By Sholain Govender-Bateman , Pretoria based journalism lecturer who worked for The Star, Pretoria & other  publications. She is mum to two gorgeous girls, Isobel and Aishwari, and wife to Barry. Follow her on Twitter @sholain

I am often confused when a parent complains about the poor eating habits of their child but doesn’t realise that the problem is usually their own eating habits.

Be honest now, how many times have you placed a plate of veggies and all things wholesome in front of your toddler for supper and then you’ve sat down with a meal that has the complete opposite amount of nutrition?

We have a profound influence on our children’s personalities and habits and even though their menus differ from ours for the large part of the first year of their lives, it is important to soon meld the kiddies and adult menu to provide a meal that will suit the tastebuds, development and health of all family members.

In our household, we managed to introduce our toddler(almost 3 years old), Isobel, to just about every food there is from sushi to salads, beetroot to braaivleis. I’m a huge fan of the ‘Baby Sense’ and ‘What to expect’ series of books so I used those as guidelines when introducing her to solids but we also realised that the only way we could really get her to eat something was if we ate it ourselves.

We let her play with her food and encouraged her to eat without stressing if she refused a meal from time to time or threw her food-tray on the floor. It was a wonderful and hugely rewarding experience as we now can sit at the dinner table with her and enjoy a meal together most evenings – being flexible to allow for the mid-meal wanderings of a toddler.

Isobel’s fond of veggies but not at all keen on raw tomatoes – and guess what… neither am I. She loves tinned tuna and pilchards but steers clear of prawns when daddy is around – could it be because dad never touches them because of his shellfish allergy?  She has a penchant for raw onions and can handle spicy food – is it just a coincidence that I love onion and dad orders ‘extra hot’? I don’t think so.

It may seem obvious but sometimes we try so hard to make our kids eat the ‘right’ things with no luck and just don’t see that they are just copying us most of the time…

Many ‘lazy’ parents will simply say, “I grew up drinking Coke/ eating junk food every day/ I’ve always hated vegetables…” etc… “…and I’m still alive.” And some of these families may have excellent genes that carry no risk for heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol and the numerous other silent diseases that plague millions of people. But isn’t a change in your attitude to food worth it if it’s going to help you mould your child into a healthy eater and an overall happy being?

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