Fussy eaters can be turned into non-fussy eaters if we change our approach to food and mealtimes. But I’ll tell you what’s even better – stopping your child becoming a fussy eater in the first place!
And it really is possible.
Parents so often tell me that their child became fussy somewhere between 18 months and two years old. Before that, they gobbled up everything and anything, from Avocado to Zucchini (to nick an American word). It didn’t matter what it was. Food was food – and food was good! Then the fussiness started to creep in. They refused a vegetable. Asked for a particular type of pasta. Only wanted the same thing spread on their toast every single day…. Before you knew it, you most definitely had a fussy eater on your hands!
It doesn’t have to be like this. It really doesn’t. Just because fussy eating is incredibly common, that doesn’t mean it’s a compulsory part of childhood. As Anna Groom, the paediatric dietitian I worked with on my book says, “Children are not naturally fussy – but they will become so if the conditions are right!”
Unfortunately, we so often – with the very best of intentions – accidentally create the wrong conditions. But if we keep the conditions right, it is possible to sail through their childhood with a happy, healthy eater. That doesn’t mean there won’t be the odd food they really don’t enjoy (we all have one, two or several foods we are instinctively averse to). Neither does it mean they won’t test you when they hit the toddler stage to see what happens when they don’t eat something – BUT HOW YOU REACT TO THIS STAGE IS VITAL.
So if you have a baby – your first child or perhaps the younger sibling to an older, already fussy sibling – I urge you to beg, borrow, buy or steal a copy of Getting the Little Blighters to Eat and put the approach into practice from weaning onwards. It really will make a huge difference.
When it comes to fussy eating, prevention really is better – and a whole lot easier – than cure!
Not only are these little green packages of gorgeousness super-delicious and super-healthy, they’re super-fun to to eat – which makes them a big hit with kids! Yep, even the I-hate-everything-green gang! You may already be familiar with them, but if you’re not, here’s the lowdown.
Edamame – pronounced E (as in egg) + DA (as in daddy) + MA (as in magic) + ME (as in meditate) – come from Japan but can now be bought easily from the freezers in Sainsburys and Waitrose, as well as oriental supermarkets. You simply boil them for five minutes, drain them, add a smattering of salt (or not if your child is very young) and serve as a snack or a mini-starter to give them while you’re still cooking.
Now here’s the fun bit. You can’t eat the pods you see in the picture above (they’re tough and stringy). No, it’s the plump, juicy beans inside that you’re after. One little squeeze with your fingers and – POP! – out they come. This is so satisfying that in Japan they have even invented an anti-stress ‘fidget’ toy that mimics this – watch and enjoy!
Parents sometimes say to me, “I know you’re not meant to pester or bribe them to eat something, but it works for me!”
Yes, it CAN work. You may get that last mouthful of peas inside them or get them to finish all their dinner or try a bit of the soup you made – but how long will the effect last? Only until the next meal when you’ll have to do it all over again. The damage, on the other hand, will last a whole lot longer!
Research shows that when children are made to eat something, they perceive themselves as the ‘loser’ and you as the ‘winner’. So when they grow up and have the freedom to choose whether to eat something or not, most of them will choose to ‘win’ by not eating it.
It really is a case of short-term gain, long-term pain.
It is so much better to back off entirely: Keep presenting them with a wide variety of foods and leave it up to them what and how much they eat. Say nothing! How long does this approach take to work? With a classic, ‘average’ case of fussy eating, if you commit to it 100%, it typically takes three to four months to stop fussy eating being a problem that interferes with mealtimes and family life.
What’s three to four months in the whole scheme of things? A mere drop in the ocean!
It’s medium-term pain – but for a whole childhood and life-time of gain!