Thanks for all the kind words and support you’ve shown last week’s guest blogger – and huge thanks to you Josie for contributing on such an important topic.
This week I’m really excited to have a guest post from Mandy at Sneaky Veg on a topic which I’m sure will resonate with many of you – fussy eating.
I was walking home from playgroup recently with another mum and we were talking about packed lunches. Both of our children have a cooked school meal and they have both asked if they can have a packed lunch instead.
We were debating the pros and cons of this when I found myself listing the things that my five-year-old son won’t eat in a packed lunch:
- pasta salad
- cold rice
- any sandwich unless it’s honey or jam
- cold meat
- a bagel
- any fruit
- any vegetables
Needless to say he won’t be getting his requested daily packed lunch! When he started school he wouldn’t eat most of the school dinners offered to him. He also wouldn’t eat any of the fruit offered at snack time.
18 months on he still won’t eat any of the fruit (and I’ve accepted the fact that there’s a good chance that he never will) BUT he nearly always eats his dinner and has tried dishes like beef goulash, jerk chicken AND (this one was the biggest surprise) mushroom pasta! Hunger and peer pressure have doubtless helped with this change.
At home things have improved a lot too. There is still a massive list of things he claims not to like. Some of them are things that he ate happily a few years, or even a few weeks ago. Some of them are not even things that you can consider particularly challenging foods for a child. For example, he’s suddenly decided that he doesn’t like bagels any more!
Despite this situation I am now remarkably upbeat about his eating.
Dealing with this picky eating has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a parent. I love food and I was a good eater as a child so it just didn’t occur to me that I’d be in this situation – that I’d have a child who cried if someone was crunching on an apple near him!
If there’s one thing I could tell myself four years ago, when the pickiness was just starting, it would be to chill out. I got so stressed about his eating and wasted so much energy, and yes a few tears, worrying about it. For a while mealtimes weren’t particularly pleasant. I had some really low moments and we were all miserable.
We now have three children. We try to eat as a family as often as we can. I try to serve up the same meal to everyone. Sometimes I let them have fish fingers and chips twice a week to give myself a break. I also try very, very hard not to bribe, force or cajole any of my children into eating anything that they don’t want to. It might end up with a short-term victory – “you ate a carrot dipped in ketchup? Woo hoo!” – but rarely has any worthwhile long-term result.
We’ve had countless tears and tantrums over what is on his plate. Sometimes it’s resulted in nothing being eaten. I have to be clear that there won’t be an alternative option. There won’t be a snack before bed if you don’t eat your dinner.
I stress again and again that it is ok to leave something. So there’s a tomato on your plate. BIG DEAL! Just leave it if you don’t want to eat it. It’s not going to do you any harm just sitting there.
I’ve been doing this for ages now, probably a couple of years and the aforementioned five-year-old (and his four-year-old sister sometimes) still on occasion cry or declare yuck when they see something they have decided that they don’t like, or just something they’ve never seen before on their plate.
But – many, many times they have happily tried something new. I’m happy if it’s even one bite. And sometimes they discover something brand new that they love – I made burritos last week and they both had seconds. The baby loved them too so that was a real winner.
I do still sneak fruit and veg into their meals sometimes. I totally accept the argument that you shouldn’t hide vegetables and that kids do need to get used to seeing them on their plates. But you can’t deny that they’re meant to have their five-a-day, just the same as adults, and they need the nutrients and vitamins contained in fruit and veg. If they are only getting one-a-day and that’s a box of raisins or a Bear Yoyo then that can’t be good. So blending a portion of black beans and red peppers in with the burrito sauce, chucking a portion of celeriac or sweet potato in with some flapjacks or pancakes, or adding a few different veggies to a tomato sauce for topping a pizza is what we do. I still serve up whole vegetables as well, but I prefer to know that at least some of them are getting eaten.
Meanwhile we still have the fullest food waste bin on our street!
Mandy is a mum-of-three from London. She creates fruit and veg-filled recipes for all the family over at Sneaky Veg.
*If you would like to contribute to the My Mountain series with a piece about your own biggest parenting challenge please email firstname.lastname@example.org*