Help – I’ve got a hunger strike toddler on my hands!
Before having kids, I always looked at other people’s fussy little eaters and thought my child would never be like that (along with a whole bunch of things I thought, pre-kids). After all, my hubby’s French (Frenchie), so food is a BIG thing in our house, and I just assumed our kids would inherit some kind of foodie gene from us. I’m ashamed to say, I secretly blamed the parents. Why are they feeding their children fish fingers & chips over a healthy, home-cooked meal? Don’t they realise their child is only refusing the broccoli/chicken/apple as he knows he’ll eventually get a biscuit? Why give the girl crisps when she could have a banana?
Parents, especially my parent friends who’ve gone before me, please forgive me. For I now know exactly how it feels to be in charge of a hunger-strike toddler, and I also know you didn’t CHOOSE to do any of the above.
Nearly two now, G has never been a great fan of food, but it’s got to the point where she’s even starting to reject some of the fail-safe foods I could always rely on to get her to eat something. To give you a flavour of the battle I’m up against, here are G’s top five foods of the moment:
1. Cheese & tomato-based pasta. No bits. I used to be able to sneak in some mashed broccoli or spinach, but she now has me sussed
2. Toast, mainly because it’s one of the 20 words she knows, so she likes to say it
3. Pain au chocolat. This is all her dad’s fault, of course. Papa likes a pain au chocolat with his morning coffees on a weekend. So much so that I can’t go into our regular coffee shop without the owner automatically adding
one three to our order. Doing wonders for my mummy tummy of course…
4. Organix rice cakes. Yes, ‘cake’ is another word she knows how to say. Very loudly. So when we’re out and about and she shouts ‘encore un cake’ she makes me look like a real earth mother
5. Cheese. At least on this front we can take some pride in our daughter’s food choice. And she doesn’t want the mild sort, oh no. The stinkier and stronger, the better. On a recent trip to France, she rejected the Emmental in favour of a nice Roquefort. That’s my girl!
Now, the above is all well and good in the eyes of a toddler, but other than the pasta, none of it really makes for a nourishing meal. Even breakfast is becoming a battle as her once reliable food staple of Weetabix has recently been rejected. Eeek, what’s a girl to do other than resort to a
packet of crisps Organix Carrot Stix? *shudder*
Rejected food. Seriously, why do I bother???
Time for action
Now that I’m on
holiday maternity leave again and clearly have loads of time on my hands with a toddler and baby, it’s so tempting to just serve pasta for every meal, but I owe it to my inner foodie to at least have a go at introducing the joy of food to my daughter. I’m going to need a strategy…
My top five Topfivemum attempts to get G to eat something, ANYTHING, other than pasta:
1. Try McDonalds
OK, so this isn’t exactly a foodie’s choice but in my defence, we were two hours into an M1 journey and
we I needed to eat. At first thrilled at the pretty Happy Meal box and mini toy, G proceeded to mush the fries and took half a bite of a Chicken McNugget only to spit it straight back out while vigorously shaking her head and saying ‘no, no. no’. Having discussed this with my sister-in-law, no stranger to the fussy eater brigade, I went wrong with the Chicken McNuggets and should have gone for a McFillet of Fish (or whatever it’s called) for a toddler initiation into the world of fast food. This is a steep learning curve, people. Is this the only toddler in the world who doesn’t like chips? On a positive note, she DID eat all the tomato ketchup, licking the little pot as clean as a whistle. Does that count as one of her five a day? I almost went back for seconds…
2. Make it pretty
I’ve spent hours trawling Instagram for inspiration under #fussytoddler and it seems all ‘proper’ mothers are making pretty and creative dishes for their little darlings, in the hope of tempting them to eat a carrot because it’s disguised as a panda (or whatever clever crafty mummies make). The only trouble is, I’m not the best artist and, as my very wise friend CLJ put it, this is just another thing for mothers to fail at. Along with having a svelte hair-free figure, beautiful Instagram-model children, and a house full of homemade bunting and freshly baked bread. This is just not me. I did give it a go, however. And after my first attempt prompted Frenchie to call it a ‘scary freakoid on acid’ (see right), I was determined to prove I could create something original – cue my ‘five little ducks’ inspiration above. The trouble with this was that G hid all the cucumber ducks in her mouth during the song, only to spit them all out again when we got to ‘all of the five little ducks came back’. Hmph. I’m giving up on this one already as I just can’t be arsed.
My creative plate, or ‘crazy freakoid on acid” as Frenchie called it
3. Hide it
Half the time I don’t think G dislikes the taste, it’s more the idea of it that puts her off. Case in point, she won’t eat sliced strawberries, but WILL eat them chopped into quarters (puuur-leeease!) So, I’ve taken to adding veggies to a can of passata and whizzing them up to make sure she gets some vegetables in her pasta sauce. I’m also trying smoothies as she seems to think it’s pretty cool, especially if she gets to mess up the kitchen help me prepare it.
What kind of cruel mother slices strawberries?
4. Distract her
I’ve tried skyping with papa, singing, watching funny cats on Youtube (she knows where the Youtube icon is, the shame) and playing the ‘who’s-going-to-win-the-forkful-of-food-this-time?’ game. Some of these tactics work until she realises I’m trying to get her to eat something and she signals (i.e. wails) to get down from the table.
Yup, we’ve often reverted to the iPad or phone at the dinner table, even her Tatie Lala
5. Dupe her
This one is my favourite and is definitely the most effective. Following inspiration from my highly creative friend SM, I served G a veggie-based smoothie in one of her doll teacups, claiming it was fairy juice. I’m not entirely sure she understood what fairy juice was, but she loved it! Another firm favourite – and if you haven’t done it yet, you must try it – is to split her food in half. Half for her and half for me. I bet your bottom dollar she’ll leave hers and eat yours. Pretty cunning, eh (raising one eyebrow and stroking my imaginary goatee)?
Duping my daughter with a veggie smoothie
How long can I keep this up?
In all honesty, I’m not sure if I’ll win over my little fussy munchkin and may need to hold off until she’s ready (like when she’s 18). In the meantime, I’m going to keep offering different food options in my recently purchased Yumbox (I really need to stop looking at Instagram – it’s costing me a fortune), and just go with the flow. As many a parent who’s been there, done that and worn the purée-splattered t-shirt, I just need to chill the hell out. And maybe stock up on tomato ketchup.
In the same boat?
I’d love to hear how you approach food with your toddler. What are your top tips for fussy eaters? You can follow my food attempts on Instagram here.