I’m so excited to share this post with you from Mandy over at sneakyveg.com. Her blog is one of my favourite places to visit when I’m stuck for ideas. Mandy knows all the trick of the trade when encouraging a reluctant child to eat veg. So, if your have your own vegetable refuser, have a read of these top tips!
You have an eight-month old baby boy.
He took to solid food like a duck to water. He eats everything you offer him. And lots of it. You congratulate yourself on having a child that loves food. Broccoli, beans, lentils, cheese, berries, plums – he devours it all.
When he’s around nine-months old it is Christmas. You decide to make his favourite meal for him – which is cauliflower cheese.
At some point over the next year however – you can’t quite remember how or when – things change. And before you know it you have a picky eater. A toddler who won’t eat anything green. A boy who has a major meltdown if there is muck (known to everyone else as sauce) on his pasta. And one day you realise that your child no longer eats any fruit.
In case you haven’t guessed I’m talking about myself.
Today I have an otherwise happy and healthy six-year-old son, who started out eating everything and now won’t touch any fruit at all and hardly any vegetables.
I’ve been given a lot of advice about his eating. Examples include:
“Don’t let him get down until he’s eaten it” “He’ll grow out of it” “He’ll soon change when he starts school and sees his friends eating it” “Make him eat it” “Cut out snacks so he’s really hungry”
And so on. Actually the last one – cutting out snacks – is the only one that’s made any difference. He still doesn’t eat fruit but making sure he’s properly hungry for meals does help him eat his dinner. It might sound obvious, but it’s harder than you think to refuse snacks to a hungry, grumpy child.
Anyone who thinks that it’s possible to make a child eat something he doesn’t want to eat – or that he’ll eat it if you make him stay at the table long enough clearly has never been to our house at meal times! Over the years we’ve had some terrible low moments around meal times – in fact I would say some of my most stressful and difficult moments as a mum have been around food. There have been tears at the dinner table many times – often mine!
If you’re in a similar situation here are three simple things you can do:
1. Cut the pressure – We now operate a no-pressure approach to meal times. No-one has to eat anything they don’t want – but my kids know they won’t get an alternative if they don’t eat their meal. Not that this stops them asking! This doesn’t mean they’ll always eat their veggies but it does mean we don’t have tears and shouting at the dinner table.
2. Serve up what YOU want them to eat – Keep on dishing up meals that you want them to eat even if they’ve been refused. I got out of the habit of serving up stir fries, curries and chillies and so they became unfamiliar foods to my kids – something I’m now having to work hard at to rectify. Ideally eat the same thing as them at the same time. It’s a good idea to make one element of the meal something they’ll like e.g. if I make a vegetable curry I usually include potatoes as these always get eaten.
3. Hiding veg vs not hiding veg; operate a half and half approach – I hide vegetables when I can. Some people disagree with this approach. However, while I agree that kids need to get used to seeing veg on their plate I throw away so much untouched veg every single week that I want to make sure they actually eat some as well.
So yes, I put carrots, peas and broccoli on their plates but I also make homemade baked beans with hidden vegetables:
I hide butternut squash in cheese straws:
At least this way I know that they’re getting some veg. Because getting to five portions of fruit and veg a day is pretty tricky if you don’t eat any actual fruit or vegetables!
In my wackier moments I’ve even put swede in a cake and celeriac in flapjacks:
If you are seriously worried about your child’s diet then you should always seek help from a professional such as your GP or health visitor.
I found a book called War & Peas really helpful in helping me to shift my attitude towards my son’s picky eating. The book is by Jo Cormack of Emotionally Aware Feeding http:// www.emotionallyawarefeeding.com/
To read more examples of annoying things people say to parents of picky eaters check out this post by Play With Food. http://www.playwithfood.com.au/what-not-to-say-fussy-eater/
You can see even more AMAZING fruit and veg recipes Mandy over at sneakyveg.com