Let’s talk puddings!

I get a lot of emails from worried parents about puddings, like this one from last week:

Our four-year-old daughter eats a few mouthfuls of the main course as she knows pudding is on its way. Help!

‘Holding out’ for pudding is a common problem with fussy eaters. So here are my Golden Rules of the best way to approach puddings.

1. Serve puddings occasionally, not every day

Your aim should be to serve pudding once in a while – an unexpected surprise, rather than something your child can rely on. This way your child will stop thinking of pudding as an alternative to the main course. More importantly, you won’t be training their palate to end every meal on a sweet note (how many adults brought up on daily puddings say they don’t feel a meal is complete without a pudding?!). A sweet tooth makes tackling fussy eating more difficult. If your child is currently used to getting pudding every day, gradually reduce the amount. For example, buy a big tub of yoghurt instead of individual cartons and serve them a portion in a bowl. Then start to have the odd day when you’ve ‘forgotten’ to buy any – and make sure there really is none in the fridge or cupboards for them to catch you out!

2. A bedtime snack is an alternative option

However, The Getting the Little Blighters to Eat approach to fussy eating is not about Tough Love! You don’t want to send them to bed hungry. If your child has barely touched their main course and they don’t have the calories of pudding to fill up on, it is okay to give them a bedtime snack on those days – as long as you do it in this precise way that doesn’t exacerbate fussiness.

3. Don’t rush for pudding

Don’t jump up and get your child their pudding the second they’re done with their main course – and certainly not mid-meal on their demand! Wait until the meal has come to a natural ‘end’. i.e. A reasonable amount of time has elapsed (15 minutes minimum), or if you’re eating as a family, when everyone has eaten as much as they are going to eat. This gives your child longer ‘exposure‘ to their main course and the opportunity to revisit it – even absent-mindedly – if they are sitting there with it in front of them for a while.

4. Don’t use pudding as a bribe or a threat

This is the most important point of all. Never ever say to your child If you eat more of your dinner, you can have pudding or If you don’t eat more of your dinner, you can’t have pudding. Even if it gets a few more mouthfuls into your child at that meal, the overall effect is extremely detrimental because what you’re teaching them – loud and clear! – is this:

Pudding is yummy. Main course is not so yummy – it’s just something you have to endure to get to the nice bit! 

Actually a totally lousy message to give a fussy eater, right?!