Being the mum of the world’s fussiest eater (or so I felt at the time) and having been reduced to tears, several times, I feel like I have been through it all and have tried every trick in every book I knew of, to get my little one to eat. Some of the time, I was successful, at other times, no amount of cajoling, scolding, praising, rewarding, worked. And yet, today, we have somehow managed to achieve so much success that going out, trying new foods, eating lunches at school (still working on this one) are all pretty much checked on our list. How exactly that happened, or when, I couldn’t tell you exactly but there are a lot of strategies that do actually work.
Below is a list of strategies that may prove helpful.
- The best one that really worked for me was that I stopped snacks from a very early age. We had three meals a day and milk in between and that was it. To date, we eat three meals with an afternoon cup of milk and have never had the need for a snack in between.
- Mix it up. Have very very colourful foods arranged in patterns on your child’s plate. For example, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes etc. I would then make up stories about the different foods and why they were different colours. I also started introducing talk of vitamins and which foods contain which vitamins and what those vitamins do for our body. (This was later on).
- Every time we went to a restaurant and something new was tried, either from mummy’s or daddy’s plate or off the menu, stars were given. 5 food stars (now 10) led to a treat or something that was super important and just had to be owned!
- We started cooking together. I would chat while cooking asking what ingredients should go in, and whether or not something needed to be chopped up or put in whole. We loved watching the steam come up and would come up with our own stories about it. I would even allow a little bit of licking of spoons, cracking of eggs, smashing of garlic etc. along with some stirring, whipping and adding of condiments.
- One thing that worked superbly was the investment in a kitchen helper – picture and link below. (Yes, I bought the red but there are a few colours to choose from). Getting in and out of it was as exciting as helping mummy cook. We even brought it to the table and ate while standing inside it for a treat.
- Introduce one new food a week and keep increasing the quantities as the palate gets more used to it. Don’t talk about it if you can help it. If it is noticed, just smile brightly and talk about where it comes from, how it grows, what your child thinks it needs to grow and how much you loved it when you were their age.
- Introduce flavours early. I found that quantity, variety and interest in food increased hugely once I started adding salt, pepper, curry powder, garlic etc.
- Try eating outside in the garden for a change or inviting your child’s toys round for a picnic lunch or tea. Pass things around and praise the toys for eating so well and trying new things. Sometimes, if your child is refusing to eat something, trying to give it to a pet or toy off their plate works very well and more often than not, you will find that it is being gobbled down instantly.
- If all else fails, or even if it doesn’t, sing, dance, make silly faces and act like you are a toddler too…at least it will lighten the mood and sometimes, you would be amazed at how many mouthfuls you can squeeze in between giggles and laughs.
- Sometimes, resorting to an electronic device isn’t that bad either and no, you are not a bad mummy if you do. As long as it isn’t all the time I doubt you would do serious damage. You’ve got to do, whatever it takes to make sure your child is healthy and there is plenty of time to enforce rules about sitting at table and making conversation while having tea. I confess, I have resorted to ipads and dvds on the computer and you tube and sesame street and managed when all else failed to get some food in. So I would say, go with whatever works for you and your child and whatever your gut tell you to do.
Something you never hear enough of, when you are a mum (especially when it is your first child) is that no one else knows your little one as well as you do and you will make the right decisions for you and him/her in the end so never fail to trust your instincts. There will be lots of people judging you, advising you, telling you of their experiences etc. especially when it comes to feeding, but in the end, you have to find a way that works for you.
Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or bad about what you choose to do to make your child eat healthily. And remember, the adage that “they will eat when they are hungry enough, so just leave them to it” does not always work!!! It didn’t work at all for me. Moreover, if children are left eating the minimum, this brings up a whole lot of other complications like constipation which then make things that much harder for you and your child. Far better to do whatever you can to get some food into them and get them into the habit of actually eating properly than letting them pick enough to subdue hunger pangs.
Sometimes though, please be aware that children are fussy or could be bringing food up for a reason.
It could be that they have reflux and are having problems keeping their food down.
It could be that their tonsils are enlarged and they find it hard to swallow.
It could be that they are constipated or having some sort of digestive problem.
It could turn out that they are intolerant to certain foods even though there are no outward signs and therefore find certain foods repulsive because of how it makes them feel when eaten.
More seriously, it could even be that they are on the autistic spectrum. (A friend discovered as her child grew older that he was on the autistic spectrum which was why he would not touch foods of a certain colour or texture. She eventually ended up having to use food dye to make sure that all his food was which ever colour was his favourite that day. )
I hope the above helps. If anyone has any ideas on this topic please feel free to share. I have gone from being a tearful mummy on the brink of sheer desperation to a mummy preparing 5-7 vegetables a day and 2-3 fruits for a pretty good eater so I know what you are going through, I have been there and yes, if there are no underlying causes, it really does get better with age. Good luck and feel free to write in if you have any thoughts or questions.