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Fussiest eater I know

My two and a half year old son is the fussiest eater I know. At meal times he will play up so much I am starting to think there is something wrong with my cooking.
Can you please give me some hints on how to handle this?
What do you suggest I serve up to him?

Answer: Hi Rachael, I really do know how you feel; I have a fussy eater who is still going strong at almost 5. I have written a fact sheet on fussy eating on Huggies in the Feeding Baby section (see tip box below and link from the article) and just released a fussy eating book also to help mums. And while this stage does pass, to be honest it often takes some time in reality, but it will. In the meantime I think one of the best things you can do is to get the good stuff in anyway possible. I do things like spag bol with stacks of grated veg in it so it isn’t recognizable, scones with grated veg (ie pumpkin and cheese), I grate peeled zucchini into scrambled egg (you can`t see it in there) and so on. One of the best things about doing this is that you can ultimately relax and go with it. They tend to eat better the less you place emphasis on the issue and a happy mum is a happy family. Keep offering him all the good stuff (albeit small amounts) and involving him in food, sometimes they surprise you. There is also a book called the Big Mouth Book (web site of same name) that has been having some success with fussy eating. Practical Tips:
  • Involve your little one in meal preparation, cooking, serving etc.
  • Grow vegies or vegie bits (i.e. carrots and sprouts in containers on the bench).
  • Be clever with food by hiding fruit and vegies where you can: for example, you can include pumpkin in scones, grate vegies into meals, puree fruit into smoothies or include fruit in their yoghurt. I try to consider colour so I put red vegies into tomato-based pasta sauces, white vegies into baking etc.
  • Try to involve others – such as carers – in your child’s meal-time. For example, if your child attends family day care, try asking the carer to give them a main meal at lunch.
  • Consider including lentils, legumes and beans in your child’s diet to make up for veggies if they are an issue.
  • Try to be creative with food: make hedge hogs, faces, houses, and discuss the foods you child is selecting, for example, ‘Oh my goodness, are you eating the clown’s nose, now how will he smell things?’. It is a great way to make meal-times fun.
  • Consider using iron-fortified cereals as they offer more absorbable iron than many foods and this will help with growth and immunity.
  • Be persistent and don’t give up. Continue to put a variety of foods on your child’s plate and don’t make a fuss if it goes uneaten. Simply take the plate away (even if it means the dog is getting a little plump!). Even if the meal is rejected, your child is still being exposed to food that will form a part of their diet later on.
  • Don’t let children fill up on snacks too close to meal-time.
  • Remember, excessive milk can affect iron uptake so don’t rely too heavily on this drink.
  • Ensure all meals – including snacks – include some form of protein (meat, dairy, egg, nuts, seeds, pulses, fish etc). Grind up nuts and seeds and add them to your child’s breakfast each morning, add to smoothies, frittatas, baking etc. With smoothies, don’t forget to add natural yoghurt and opt for additions such as almonds, oats or rice that have around 100mg of calcium per 100ml. *
  • Freeze smoothies and make cool iceblocks that are a meal in themselves.
  • Add tiny amounts of treats to foods; for example, make cream cheese crackers with a smidge of additive-free hundreds and thousands. Or pop a few on a banana and freeze etc.
  • And remember to always be a good example.
* Caution with nut allergy More Info here. I hope some of this helps All the best Leanne
Answered: 01 Nov 2007