I’ve never understood fussy eaters – whether child or adult. I absolutely love food, as my waistline has started to reveal now that I’m in my 30s and have birthed a small person. There aren’t many foods that I won’t at least try and I am one of those sad people who looks forward to every meal. I think that this is due to my own mother’s amazing culinary skills and the fact that she was (and still is) a ‘feeder’ and shows love by politely forcing food on anyone who comes to her house. Today, it was home-made chocolate brownies – typically I am on a health kick (see above comment about expanding waistline) so had to sit and watch Grump eat one… smug skinny bastard.
Whenever I’ve seen people being fussy with their food, I’ve always silently judged them. So when I thought about feeding my own children, I knew that, of course, they wouldn’t be fussy at all and would follow in their mother’s (and father’s) footsteps by loving food. How wrong I was!
I should have cottoned on that the J would be a fussy eater from the start when she was a difficult feeder. As a smallish baby at 6lb 13oz, she was always on the lower end of the percentiles and, while I was breastfeeding, I was constantly worried that she wasn’t having enough milk. After four months of stress and pain, she started refusing the breast and seemed much more content on formula. When we moved onto purees and finger foods she seemed to be doing ok and I felt like I was on the right lines. As you do with parenthood, I thought I had it sussed and then everything changed.
It’s only a phase
Since starting our weaning journey, the J has thwarted me at every turn. Here are some of her food-fad phases, past and present:
► After enjoying my home-made pureed vegetables and fruit, I moved on to proper meals and the J decided that she hated my cooking and would only eat shop-bought pouches; this lasted for a good six months. I kept on trying her with my cooking and ended up throwing away so much rejected food and then felt like a terrible parent for giving up and using pouches.
► The J’s appetite can sometimes be almost non-existent. In the past, when I tried to encourage her to eat and she didn’t want to she started throwing her plate on the floor. A low point was at a BBQ at my parents’ house when she threw a bowl of pasta in tomato sauce and it landed on my chest. I don’t know if it was pure shock or anger, but I sat completely still caked in tomato sauce. After about 30 seconds, I got up and calmly walked away. Thankfully I was not wearing a white dress and my Mum is a similar clothes size to me. After that we bought those special plates that have suckers on the bottom – luckily that phase didn’t last too long and I soon learned not to push her if she’d had enough.
► She constantly changes her tastes. She loves blueberries one day and will consume almost a whole punnet, but a few days later she hates blueberries and won’t eat a single one. So frustrating.
► She won’t eat anything with a sauce. I spent hours making different sauces for her to try, but she still likes plain couscous and pasta. She also went through a phase of only eating one or two things, such as peas and sweetcorn or Thomas the Tank Engine tinned pasta.
► She often refuses to eat her own food, but will eat exactly the same thing from my plate. This means I have to eat dinner with a child on my lap and with one hand. She also drops a lot of food on me and the floor. She also picks up our cutlery and waves it around with gay abandon. The other day, she almost took Grump’s eye out with a knife. I’ve been forked in the face more times that I can remember.
► Recently, she started refusing to sit in a high chair. So off we went to Bluewater and got her a booster seat. She sat in this happily for a few weeks and then decided the grown-ups’ bench looked more fun. A bench is the devil’s work, as there’s no back support and she can easily stand up, climb on and off it, and up onto the table, fall back and generally cause us stress at mealtimes. However, at the childminder and the grandparents’ houses, she sits in a high chair…
Live and learn (or not)
My life lesson learned is that you cannot control whether or not your child is a fussy eater. I followed all of the advice re offering vegetable purees first and then fruit so they don’t get a sweet tooth (the J asked for a mini-milk for breakfast the other day… sigh). I tried her with a range of different flavours and tastes from a young age, and have done my best to cook her a range of nutritious and healthy meals, most of which have been hoovered up by myself or Grump or have gone in the bin. You might be reading this and thinking that maybe I am a terrible cook, but my husband and friends tell me otherwise, so I’m not taking the blame for this one.
Some children are fussy and some are not. If you have a non-fussy eater then lucky you. I will continue to cook for the J and try different recipes, but sometimes it will be a chicken nuggets and baked beans dinner with a fruit corner for pudding and I can live with that. (Oh and sorry for judging fussy eaters… but seriously what is wrong with you? Food is the best.)