Yesterday I decided to put on my “Masterchef mum hat” and make a delicious pork roast with all the trimmings.
When it was done, I watched my kids squirm at the table, pull faces at the pork and tell me they hate it.
My two kids, who only last week gobbled up an entire pork dish, left the table after eating exactly one half a carrot and three bites of meat. Between them.
EAT your dinner, dammit!
This isn’t an unfamiliar situation. Oh no. My kids have been fussy eaters since the day they exited the womb. Their tastebuds change daily. Unless it’s something sweet. Then they will gladly accept it. Every. Single. Time.
I know I’m not the only mum who struggles with fussy eaters. And I know I’m not the only mum who gets stressed about it from time to time. How can I keep these kids healthy and energised if they won’t eat anything nutritious?
To force feed or not to force feed?
Many parents force their kids to eat the food they are given. Eat the pork or go hungry. But I have very clear memories from my childhood of my parents doing this exact thing. And me sitting at the dinner table for hours, pushing my cold broccoli around, trying not to dry heave at the smell.
Sometimes food tastes gross. Sometimes food looks weird. And sometimes food smells funny. To a child, these are all valid reasons to avoid eating it. Or even trying it.
Kids ate something? That’s a win for us!
So, other than force your kids to eat, what can you do about fussy eaters? You can relax, that’s what.
I know many mums won’t agree, but I tend to stick to the foods I know my kids will eat to ensure they are at least getting something. After all, eating five honey sandwiches is better than eating nothing.
At least you aren’t throwing away food after every meal. Or giving it to my already very fat dog. Of course, this clearly doesn’t always work. The pork roast is a prime example of this.
Fake it til they eat it
Another idea? You can sneak healthy ingredients into those ‘unhealthy’ food that the kids can’t get enough of. Like brownies with spinach, chocolate chip cookies with grated zucchini, mac ‘n cheese with creamed corn hidden in the cheesiness and chocolate cake with red kidney beans blended through. So yeah, let them eat ALL the cake if they want!
You can also try making zucchini pasta or cauliflower rice. I can trick both my kids into eating these simply because they don’t know it’s not actual pasta or rice.
If you’re too busy to faff around in the kitchen trying to hide veggies yourself, these days supermarkets even have ready-made food products like sausages and meatballs that do it for you. My kids have no idea but when they think they’re eating these ‘normal’ sausages or meatballs, they’re actually getting lentils, carrots, sweet potato or even kale! Just hide the packaging before they get a chance to read it!
Mums: 1: Fussy eating minions: 0.
Carrot cake counts as a vegetable, right?
Developing healthy eating habits at a young age is important but not when it’s making meal time stressful or giving them negative connotations of food. This isn’t healthy.
If your kids will only eat cake, don’t stress. Just make it the healthiest cake it can be. You know, with hidden veggies, quinoa flour, spinach, lentils, beans or whatever else you can add in there.
It can be a constant battle to get kids to try new foods. So take a step back in the kitchen and go with what your kids know. And normally love. Introduce other foods to them gradually without adding pressure on them or on you.
And, on those days when you cook an entire pork roast only to have your fussy eaters refuse it (and then request cake two minutes later), or when they only want to eat sausages, keep your head up. Remember, all kids have picky eating moments, some more than others.
In time, those fussy eaters will learn to try new things. And, until then, think about all those yummy leftovers you’ll have for tomorrow! If the fat dog doesn’t get to them first.
Looking for more tips for your fussy eaters? Have a look at how to convince your kids veggies aren’t the devil.