberry gelato into her mouth. "So we go back to cake?"

Uh-oh.

My husband, unfortunately, also happened to witness this exchange. All of my authority as a "healthy" role model for the girls (I'm not sure I had much to begin with anyway) has evaporated. This means that when D squirts mayo on her grilled chicken (Ew! But Daddy does it, of course), I can't say anything, only seethe quietly.

As a 30-something, my sweet tooth has become more of a liability than it's worth, giving me terrible skin, cavity-ridden teeth and irritable moods. I keep trying to go cold turkey, but pregnancy, or breastfeeding, or something - anything - always seems to make it impossible to stop shoveling sugar into my mouth.

Thankfully, part of learning to parent for me has involved learning to eat better (and not in front of the TV!). I grew up on takeout, but the girls are having mostly home-cooked, healthy meals, sitting at the dining table. Luckily, Diana has always been open to new foods - she loves a variety of fruits, veg, fish, meats and grains. And, of course, ice cream.

In fact, I recently discovered that she is so obsessed with the idea of lipstick (I'm trying not to dwell on the implications of this) that she will eat basically any colourful food, applying the theory that it will turn her lips that colour.

She devoured a beetroot to get a hot pink effect; the next day I told her spinach would give her green lips and she ate it. Now she'll pick up a piece of avocado - which she doesn't particularly like - and hope for a pale green pout.

Whatever works, right?

Liv, who hasn't yet met a food she doesn't like, also seems happy with vegetables and fruits. I seem to be giving her sweet potato at least once a day, so hopefully that will turn her into some kind of superfood genius and not just orange.

The regulated mealtimes and the cooking have meant that I have been able to get healthier myself, or to at least try a vast new variety of good-for-you foods (bulgur wheat! puy lentils! kale!). I've also switched to whole-grain bread and pasta (well, sometimes), I avoid juice (and try to minimise D's intake) and I buy plain yoghurt without any added sugar (and only put a little maple syrup on it).

So it's still very much an uphill battle for me. And even though Diana is mostly happy to eat her veg and her lean meat and her fruit, I think my daughters might have the eat-frosting-out-of-a-can-with-no-pretense-of-cake-nearby gene.

We recently went to a birthday party where D flung herself on the sweets table in a frenzy, taking a bit of every biscuit and brownie and chocolate before launching herself headfirst into the birthday cake (not hers). She then ran riot for the next two hours like a madwoman before collapsing in a heap at 5pm, without dinner or a bath.

Considering I was also scoffing a chocolate or two at the time, I couldn't say much. And as long as she's eating broccoli and salmon and rice and tomatoes, surely it's OK for her to have a cake-fest every now and again?

And maybe it is for me, too. I'm still sleep-deprived and running on empty a lot of the time, and being functional for the girls is more important than having a blemish (or 12).

So the new (semi-healthier) plan is to bake the goodies at home - at least then I'll know exactly what's in them. My first attempt at this, with D as my sous-chef, resulted in her being fired within 10 minutes.

The reason? She couldn't stop sampling the batter.

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