Fussy Eaters are not Fun

We all know someone who has a child who is a fussy eater, even if our own children are not.  Over the years, I have gone through degrees of ‘fussy eating’ with all of my children, but they have tended to be phases rather than anything long lasting and they have always all eaten a small range of things at any given time.

A however definitely fits into the definition of a fussy eater and suddenly, I can completely empathise with all those people that have struggled with fussy eaters now as I sit through endless meal times where she either walks out of the kitchen in disgust with an outright refusal to even try her food, or sits and prods and pokes at her food rather than actually eating it.

It is both depressing an worrying. Depressing, as there is nothing worse than spending time preparing a meal for someone to refuse to eat it or to be very vocal about how awful it is. More importantly though, it is worrying. Even though I am fairly certain that A is going through what I would describe as a ‘grazing’ phase, I worry that she isn’t eating enough. She visibly recoils from anything that falls in the category of fruit or vegetable (apart from strawberries) and even the good old faithful peas are on her ‘hate list’ at the moment.

The problem with having a fussy eater in the family is that I know that it is my fault. That lovely phrase ‘rod for your own back’ springs to mind as I know in my heart of hearts that I have created this monster. I have built up a fairly uninspiring menu of meals that I know the boys will eat and I haven’t really tried to add different things for them to eat.  It  is one of those many things that is always on the never ending ‘to do’ list.  I always have the best intentions, but then when you go to great lengths to prepare a lovely family meal to then be greeted with a chorus of moans and refusals to eat, it is really disheartening.  I also know that I have caused a general apathy towards vegetables through a ‘death by peas’ campaign.  I’m sure a lot of you have done it too; frozen peas are always there, always easy to cook and most if not all children will eat them. They also have the major advantage of not wilting into a brown mush at the bottom of the fridge like most of the other long forgotten veggies do in my fridge.  My lot are probably now sick of them and I can’t really blame them.

However, it needs to be dealt with.  The boys are much better now that they are older.  R has just turned nine this week and he will try new things and unless he really, really hates it, he will eat most things.  L has good days and bad days.  Given the choice, he would live on pizza and jacket potato with the occasional spaghetti bolognaise thrown in along the way.  He eats lots of fruit but is another one for whom the prospect of eating vegetables can be a big deal.  A is the worst though by a long long way.  She often comes down at meal times and takes one look at her plate and walks back out of the room in disgust.  She loathes potato of any type apart from fast food chips.  She will not try new foods under any circumstances and I am trying to be quite laid back about it, but I do need to make some changes.  She likes tomato soup and will occasionally eat sandwiches and things on toast, but that is about it.  Yet put a children’s meal from a well known fast food outlet in front of her and it is all gone without any fuss at all. 

So the time for change has come.  It is something that will benefit all of the children, not just A.  I want to be able to cook one meal that every one can sit down and enjoy together.  I want us all to be eating a range of fruit and vegetables without the tears and tantrums.  I’m not idealistic enough to believe that this is going to happen over night, but I think that by involving the children more in the choosing, planning and preparation of meals is a good starting point and I am also going to try and introduce at least one new food at the weekend, when we are all more relaxed and less stressed.  Apparently, when you put a new food in front of a child, it can take up to fifteen attempts before they will willingly eat it, so I also need to be more persistent and not give up when I am faced with resistance.

With A, as she is a very strong willed three year old, I am also going to try a reward chart.  I have been lucky enough to be offered a subscription to http://www.kiddycharts.com/ which is a fantastic site where not only can you create personalised reward charts to be printed off, but there is also a blog with lots of interesting tips and ideas on all aspects of parenting.  I will be doing a full review of the site next week, but in the mean time, my job this weekend is to create a princess reward chart for A and start plotting my food revolution.  I will let you know how I get on.

5 Comments

  1. Really keen to see how you get on. Every night my 5 year old refuses tea and its frustrating as hell. She may eat one thing/section of tea then nothing. She’s still throw a hissy fit though when you tell her why there’s no cake or pudding! Often bedtime is after some butter on toast otherwise she will wake up stupidly hungry and in tired!! Goodluck x

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  2. My 5 year old is the same and like A will point blank refuse something if it has vegetables in it. He loathes potatoes unless chips – he will not accept that they are the same thing. If he thinks he won’t like it, he won’t eat it. He refuses hot meals at school too. My problem is that his little brother is starting to copy him. I’m really interested to see how this turns out, I really want to change his attitude towards healthy balanced meals. I can’t wait for an update =)

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  3. I’ve been there twice over and it’s not fun! To be honest, we’re still there really. I made mistakes with my eldest and, like you, fell into the trap of making a very limited number of meals I knew the kids would mainly like. Until they got bored of them. But wouldn’t try anything else. We now try to give them something to try most weekends and we have got to a point where they will eat a small amount of carrot and my eldest ate his first Quorn bolagnaise last week (he is a vegetarian who only likes pizza!).
    Good luck! Will be interested to read how you get on. Suspect even my daughter is too old for reward charts, but I will keep plodding on with putting different foods on their plates.

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  4. I’ve had spells of this with my 3 older boys, but we have a rule in our house that may possibly help.

    Each child is allowed one food that they don’t like and I won’t them serve that.

    For example, my oldest doesn’t like fish, so on days that I cook fish, I give him something else.

    My second son doesn’t like curry/chilli so on those days I don’t give him that.

    However eldest doesn’t like potatoes either, and next doesn’t like rice. The thing is though, they’ve already declared their ‘hate’ food, and therefore have to eat said potatoes/rice.

    The deal is though that I will put it on their plate and they will be expected to eat it, but that I will give them a smaller portion than the rest of the family. A compromise if you will!

    It works very well and they know that if they refuse, they will have a plate of fish/curry put in front of them at the next meal!

    My 4 year old is making attempts to be fussy, but he immediately gets put on a snack ban. They have fruit at 10am, dinner at 12, cake/snack at 3, tea at 5 and milk & biscuit at bedtime at 7. Any fussy eating results in an immediate snack ban and a meal reheated and served at the next meal.

    I never refuse them pudding though. Amd never said ‘if you don’t eat your dinner there’s no pudding’. My feeling on that is that pudding is part of the meal, and saying ‘if you eat you get pudding’ is sort of teaching them pudding is the reward for eating the nasty meal.

    What I will do though is make that child’s pudding not quite so special. Eg, if it’s ice cream for pud, the others will have sprinkles but that child won’t. He’s still getting the pudding, but it’s not as good as his siblings!

    With 4 under 9, I have little time, patience or energy for fussy eating so these are just things I’ve developed over time.

    Now bedtime…. I’d quite like the 4 year old to not muck about and hide in his wardrobe every night please…. tips??

    Sam x

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  5. I nodded so many time when reading this. It’s my first time, having a fussy eater. By fussy eater, I’d say all she really likes is pasta and fruit, yoghurt, and raw veg like carrots stick. And that’s it. I have found it unbelievably frustrating, but she really seems to be coming out of it now. I can see it’s becoming more and more fad like, so I’ve been doing the cardinal sin, and she’s not allowed to leave her seat until all/most of the meal has gone. Then she can have a yoghurt. It working, and her food likes are starting to be more and more varied. My only advice is stick with it, keep offering variety and eventually it will come right.

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