My son Ted is not the greatest eater and as a baby he suffered with reflux. From about six weeks he threw up his milk until he was about thirteen months old. I was told by numerous people that the reflux may go when I feed him solids. However, when I started to feed him solids at six months he would throw up the food I would give him too. All of the vegetable purees I made had to be put into yogurt for him to be able to digest them easily.
I’m not sure if this has affected what he likes and dislikes or if he’s just being a typical ‘three-nager’. But now we have a full blown fussy eater. So I thought I would write down the processes we have put in place to try to help our son love his food and especially his veg. Recently, he’s been telling me how he doesn’t like vegetables. I try to talk to him and tell him that veggies are delicious and so good for the body. He still insists that vegetables are horrible but I’m working on it.
My first tip as the parent of a fussy eater is to be patient with your child. I know, this is such a difficult one for me. As a child, I loved my food and I would always eat everything on my plate. Therefore, I think this is why I find it hard to understand when he says, ‘Ugh, don’t like it’. It used to really irritate me because he would say this before he had even tasted the meal.
Now I simply ask him to try the meal before he decides he doesn’t like it. My aunt told me that this is what my Grandmother used to say to her before she declared she hated tomatoes. My Nan was a wise lady so I thought I would try this tip on Ted. I ask him to have a few mouthfuls of food, maybe three or four, I tell him to try two before he can have any other foods.
Normally, unless he’s really not hungry, he will eat the whole meal. I also try to praise him. Even if he only has a little bit I will always tell him he’s done a good job and I’m really proud of him for trying the food.
Ted gets easily distracted from eating. If he decides he wants a toy then he will get down from the table and just grab a toy. I will ask him politely to return to the table. I do allow toys at the table as it gives us a topic to talk about during our meal. The television is switched off because it is too much of a distraction for Ted. Meals tend to get eaten a lot quicker because there is no added background noise of the TV.
We try to eat all our meals together as a family. So if Howard is at home or it’s the weekend we always eat together. The only time I don’t eat with Ted is the evening meal during the week. He has his dinner about 5.30 but I like to wait for my husband to come home at about 6.30 before I eat my evening meal. However, I do sit with Ted when he eats his dinner and we will have a conversation about the activities we have done during the day. I love our chats in the evening and it’s a favourite part of my day.
Also, I learned the hard way when it comes to snacks to try to limit them. When he was a lot younger I would give him a bag, yes a bag of rice cakes. I know but I really thought at least he’s eating food. However, then he started not to want his meals and just wanted to snack all day long.
So now he has about five rice cakes instead of one whole bag. I take a small tupper ware box of snacks instead of a whole packet. Also I give him another snack called Posh Bits they are by a company called N’ked. Personally, I love these snacks as they have dates and other whole food ingredients in, so great for energy in between meals. If we are at home, we keep frozen fruits in the freezer as Ted likes to snack on fruit too.
Finally, and the one thing I have learned from having a child, is that their tastes change almost what feels like on a daily basis. One day Ted will love a food and the next he will hate it. Last month he loved cherries and couldn’t stop eating them. Now he loves grapes and won’t put them down. I have learned to roll with it but I do try to suggest having other fruits or snacks if I feel he’s had too much of the same food.
Also I play ‘hide the vegetables’ a lot with dinners. I have found that finely grating carrots and courgettes makes Ted think it’s just meat and a tomato sauce when my Spag Bowl is served. I realise that we are trying to make our son love veg but there are times when I just want to make my life easy too.
As well as playing hide the veg, if we are having a meal I know he doesn’t like that much I will always try to put an item of food on his plate that he does enjoy. So Ted is not a great lover of soup but I will make this with a cheesy flatbread made with spelt or wholemeal flour. He loves cheesy flatbread so I tell him that he can eat it as long as he tries the soup too. It also works well if there is cheese or yogurt in the soup.
For me, putting foods on Ted’s plate that he enjoys eating makes the meal so much more enjoyable for everyone. So Ted loves cheese, bread, pasta and occasionally rice. Basically, carbohydrate and fat central. So for a couple of the evening meals I will add yogurt or cheese. We eat a lot of pasta and rice too. Plus giving Ted a meal with bread in it is a guaranteed way to get him to the table.
It’s not easy when there is a fussy eater in the family but my husband, Howard and I try our best to stick to the guidelines we have put in place. We work together to help Ted enjoy his food as best we can and we are finding that meal times are improving. We find when we are all on the same page life runs smoothly. It not been an easy road but we have been as patient as we can. I realise now that these are stages that my son is going through. All I tell myself now is it won’t go on forever and I’m sure one day when Ted eats the contents of the fridge I will wonder what happened to that fussy eater.