Fussy Fuss Pots
We’ve all been there………its dinner time and we have that familiar cold dread of the thought of feeding our child. The same old mantra whirling around in our head…. “I will stay calm” “I’ll make it fun” and “I AM in control. Quickly followed by tears and tantrums some 5 minutes later and the immediate rush of guilt that I’m a bad parent and I can’t even get the basics of feeding my child right. It probably won’t make you feel any better knowing that parents all over the world are going through the same. We all feel deflated, a failure and can’t help comparing ourselves to the Instagram lives of others with children.
Whilst fussy eating can come in all shapes and sizes and last far longer than when your child has ditched their dummy and nappy it’s still one of the biggest challenges we parents face. Before we start looking at the solutions, let’s take a look at how children can be fussy.
The range of reasons why children don’t like certain meals can be texture, temperature, smell, colour and can even be based on the elimination of whole food groups. Examples of this could be not wanting to eat meat or any kind of potato. The one thing all fussy eaters have in common seems to be how strong-minded they are about their food. Quite often it can be a battle of wills and more about gaining control than the actual food on their plate. Another way that fussy eating can manifest is children taking forever to eat so that they are often left at the table to chew through their meal. Children can appear to have a super small appetite and survive on less than a mouse would. Whilst it’s true that children will get the nourishment they need and that the time to worry is if they seem to lack energy this doesn’t help your own anxiety that they are not getting enough.
There are lots of ideas to help you navigate through this stressful time. The main thing to consider is that the majority of fussy eating children do not end up being fussy eating adults.
Make mealtimes fun
There are lots of resources out there to help inspire you on how to make food attractive. From using cookie cutters for sandwiches to funny faces out of hot food on a plate. Forget sitting at the table and try having a picnic …….even if it’s raining outside you can have one indoors! Have DIY wraps so that your child can choose what goes inside, give lots of different options so they can pick at a little of what they fancy. There are some beautiful plates out there so your child can keep everything separate if they wish.
Get them involved
Studies show that if your child is involved in the process then they are far more likely to try what they have created. This may be growing your own produce as nothing quite beats the pleasure of watching something grow. When you are preparing meals, what about getting your child to help with peeling the carrots or stirring the sauce? Forget about the mess or the extra time it may take to cook the meal-it will be well worth it!
It’s a family issue
Try getting your whole family involved. Have one child that loves cheesy sauce, whilst another one enjoys tomato sauce? If this sounds familiar, then get everyone involved. Go through all your family meals so that you can try and find some common ground, meals that everyone is happy with. Sometimes it may be an idea to make meals that are easy to adapt (like the pasta sauce aforementioned) I personally don’t mind adapting meals as it’s far easier than making completely different meals? Once you have gained an idea of meals that everyone is ok with then you can give everyone a night to have their favourite. This works well if you have gained the agreement beforehand that everyone has their turn and when its not their turn then they know they will get their choice on another day. Be creative and stick the weekly meal plan on a chalkboard or pinned up with a fridge magnet. Anywhere that everyone can see and it will also help avoid that daily question of “What’s for tea Mum?”
Play with food
Ok, so this goes against the grain of what you and I may have been told as we were growing up but let your child play with food. Putting their fingers into jelly, playing with cold spaghetti or painting with potato stamps can all help. The main focus here is that there is zero pressure to eat the food but they are familiarising themselves with food and it becomes less scary to handle. If your child has sensory issues you may find they surprise you with handling certain textures more than others. Observe your child, is there something, in particular, they don’t like or struggle with? Is it worth trying the opposite of this? An example of this could be that if they don’t like wet textures, try them with a bowl of flour, even if it’s just tickling it with their fingers it’s a start! If your child only likes cold food then let them eat cold Bolognaise. They are still getting the exact same nutrients and they will discover in time that the more nonchalant you act about their weird and wonderful ways with food the less impact it will have.
Your own mindset
This was a big one for me. I noticed that I would get very worked up about mealtimes. The moment that I pretended I wasn’t bothered they would start eating……could it really be true that they were trying to get my attention?? Sounds like an obvious one but are you giving them your full attention? Or do you have your phone glued to your ear, maybe leaving them at the table whilst you get a load of washing in the machine? I totally get it……we’re all busy and we pride ourselves on being able to multitask. If this sounds familiar, try doing it another way. Give your child your undivided attention, make it fun, have a chat whilst you do and you may begin to notice a difference. Children up to a certain age won’t be able to differentiate between positive attention and negative attention. So long as they are getting a reaction out of you then they are winning!
Give reward charts a go but make sure that you don’t try and overcomplicate or challenge your child too far. It would be something as simple as giving your child one pea to try with their meal. Think baby steps with this one. If you give your child too many new foods to try then they may feel over-whelmed and turn off their engagement completely. Depending on the age of your child, if you can talk to them about the reward chart before hand you can gain their agreement on what they are prepared to try. If they are involved in what possible rewards can be then you are far more likely to succeed. Goes without saying that rewards should be small and easy to maintain. Not sure a trip to Disney could work for most of us😊
Who is their favourite superhero? It can be just a casual mention that the reason Iron man is so strong is because of all the broccoli he eats. Don’t feel restricted to just fictional characters. Do they have a dance teacher that they really look up to? Do they love their P.E teacher? Want to be as tall as Daddy? The list is endless and age dependent and even teenagers will have influencers that they aspire to be like.
Go out for food
This may not be an obvious strategy or even one that you feel you want to entertain. I get it, I’ve been there……”I can’t subject other people to the antics that happen in the safety of our own home” What you may find is that children are more likely to try new foods when out of the home setting. On a budget? No worries as it could be about going to the café or pub. I personally found that my kids are more likely to try new foods when out and about or on holiday. I’m not sure what the reason for this is but it definitely was the case and still is now, even though they are teenagers.
Sneaky hidden veg
If you are concerned about the lack of nutrients your child is getting, then there are lots of recipes out there that you can create with plenty of veggies in. The key is to make it as smooth as possible after cooking by blending it up as well as adding additional ingredients such as herbs and spices or cheese that will help bring the dish altogether.
If you would like to find out more on how to make this fantastic hidden multi-purpose sauce or any inspiring family meal idea’s then feel free to contact me below.
Hi, I’m Nikki & I’ve been teaching children & adults alike about the joys of food glorious food for almost 10 years now.❤️
My ethos is that there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods. I teach you how to nourish yourself and once you understand the different types of food and how they can affect how you feel you will gain freedom from punishing diets! 🙌
My business is Pudding and Pie Limited.
If I’m not in a nursery or school then you’ll find me running online classes to teach children how to make a family meal from scratch or a perfect weekend treat! 😋
However, why should our kids have all the fun? I adore teaching adults the joy of cooking from scratch. This is for all levels from a complete beginner as we all have to start off from somewhere to those that enjoy cooking & are looking to get out of the food rut & want to inspire their families and friends with their masterpieces! 👩🍳 👨🍳
All of my classes are online so you can join from the comfort of your own home, even in your PJ’s if you like!🥰
If you’d like to try a taster class then feel free to contact me on 07967004824
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