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Dealing with a fussy eater?

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#1 Babby and Roo

Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:28 PM

My daughter is 2 years and 8 months and has progressively become more and more fussy. She used to be great and eat anything, now her main diet consists of peanut butter on sandwiches or rice cakes. She obviously will eat other foods but barely any fruit (only blueberries, apple, pear, grapes occasionally)or vegetables (only carrot, peas, corn on the cob, snow peas, beans, sweet potato, potato). It's all very hit and miss though, many days she will go without eating any fresh fruit or veg at all.

I need help! I feel like I have somehow become backed into a corner of extremely limited foods - she refuses to try almost anything unfamiliar (this includes desserts like ice cream or custard!). It's so frustating. I eat a very healthy diet with lots of fruit & veg, whole grains, legumes, plus some eggs & dairy (we are vegetarian). All the meals I cook have lots of veggies and usually beans, lentils or tofu in them but she so often turns her nose up at them I am starting to feel like 'what's the point'.

So far I have avoided the vegetable "hiding" and just offer them steamed or chopped and cooked in a dish (eg, soup, pasta, stir fry), but maybe I should start blending them and hiding them in other things? Or do I go the tough-love route and just not offer anything other than the veggies until she eats them (or goes to bed hungry?). Her behaviour gets so horrible when she hasn't eaten that I usually cave and just let her eat something else.

How do others deal with fussy children?

#2 librablonde

Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:43 PM

Many EB'ers would call me a hard a*se so this might be not what you want to hear, especially if you have a tendency to "cave". As long as you are reasonably sure the child is not sick or has ASD or other health/cognitive issues that might make eating difficult, then I'd just take the food away and put up with the tantrums until the child starts eating again. No other snacks, no alternative provided, no pretty-ing up the food to entice the child, no hiding of veggies, etc......  If the child is hungry enough and learns that you're not a pushover, then they'll start eating. Everyone is allowed a couple of things that they don't like, but beyond that is just manipulation by your DD, OP.

Edited by librablonde, 25 February 2013 - 07:43 PM.

#3 galba

Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:50 PM

We're hard a*se in our family too.  All my kids have gone through this phase but I've just ignored it.  I just remove the plate - no arguing, shouting, demanding food be eaten etc and then I say 'No problem - but there's nothing else'.

They learn very quickly.

#4 cinnabubble

Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:55 PM

She obviously will eat other foods but barely any fruit (only blueberries, apple, pear, grapes occasionally)or vegetables (only carrot, peas, corn on the cob, snow peas, beans, sweet potato, potato).

That's a far more varied vegetable intake than either of my children at that age.

#5 HRH Countrymel

Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:59 PM

Do you eat together OP?

This is purely anecdata - but of all the fussy eaters I know they are all fed separately to the family meal.

IE: children are fed, put to bed then the adults eat.

The non fussies are just plonked in with the rest of the family and everyone just eats - there is no hovering, no "just one mouthful please".

Eating is viewed as a normal, pleasurable, part of the day.

I know it is a pain to eat early, but maybe it is less of a pain that catering to an overly picky food drama queen?

#6 Isolabella

Posted 25 February 2013 - 08:00 PM

With a child who refuses any meat, fruit or veggie I think you are doing well.

Food is offered it is their choice to eat or not. Small portion of meal will be a preferred item.

Eg fajitas. Chicken, salad, tortillas. Child decides to eat tortillas only fine, but they are not allowed to gorge themselves on them.

#7 treefalls

Posted 25 February 2013 - 08:07 PM

I second the idea (if you're not already eating together) to try this. I did with my 2.5 year old son!
We set the table for my husband and I opposite each other and he sat in his high chair on the end. We had dinner and he had an empty plate and watched us eat. It wasn't long before he would request some of what we were having! It was a trick that opened him up to trying a lot of new things. I would say that before that, he was about the same as your daughter. Ate the things he was familiar with happily, but had a kind of resistance to anything new that irked us.
Good luck!

#8 twinboys

Posted 25 February 2013 - 08:20 PM

I had one child who would only eat mashed potato for dinner, We had it a few times a week but he still had to have a bite or a taste of everything else on his plate
Sometimes he realised he did like something and would finish the meal.
Other times he did not eat anymore of what he had to taste so he would get a sandwich.

I hate food arguments - as long as they try what I have prepared that is all that matters.
I never made a fuss or turned it into a long drawn out affair.

#9 Feral-as-Meggs

Posted 25 February 2013 - 08:23 PM

It might help to remember that they have an instinct to eat the familiar food and knock back anything (a) new, (b) strongly flavoured and © that you aren't eating.  It's to stop little baby animals from getting poisoned or wasting energy eating something not worthwhile. It's not necessarily a mission to reject our cooking.  

Same reason people get morning sickness while pregnant and just want to eat bland carby food.  

I sometimes do compromise veggie hiding for my 16mo, by puréeing say half the pasta sauce and leaving the other half chunky veggies.  Or we might do carrot and zucchini muffins with some blended right in, and some still visable. That way if he picks out the obvious bits he still gets some goodness, but he still gets the message that we eat veggies.

#10 Threelittleducks

Posted 25 February 2013 - 08:48 PM

Our twins are 20 months old. DD is an eating machine - tries everything, eats everything, then asks for seconds. DS is fussy and gets more so everyday. He often only eats things prepared one way or one brand of something. Both have been exposed to a wide variety of foods, we eat as a family and I've never made a fuss over food. So, I really think that it is often not what the parent's do, just the way some kids are.

For DS I make sure that at least one thing on the plate is a favourite of his. I also hide vegetables and offer this several times a day. Many of his favourites have vegetables hidden in them.

E.g. Toasted cheese sandwich with vegetable puree. Spinach and ricotta pastry. Rainbow pikelets (orange - pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato; purple - beetroot etc). Our butcher sells sausages with 5 vegetables hidden in them.

I also offer snack plates at morning tea and afternoon tea and leave these out on the coffee table for 30-40 minutes while they are playing. DS comes back to the snack plate again and again and eats far more than he would in the highchair.

I also got some tips from this article which I thought were pretty good. See if there is something here for you. http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-i...ing-picky-eater

Good Luck

#11 Babby and Roo

Posted 25 February 2013 - 08:53 PM

Thank you for your replies so far.

We do eat together, I also think this is important and modelling plays a large role in teaching children to eat - although often my husband is not home from work yet so it is usually just me, DD and the baby.

I generally do just cook one meal for us all and try to make it child-friendly and including the veggies that I know she will    sometimes eat, but she still often refuses it!

Melbchick I really like your idea of sitting her there with an empty plate if she refuses what I've cooked and then waiting for her to ask for some of ours! I can really see that working.... very manipulative! I like it.

Librablonde - you are on the money she is totally manipulating me - she knows I am a softy and give in. This is starting to become apparent in other aspects of her behaviour too and I know I need to nip it in the bud now before she gets older and cleverer!

galba - I like your simple, no fuss approach. Maybe I should just try it for a week and see what happens. Worst that can happen is some tantrums and possible night waking because she is hungry - but if that means in the long term she learns I mean business then maybe it is worthwhile.

twinboys - I agree, I don't expect her to like and finish everything on her plate but I at least want her to try everything - can't stand the "I don't like it" when she hasn't even tried the damn food! She refused to try mango, apricot, peach this summer... I bet she would have loved them if only she would've tried it!

meggs1 - I think that is a good idea, hide some but keep most obvious. At least then I will know she isn't becoming completely malnourished. Because she is vegetarian I do worry about her vitamin and mineral intake when she eats such a limited range of veggies and fruit. I have thought about introducing meat to her diet but most likely she would refuse because it is unfamilar. I fear that I have created this problem sad.gif

#12 Babby and Roo

Posted 25 February 2013 - 09:07 PM

twolittleducks - thank you for your input. I do think part of it is the child's personality! The Dr. Sears website has some good tips, thanks for posting. Can you tell me how you make the rainbow pikelets? I think that might go down well with her...

#13 Chocolate Addict

Posted 25 February 2013 - 09:39 PM

QUOTE (librablonde @ 25/02/2013, 07:43 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Many EB'ers would call me a hard a*se so this might be not what you want to hear, especially if you have a tendency to "cave". As long as you are reasonably sure the child is not sick or has ASD or other health/cognitive issues that might make eating difficult, then I'd just take the food away and put up with the tantrums until the child starts eating again. No other snacks, no alternative provided, no pretty-ing up the food to entice the child, no hiding of veggies, etc......  If the child is hungry enough and learns that you're not a pushover, then they'll start eating. Everyone is allowed a couple of things that they don't like, but beyond that is just manipulation by your DD, OP.

Biggest pile of sh*te I have ever read.

Some kids are just stubborn little buggers and no amount of starving or manipulation will get them to change.

OP, I think you child has a pretty good variety of food. I would kill for my kid to eat one vegetable. wink.gif

#14 Threelittleducks

Posted 25 February 2013 - 10:59 PM

Rainbow pikelets - Puree vegetables of required colour, add flour, egg, milk to get the right consistency. Cook in pan. I often pop them in the oven to dry them out a bit if they are too moist. I tend to put pear or sweet potato in every batch to make them a little sweeter. So far I've only made green, purple, pale yellow and orange ones. This covers quite a lot of veg.

ETA - I sometimes put silken tofu in the mix too and if making purple ones, beetroot is such a dominant colour, you can add quite a few other vegetables in too. I was also just contemplating today whether to try some quinoa in them also. DS's only protein is sausages, so I try to mix it up a bit.

If these get rejected anytime soon, I plan to buy the Veggie Smugglers book.

Good Luck.

Edited by Twolittleducks, 25 February 2013 - 11:04 PM.

#15 Babby and Roo

Posted 28 February 2013 - 07:06 PM

Thanks twolittleducks - that sounds awesome!!

And chocolate addict - I appreciate your point of view - makes me feel better about the whole thing and not like I am a failure as a parent because of what my child will and won't eat! I hope your little one broadens their palate soon for you original.gif

We've had a couple of decent nights actually this week. I made a vegetarian version of a shepherd's pie, with kidney beans and lentils mixed with tinned tomatoes, grated zucchini and carrot, and peas as the filling, and obviously mashed potato on top (and some grated cheese). She was great and ate lots of kidney beans, some carrots, peas and the cheesy potato. She also consumed the tomato and zucchini unknowingly. So I am feeling a bit more positive about it original.gif

#16 feralisles

Posted 01 March 2013 - 10:03 AM

I'm with Librablonde on this one.  The "eat it or go hungry "
approach has worked in our house (and I have a very stubborn daughter - it just took a bit longer in her case, but it did work).  No bribing, no fighting - food is provided, kids choose whether to eat or not, no other food is offered until next meal (except for fruit, which in our house is left on the bench for everyone to take whenever they please).
You may find, OP, that if you let your children become involved in the meal preparation they may develop more interest in food.  Mine would often sit up at the bench snacking on the raw veges I was peeling and chopping - if they then refused the cooked end result I wasn't overly worried.  Restricting other snack foods in the afternoon helps too, so that they are hungry when dinner is ready.
I have seen fussy eaters who are still fussy in their teens - that's a lot of extra work for parents, and good reason to sort it out early IMO.

#17 Rock of Empathy

Posted 01 March 2013 - 02:01 PM

but barely any fruit (only blueberries, apple, pear, grapes occasionally)or vegetables (only carrot, peas, corn on the cob, snow peas, beans, sweet potato, potato)

If my toddler would eat even 3 of those foods, I could die happy right now.

#18 epl0822

Posted 01 March 2013 - 02:14 PM

I went through a stage of hiding vegetables - I know it's not recommended by nutritionists but honestly you can't do everything.

Now that DS is slightly older and understands the concept of compromise and consequences, I have a slightly different tactic. I chop up the veges into manageable sizes but still big enough for DS to see and feel the texture. I put the vegetable on the spoon and tell him, "This is a broccoli, would you like to try it?" Of course DS says no and violently shakes his head. I don't make a fuss, I just put the broccoli back and say, "Okay well you can either eat the vegetables with your meal, or don't eat."

DS is guaranteed to get annoyed and protest, so I put other bits of food he likes (like fish) on the spoon with the broccoli, and as an act of "compromise" I ask him to eat the two together. Virtually every time he says yes and he ends up happily eating the veges for the rest of the meal. I like to emphasise the name of the vegetable he's eating and show him what it looks like so in the future he knows he's eaten it before and didn't mind.

The best way I dealt with my fussy eater, like others said, is to not fight over it but just let them go hungry. It might take awhile but they get the point - if I don't eat now, I won't eat till the next meal. It seems harsh but I think it's a much healthier option than allowing a child to dictate his preferences to a narrow range of food.

#19 Babby and Roo

Posted 01 March 2013 - 07:37 PM

Right... time to get tougher then!

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