With thank to Annabel Karmel
“But I don’t like it, Mummy!” How do you cope with fussy eating when weaning your little one?
Fussy eating is the phase that every parent dreads. It’s the day when your little one finds an arch enemy in broccoli, having eaten it just 24 hours previously and enjoyed it! It’s a battle no parent wants to face but there are ways to fend-off fussy eating. Believe me, I went through it with my extremely fussy son and came out the other side.
To be honest, it’s thanks to him that I’ve built my career in food. It stemmed from feeling vulnerable when he simply refused my meals. It was so disheartening when after hundreds of recipes my luck wasn’t improving. I was at the end of my tether and decided enough was enough. I began creating my own weird and wonderful flavour combinations and that’s where it all started.
I spent hours, days and weeks testing new foods. I spent equal amounts of time wiping food off walls and scrubbing purée-laden floors, but it was working. Recipe by recipe, he began accepting new tastes. The battleground that was my kitchen table soon because a peace zone, with smiles replacing squeals. So what are my guiding principles to getting your very own little fussy eaters to eat healthily and well?
Hide your frustrations
Truth be told, most children go through a phase of fussy eating, whether it’s picking
at their food, sticking to their failsafe, or flatly refusing to join in at mealtimes. It can be a very distressing and time- consuming experience for everyone involved. The golden rule is to hide any frustrations and instead give them lots of praise when they eat well or try something new (don’t over-egg it, though). Yes, this may mean that you have to ignore some of their bad behaviour and instead focus your attention on their good behaviour but by doing this, mealtimes are likely to be less stressful and far more enjoyable for all concerned. They will soon nd there’s not much point in making a massive fuss if you don’t react to it.
Reward with charts
Reward schemes like a sticker chart in the kitchen can work well with older children. Make the chart yourself or with your child and decorate it with pictures of their favourite TV or cartoon characters. Give your child a sticker for eating new foods and when they have collected a few stickers, reward them with a prize.
Make healthy favourites
Try making your own healthy junk food using good quality lean meat for burgers and pitta bread for pizza bases. My children loved my homemade fish fingers, which were dipped in seasoned our, beaten egg and crushed corn flakes. And for pudding, try making fresh fruit ice lollies from fruit juice and puréed fruits.
Blend in veggies
If children will not eat vegetables, create recipes that vegetables can be blended into, such as a tomato and vegetable sauce for pasta or mashed potato with carrot. What children can’t see, they can’t pick out. I like making a Bolognese sauce packed with onions leeks, celery, tomatoes, pepper, carrots and my secret ingredient, apple. It may sound a little strange but it’s absolutely delicious!
Avoid empty calorie snacks
Where possible, try to avoid bags of crisps or sugary soft drinks. Instead, why don’t you keep a supply of healthy snacks on hand? I like to have cut-up fresh fruit and other healthy foods on a low shelf in the fridge. When little ones are hungry, they really won’t wait for their food.
Make food look good
Without going to unnecessary lengths, try to make your child’s food not only taste good but look good too. Make mini portions of their food in pretty ramekins, pop little strips of free range chicken onto skewers or thread bite-sized pieces of fruit onto a colourful straw.
Get kids involved
Most children love to cook and simple little tasks like squeezing fresh orange juice or cracking eggs are well within the capabilities of a young child. It’s amazing how being involved in the planning and preparation of even a simple meal can help to stimulate a child’s appetite.
Let them assemble dinner
Children like to assemble their own food, so you could lay ingredients out in bowls and let your child ll and fold their own wraps or choose their favourite toppings for their homemade pizzas. Also many children like eating
with their fingers so serve vegetables like whole corn on the cob or carrot and cucumber sticks.
Patience is a virtue
Remember that it’s normal for kids to go through a spate of living on ham sarnies (no butter or mayo, no salad or cucumber, just ham and white bread – without the crusts of course). If they know you’re not expecting them to eat a proper meal, it gives them a gold card when playing picky.
But be sure to try new foods yourself. Not only are you setting a good example but
it gives kids an opportunity to ask questions and learn about what you’re eating. You never know, they might even want to try it themselves! And if they don’t like it, then they’ll come round. If not today, then another day.