I was reading a news article which revealed how disconnected our children have become from food. Apparently a third of all UK primary children think that cheese is made from plants! The article goes on to quote a series of food misconceptions that a scary number of UK children believe such as fish fingers coming from pigs and pasta being made from meat.
I think for a lot of us feeding children and our children’s relationship with food has become extremely complicated. When I was a child it was fairly simple, cook food, give to children, repeat regularly. Sure there where things I didn’t like, and I’m sure there were still some fussy eaters. These days though it seems like every other child struggles to eat anything outside of their very narrow repertoire.
We are told to make food fun, not force but continue to offer different foods regularly until our children decide to eat them. I took this approach with Super Kid and his food tastes became narrower and narrower. He would eat pasta, rice etc, but only completely plain. He would eat cheese, eggs and veggie burgers but would barely touch fruit or vegetables. I got extremely fed up of presenting meal after meal and then scraping most it into the food waste box. I had had enough and I decided to make a change.
I’m going to be controversial and for sure a huge chunk of you are going to disagree with me, so apologies in advance. Honestly though I think we should stop pandering to our children’s limited food choices. Stop desperately making faces out of their salad veg. Stop letting your kids dictate what they will and won’t eat and start cooking regular food.
The kind of food we always ate as children. Pasta and veg sauce that isn’t whizzed up to hide carrots. Stews, lasagne, fish and chips. Whatever you plan to cook each day, serve it up and expect them to eat it.
Sure they will whine, refuse and cry, some kids will even force themselves to vomit in order to guilt you into continuing with the old program of their favourites each day. My children don’t always love what I put in front of them, they sometimes don’t eat it, but there are never alternatives and none of them is starving.
I give them their meal. I ask that that they eat at least a portion of it, say a third. If they refuse then they don’t get pudding. They don’t get anything else, they will simply be hungry. If they eat they get tons of praise and high five’s and pudding. This is working, we have seen huge changes in what our children will eat.
Since I started feeding my children what was on the menu they have become more adventurous. They have their usual kid favourites of macaroni cheese, and potato waffles. Alongside those my son recently discovered he liked goats cheese and sweet potato pie, my other son announced that a bean stew I had made was delicious!
Perhaps you already have children who chow down on dal and love olives, kudos to you and how do you do it? My message is for those of you who are cooking the same meals day after day. Those of you throwing away a ridiculous amount of food after each mealtime. If it’s driving you bonkers this is what I did to change things. If not and you’re happy with things then thats groovy too. I’m simply offering an alternative. What do you think?
I agree with you. My children normally insist on baked beans in a separate bowl as they don’t like the juice making the rest of the meal soggy. Last week we had visitors and the meal got served up all on the one plate and they ate everything without a quibble! I normally make mince and mash rather than a proper shepherd’s pie once again due to the mixing of foods issue. The other day I thought, tough, for once I want to eat my food in a grown up way and guess what, it got eaten. Time for me to toughen up, I think!
That’s great. Plus shepard’s pie in its individual components just isn’t the same.
Matilda used to eat pretty much anything but turning 2 seems to have triggered something. She’s still not bad, but we’ve taken a similar approach to you. If she tries something or eats a decent portion she can have pudding otherwise not. Has resulted in her sitting at the table for 30 mins refusing to eat 1 mouthful 🙂
I’m always curious if there is a difference in kids that had done pureee vs. BLW also…
I think ‘2’ seems to be the turning point. Mini Mint would eat ANYTHING before two and then started to gradually refuse more and more. He’s dairy intolerant anyway, so that leaves a big block of food he CAN’T eat, but he’s also decided he’s vegetarian. He’s 8 next week, and apart from the two exclusions above he has a pretty varied palate, it does get better, I promise 🙂
Yes two does seem to be the age that these things start, we have all probably boasted about how well our toddlers eat, age 18 months! I did purees with my eldest and blw with my last two, I would say the blw kids are less fussy and more open to new tastes tbh.
I don’t agree. I was a terribly fussy eater when I was little. And it didn’t change until I moved here to the uk. My mum’s cooking was just awful. So no wonder I only ate the select few dishes that tastes nice. Sometimes it’s about texture too. I wouldn’t eat minced meat or sausages until recently because I always considered them mystery meat and found them gristly. In short, kids won’t like some stuff. I grew up eating chips day in day out. When mum would fore me to eat something I didn’t want I’d gag. Not because I wanted attention but because it was horrible (usually didn’t like the texture)
I think it’s important to offer different food and expect/demand your children at least try it, most things will grow on them. But I disagree with what is essentially forcing kids to eat something they don’t like the texture or flavour of.
I’m certainly not advocating force feeding at all! What I’m suggesting is giving them the food you are cooking and offering them no other options, they still have a choice as to whether they actually eat it. Also if it’s clear my children really genuinely don’t like a particular food then I don’t give it them. I just don’t believe that there are a huge amount of foods that fit into that category.
That said obviously you do what’s best for yours.
I’m in 2 minds about this. One the one hand, it frustrates the life out of me that 3yr old won’t eat a thing. I’ve often had to leave the table (when my husband is around) because I’ve become upset at him not eating what I’ve spent ages cooking, but so many friends have told me not to worry because tastes change in time.
My 17 month old is used to BLW but I can see she’s becoming more selective and picky now…
I want my children to eat well, but I want our meal times to be a happy, social occasion without tears. I suppose it is finding the balance, and keep on with the persistence, without causing the upset.
But isn’t it a real pain when they love a certain meal on week, but won’t even try it the next? Argggh!
Yes, it’s certainly a difficult balance to strike between unhappy mealtimes (I hear your frustration) and fussy children. Honestly though my children are now so used to this approach that our meal times are lovely. Initially they got upset, etc. Now they either gobble it up or if it’s something more challenging they ask how much they need to eat and they eat it. We chat, share our days and have a lovely family meal time alongside this.
This is totally the approach that worked for us and I’m glad its working for you too. Our fussy eater was on a diet of anything bland as you know but now he tries most things. I put that down to an element of involvement with cooking activities – choosing their own fresh/dried herbs from a selection to add to their risotto; handling the foods from their packaging to the pan and being involved in the peeling, cutting, grating etc. All this develops discussion that educates them about the origins of food and, at the same time, triggers a willingness to try new foods. It sure worked for us anyhows and it’s such a good feeling isn’t it? I can totally relate to you over the joy you feel when they enthuse about one of your home-cooked meals.
Our fussy eater kinda gets bored of the fork-to-mouth process by a third of a way into the meal. He’d happily let us feed him the rest but that also had to stop,. Pudding was such a big persuader and sometimes we’d pull out the ammo mid meal and put the pudding in front of Little Mr I’m Not Eating That. It still boosts him at the potential-meltdown stage.
My Dad had a great saying “You’ll get what you’re given and you’ll eat what you get.” Old school works. In fact, I’m now pondering the notion of opening the door and telling them to go out and play and not come home till bedtime….!!
Yes we have shared the frustration of our fussy eaters haven’t we. Glad we have found something that works 🙂