Got Fussy Eaters? Picky eating toddlers or children? Every parent’s been there: you serve a meal and your little angel screws up their face, gives you a petulant ‘Don’t like it’ and refuses to let a morsel pass his/her lips. You feel snubbed, frustrated  and angry. (More meal tips for feeding picky eating kids here!)

And you have a few courses of action open to you… Option A: You could persevere, encouraging your fussy eater  to ‘just try it’, probably with a bribe or ‘treat’ to follow. Or, option B: exasperated, you offer an alternative – something you know they’ll eat (cheese sandwich, pasta, cold sausage, fruit yoghurt… you know the list ;)).

Or you could try option A for a while, before resorting to option B. Or, C, you could say ‘That’s your tea. If you’re not hungry, that’s fine, you may get down from the table. But there’s nothing else’

Most parents will resort to some form of bribery initially, and if even that fails to get your  nutritious offering down for at least a mouthful or three, then Option B, the ‘alternative you know they’ll eat’ is the exasperated end result. Because ‘well, they’ve got to eat SOMETHING haven’t they?’

Do they? Really? Even if it’s processed, nutritionally devoid, or what they’ve had every night for the last week? Well, assuming a ‘normal’ healthy child, Whats going to happen? Expiration by starvation in their sleep? Waking up ravenous and hallucinating in the middle of the night? Tantrums and hysterics for their ‘comfort’ food of choice? The latter, possibly. The first, absolutely not. The second, well there’s a slim chance they may wake up peckish, but hey, breakfast isn’t far off ;)

One of my kids went to bed hungry. ONCE.
Woke up, ate an enormous breakfast and hasn’t refused a meal since. If yours is used to being offered bribes or alternatives, then you may have to persevere more than once. But Be Strong fellow Parent-Doing-Your-Best! Honestly, really and seriously, going without one meal is not going to hurt. They’ll be FINE. And they’ll know for next time, that unless they at least TRY the food you put in front of them, there will not be an alternative.

The old ‘he only eats pasta’, ‘she only likes it if its got cheese on it’ stuff… Don’t buy into it. WE create this belief – not them! ‘He only eats pasta’, because every time he turns his nose up at something different, he GETS GIVEN pasta. And since he likes pasta, and he’s FOUR (i.e. not necessarily capable of making a rational, nutritionally balanced food choice – that’s what you’re there for btw) and he knows that if the hissy fit goes on long enough – waahay, it’s pasta again!

Your little treasure is more determined than this, you say – he/she will hold out for a whole day without food. You know what? They’ll still be OK. And if you hold out too, they’ll realise that you mean it. And that horrible day will be over, and they’ll know you mean it. And they’ll eat your food.

I’m really not cruel or Victorian in my table expectations!  I just want the whole family to enjoy mealtimes and food, and I believe that it’s OUR job to choose what, when and how much our small child eats – not the child’s. Because we can make more informed choices about what’s good for them… or we really should be able to. Ask a 6 year old what they’d rather have for tea every night, broccoli or ice cream? Hhhmmm says the little tiger, that’s a tough one. Crack out the Haagen Dazs.

If we can regain control of the meals in our home, and give our families healthy, balanced and varied food to eat, then the battle-field and the drama which define many a teatime might subside, we all get to calm down a bit (and we get to keep the Haagen Dazs for after they’ve gone to bed).

What do YOU think? What are your suggestions for getting your fussy eaters to eat your food?!