How I Cope As The Mum Of A Picky Eater – Guest Post by Mandy at Sneaky Veg

celeriacflapjackspicThanks 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
  • soup
  • any sandwich unless it’s honey or jam
  • cold meat
  • cheese
  • a bagel
  • any fruit
  • any vegetables
  • hummus
  • yoghurt.

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.

sweetpotatopancakesHRI 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.

You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook, and you can check out more of her mouthwatering food photography on her Pinterest and Instagram pages. 

*If you would like to contribute to the My Mountain series with a piece about your own biggest parenting challenge please email*

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39 comments on “How I Cope As The Mum Of A Picky Eater – Guest Post by Mandy at Sneaky Veg

    1. Absolutely – I wish we had done more of this. With my eldest I usually gave him separate baby food. The youngest is eating exactly what I have and it’s going really well so far – although he’s only 13 months so things could change!!! Thanks for commenting x

  1. Goodness, I can’t even imagine the added difficulty ASD adds! Fussy eating is definitely one of the most tricky things about parenting young kids. Glad you’re enjoying the series – thanks for commenting x

  2. My daughter went through a really fussy stage, but thankfully grew out of it. It sounds like you have the right attitude towards and I’m sure it’s helping your children, as are the sneaky veggies too! But I totally agree about not hiding them hiding them all the time will only make them think they are something they shouldn’t be eating! #KCACOLS

  3. Thanks so much for your comment. We too have had dramas about sandwiches or toast cut in triangles or squares – or the wrong one! I’m feeling positive about the future and I hope things get better for you too!

  4. My two year old simply doesn’t eat any protein, except for some cheese and the hard boiled egg whites. She won’t eat any meat, lentils, pastries. She also doesn’t eat any fresh vegetables, pasta (except for Pesto – in which I hide steamed broccoli), rice, potatoes, yams – nothing!
    I’ve tried everything – we eat together as a family every evening, and we make meals fun and calm, but she never tries anything new other than her regular 3 kinds of meals.
    It’s been like this for more than a year and I’m lost and don’t know what to do.

    1. This sounds so hard. Dealing with fussy eating can be so emotionally draining. I like to tell myself it’s just their age and if we keep doing what we’re doing they will eventually grow out of it. Thanks for reading Mandy’s post x

    2. Reading your comment gave me s lump in my throat because I remember exactly how you feel. When R was two things were awful. He always ate protein but he wouldn’t eat any fruit or veg – and also refused any sauce at all so I couldn’t sneak anything in! He just wanted plain meat or fish and plain pasta or bread. I just kept on trying and things have gradually got a lot better. By the time he was 3 there was a bit of an improvement. Eating with peers helped. But the big breakthrough was when he started having school dinners in reception. For the first term he ate almost nothing then he suddenly started to try things like curries etc and I noticed a big change at home. I would suggest that you keep on offering things, show that you’re eating them and try to take any pressure off. Good luck!!! X

  5. I completely relate to this, my son is sp fussy. He has recently started eating more veg but won’t eat fruit now and he used to eat loads of fruit. Will definitely be checking out sneaky veg blog as Leo still doesn’t eat as much as I would like I hope things continue to improve for you and your fussy eaters xx #Fartglitter

  6. I completely agree with you with how stressful it can be. I have a very fussy three year old and sometimes she will just get down from the table and refuse to eat at all.I know you aren’t supposed to hide veg but sometimes I do out of sheer desperation. We continue to offer a little bit of veg every meal and slowly she is getting better now and will eat carrots and broccoli.Still refuses all other veg though! Like you say eating together and making it fun is important too #anythinggoes

    1. Absolutely – I go for a mix of hiding veg and offering them up whole. I’ve also found that real hunger helps – being very careful about snacks and making sure they understand that if they don’t eat at tea time they won’t get anything until breakfast! That helped a lot here. Good luck! X

  7. I’ve never heard of someone else who doesn’t eat fruit. I thought I was alone!
    I’m sure it is just a phase. My niece used to be really fussy, but she grew out of it, and now eats anything and everything 🙂

    Laura xx

  8. Oh fussy eaters!! I agree with you that it is really stressful. I have one at home. My eldest daughter has always been a fussy eater. It is just so difficult to get her to eat her meals. There can be days that she won’t eat anything and other days that she will a lot. When she was little I used to hide the fruit and veggies too so she wouldn’t notice them and then she would eat her food. Now that she is almost 6 I don’t do this anymore and she just eats them when she fancies them really. The interesting thing is that there are days that she asks for a specific fruit or veggie and that is just amazing. My little one, on the other hand is just a great eater. She loves her food and watch out if you are near her when she is eating as she would protect her plate so nobody can take anything away! LOLThis just tells you how different each kid is even though you teach them the same. Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS. I would love to see you back on Sat 27th Feb when the linky opens again, 🙂 x

  9. We have the same situation with my two and it used to drive me potty. But as Mandy has, I have relaxed. If they like blueberries and stock up on them, if one day they decide they like carrots then that is what we will have. It’s so hard having fussy eaters. Great post. Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky xx

    1. It’s such a relief when you let go of the stress of meals isn’t it? I still sometimes attempt meal negotiations and bribery without thinking it through and I regret it every time! Thanks for commenting x

  10. That does sound exhausting! My son is 17 months old. When he first starting eating solids at 6 months is prepare loads of fresh veggies. Chopping, cooking, blending, storing, reheating. Only for it to be wasted again and again. Same as he got older and started exploring finger foods. He’d take a bite then throw it all on the floor. We’re OK at the moment. He’s recently started eating reasonably well but I am scared that once he reached 2 years that it may all change! #KCACOLS

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