This is the first of a two-part piece on throwing away the food your child doesn't eat. Is this something you have spent time thinking about? I know I have.
In this age of extensive food poverty both at home and abroad, wasting food feels pretty horrible. Factor in the influence of growing up with baby-boomer parents (as most of my generation did) who remember post-war rationing, and it's not difficult to understand why the drive to avoid throwing food away is so strong. But if you want your child to learn to love food, they need to be able to leave it. And you need to be able to let them leave it.
If you teach your child the EAF rule that it's fine for them to leave whatever they don't want, but there will be no (unscheduled) snacks later and no alternatives, you will find yourself throwing food away. I have struggled with this, believe me, but allowing your child to leave food is the only way to teach them to self-regulate.
When I explored my own food legacy as part of writing my book, my abhorrence of waste was one of the key things that I can trace back to my childhood. My mum (and her mum before her) would always have tiny pots of leftovers crowding the fridge, which often got fried up at the end of the week and called 'hash'. My way of dealing with my children's left-overs is often to eat them myself - not something I'm recommending!
The hard truth is that if you understand the importance of exposing your child to a wide variety of food, you need to accept the waste that comes with that territory. It comes back to looking at the big picture - a child who learns to love food at a young age will probably waste less as an adult. A child who loves to eat will grow up being thoughtful about where their food comes from and will hopefully have a respect for what they eat that will make them mindful of using their resources carefully.
Accepting waste is not just a part of providing a varied diet, it's also about understanding how important it is not to pressure your child to eat. When children are told to 'clean their plate' they will feel less relaxed, which in turn impacts on their appetite. Research shows that the more pressure children feel at the table, the worse their eating becomes. Conflict at mealtimes has the same affect, so if you pressure your child to eat food that they don't want and this gives rise to an argument, you've paradoxically made it really hard for your child to comply.
If you decide not to fight food waste, there are things you can do to make things better - if you're feeling brave, invest in a wormery; the worms will turn your left-overs into magic brown liquid that plants adore. Compost heaps for uncooked fruit and vegetables are great if you have the space, too.
Share your thoughts (and creative waste ideas) I understand how controversial this topic is and I'd love to hear how other people feel.
In Part 2 next week, I'll be talking about how your child leaves food...