Why my son is an adventurous eater

A journey from happy eater to fussy eater and back again.
A journey from happy eater to fussy eater and back again. Photo: Getty Images

Since birth my son has loved his food. His newborn days were a whirl of endless bottle and breast-feeding and his insatiable appetite meant we progressed quickly to mush of various descriptions. 

We started off with tempting teaspoons of vegetables and fruit, and then rapidly added in meat and carb 'fillers' to his ever-increasing bowl. 

By the age of six months he was happily chowing down on three meals a day – two of which came with dessert – and fulfilled his hunger in between time with large bottles of milk and snacks of a hand held nature.

As he grew, friends would comment on his appetite and his enthusiasm for everything that was put in front of him. He rarely turned up his nose at what was served and would happily try new food without hesitation.

I admit that I patted myself on the back and was quietly 'smug'. After hearing tales of woe from other parents about their fussy children and the numerous strategies enforced to get them to eat, I felt like I'd hit easy street. 

But of course that all changed when he turned into a threenager.

All of a sudden previously inhaled home cooked meals were looked upon with disdain. More food would end up on the floor than in the mouth, and what was loved one day would be "gusting' the next.

I had to become inventive in my cooking, hiding 'gusting' vegetables and meat, and even resorted to eating humble pie in asking fellow parents for tips and advice.

And then one day when he was old enough, he disappeared into his bathroom only to reappear with his stool.

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Placing it neatly next to the kitchen workbench he took a pew and asked 'Daddy can I help?' as my husband prepared our meal for dinner.

And that's the time I pinpoint that reignited his interest and love of food.

As the chef of our household, my husband is always active in the kitchen. He's one of those really gifted and annoying people who can open up the pantry, throw together a few ingredients and present a dish that could rival any restaurant.

Our bookshelves struggle under the strain of the multitude of books from which he draws his inspiration and the perfect Sunday afternoon for him is spent cooking up a storm (while making as much mess as possible).

What I should also add in here is that my husband is also my son's hero and so, naturally, anything Daddy does, he wants to do too.

So that day when he took an interest in helping Daddy cook, was the day when we realised this could be used to our advantage – in more ways than one.

Since then, cooking together has become their time for bonding. It's a time when they turn up their terrible music (Daddy's choice) and bust a few moves, while simultaneously busting up some vegetables for soup. 

More than that, it's become a time for a bit of subtle food education and sampling. And I say subtle, because if my son thinks you're 'forcing' him to learn or try anything, he will rebel.

But by talking about the types of foods that they're preparing and where they come from Mr 5 has become engaged. 

When it comes to trying new foods he's become both curious and adventurous. So much so, that he's even taking to trying different spices when hubby puts together a curry – fortunately we've always kept the chilli powder out of reach.

In addition to this, they've started their own vegetable patch in the garden and the excitement of picking our own chillies, about 2kg's of beans (we had a LOT of bean salad that particular week) and a couple of withered tomatoes is yet to wear thin.

Now, I'm not suggesting by any means that cooking together is the answer for all fussy children. And, nor am I trying to be 'smug' or touting this as a foolproof plan. 

There are still many occasions when Mr 5 will be unhappy with the food choices presented to him and depending on which way the wind's blowing will dictate how much he eats. Plus, heaven forbid, I serve the same meal two nights running.

But, cooking with him in tow, has certainly worked for us in overcoming some of his initial food 'issues' and every try of something new is a win for us, regardless of whether he likes it or not. 

Plus, cooking together is easily sustainable because, inconveniently enough, children have to be fed every day.

So whilst he shows willing, passion and interest we'll continue to encourage him in this pursuit. 

My only wish now is that we can extend that same love as far as the washing and cleaning up goes, but baby steps and all that jazz!

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