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Fussy eaters and the meal-time battleground


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#1 AmityD

Posted 30 May 2012 - 05:28 PM

My children ate cereal for dinner tonight. Just as they have every night this week. Actually one of them ate cereal, the other had nothing but a few sips of milk and a biscuit. Funny how no matter how ‘full’ they are, there’s always room for biscuits. Or ice-cream. Or hot chips.

Welcome to the world of fussy eaters, also know as any family with at least one child under the age of 10. It’s a stressful and irritating place, but one I’m sure we all know well.

The thing that’s so annoying about my recent bout with fussy eating is that it’s only a new occurrence. Up until a week ago my toddler was known as Garbage Guts, because she’d eat anything. She got excited at the sight of food and would shovel in copious amounts, all despite being at the bottom end of the weight chart.

So when I served her dinner last week, and was met with a firm ‘Noooooo’ and the whole bowl of spaghetti dumped on the floor, it came as quite a shock. Since then it seems she’s taking her entrance into the terrible twos this week to heart. Everything is met with a ‘NOOO’, or an ‘I done’, or an attempt to throw it all on the floor. And I’ve got to say that it’s already wearing thin.

As for my six-year-old, he’s never been a garbage guts, but he isn’t the worst kind of fussy eater either; he sits somewhere in between. Like most kids, he has favourite meals he’ll wolf down but others he won’t even try. And, like most kids, he would eat two serves of everything at childcare but then refuse to try the exact same thing at home. He would eat Mr Rob’s carrots (the childcare cook) but never Mummy’s carrots. Oh, how I loved those childcare days. I knew, thanks to peer group pressure, he would eat a nutritional meal for lunch, so I felt less guilty if he had cereal for dinner. But these days, when lunch is a quarter of a Vegemite sandwich, I do worry his dietary intake is somewhat lacking.
I’m hoping that it’s just a stage, that it’s because they both have colds, and that they’ll go back to eating their usual repertoire of mince, tuna and pasta done as many ways as possible. Because I really don’t want to be one of those families for which dinner is a nightly battleground.

I’ve seen my sister go through this with her step-son, a seriously fussy eater. They’ve tried everything but dinnertimes always end in tears, tantrums and stress on everyone’s part. And who needs that after a long day?

So what’s the solution? Some people swear by the ‘eat what you’re given or go to bed hungry’ philosophy. But I have to admit that I’m a bit soft for this stance, and will always offer at least bread, fruit or cereal as an option. I know my son won’t starve, but I also know that after three visits out of his room to complain that he’s hungry I’ll end up giving in anyway, so I may as well do it earlier and save us both the trouble. Weak, but true!

I also don’t like the idea of forcing a child to eat anything, with memories of my own mother forcing me to eat a god awful Rice-A-Riso microwave mince dish she made that still makes me want to vomit. My mum really embraced microwave cooking in the early ‘90s, and the taste of broiled meat is still fresh in my mind. Urgh.

To this day I’m not a big meat eater and am picky with what I’ll eat, so I kind of understand my son being picky too. And the last thing I want to do is force him to eat something he genuinely hates and have him put off a type of food for life … although I can’t say my life has been an empty place with the loss of Rice-A-Riso.

But I do love food and eating out, and want my kids to be able to come to a café or restaurant with us and enjoy a meal together – and not just a restaurant that serves happy meals. So here are a few tips I found on the Vic Better Health site, for those who are currently in the same boat. Some of them are easier said than done, but overall it’s a good guide.

• Remember your child will never voluntarily starve themselves. Children are very good at judging their hunger and fullness signals.
• Keep calm and don’t make a fuss of whether your child is eating or not. Instead, concentrate on making mealtimes enjoyable family events.
• Be realistic about the amount of effort you put into making your child’s meals. Don’t feel resentful when they refuse to eat.
• Don’t threaten, nag or yell.
• Don’t use lollies, chocolates, biscuits, milk or desserts as bribes.

Mealtime strategies include:

• Be a good role model. Eat a wide variety of foods yourself and eat with your child.
• Ask your child to help prepare a meal. They are more likely to eat a meal they have helped to make.
• Offer a range of colourful foods on the plate and allow your child to pick and choose what they will eat from there. Present food attractively.
• Encourage self-feeding and exploration of food from early age. Don’t worry about the mess.
• Offer alternative foods from every food group. For example, if your child dislikes cheese, they may eat yoghurt.
• At the end of the meal, take your child’s plate away. If they haven’t eaten much, offer them a healthy snack a little later on or wait until next mealtime.

Finally, it suggests you assess your child’s food intake over the week, rather than daily.  I particularly liked that point, because it means I’ll only have a weekly guilt trip and not a daily one. It also didn’t mention the fact that a glass of wine in your hand often calms a mother’s frazzled nerves while negotiating stressful meal times, but I’ll give you that tip for free!

Good luck, fellow chefs.


#2 Chelli

Posted 30 May 2012 - 08:45 PM

QUOTE
It also didn’t mention the fact that a glass of wine in your hand often calms a mother’s frazzled nerves while negotiating stressful meal times, but I’ll give you that tip for free!

cool.gif  Love it!

I've found my children's tastes change over time. I have one who is more likely to pinch the salad out of the fridge than raid the biscuit jar. That is strange, and she doesn't get that gene from me laughing2.gif Her older sister used to be similar where we would head out for dinner and she would order a bowl of vegetables while all the other kids would be into the obligatory chips and nuggets. That changed and now she is a teenager who would rather an entire plate of chips than touch a carrot.

I agree with the self feeding, my kids love when we cook tacos for dinner as they can choose what they want and how much they want. Salads are the same.

Cereal for dinner is great! We sometimes have a "pantry" tea where they fend for themselves and eat what they can find in the pantry. Weetbix is often on the menu that night original.gif

#3 AmityD

Posted 30 May 2012 - 08:59 PM

QUOTE (Chelli @ 30/05/2012, 09:45 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I agree with the self feeding, my kids love when we cook tacos for dinner as they can choose what they want and how much they want. Salads are the same.

Cereal for dinner is great! We sometimes have a "pantry" tea where they fend for themselves and eat what they can find in the pantry. Weetbix is often on the menu that night original.gif


Love the idea of the pantry tea Chelli, can't wait til mine are old enough for that! And tacos are a winner in our house too. My son would happily eat tacos every single night. I used to love them, but his obsession has put me off slightly!



#4 Riotproof

Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:12 AM

I think being relaxed about it is really key. Don't do crap like pureeing veggies and adding to pasta sauce, just chop them. Do not tell them that battered fish is chocolate like I saw a fool do in the park one day. Keep offering and see what they eat. Eat alongside them as the model.
I've only ever offered yoghurt as an alternative during teething time, which actually does seem to help, sometimes after the yoghurt or the iceblock, he would return to the dinner.

Can you do make your own pizza night? Help them roll out the dough and have toppings that they can design themselves?

#5 KT1978

Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:21 AM

QUOTE
Funny how no matter how ‘full’ they are, there’s always room for biscuits. Or ice-cream. Or hot chips.


Yes all the fussy child eaters I know are quite well aware that if they don't eat their dinner they can fill up on crap the rest of the time.  So why would they?  Children are not dumb.  original.gif

QUOTE
Remember your child will never voluntarily starve themselves


Yep, thats why there has never been a battle in our house for food.  You eat what you get, if you really, really object to it (too spicy for example) I will give you veto over it.  DD vetoes about 2 dishes out of 20 and gets a modified alternative.  Veto more than that and go hungry.



#6 halcyondays

Posted 31 May 2012 - 11:35 AM

Ha, I remember having a glass of wine with the kids' dinner when my fussy toddler was losing weight and falling to below the 3rd centile. It, as well as several visits to the paediatrician, helped immensely! I've now managed to give up alcohol, and toddler is back up to the 5th centile in weight.

But just to be aware, my fussy toddler did not eat chips/chocolate/biscuits in any great quantity. Might have had half an arrowroot biscuit every 3 days. Continued to have poor weight gains. Now diagnosed with several food intolerances, and much improved. Just in case some parents out there are insisting their kid eat what they are given- while my toddler didn't "voluntarily" starve himself- and how can you tell if it is voluntary or involuntary?- they cry and carry on at dinner time just the same- he didn't eat and was becoming quite underweight.

#7 stardel

Posted 31 May 2012 - 04:32 PM

• Remember your child will never voluntarily starve themselves. Children are very good at judging their hunger and fullness signals.

Not fully correct!

For 4-6% of the paediatric population who have feeding problems, they will "starve" themselves.  for the majority of children with feeding difficulties, eating doesn't work and/or it hurts, and NO amount of hunger is going to overcome that fact.  Children are organised simply; if it hurts don't do it.   Also for children who have skill or medical problems with eating, their appetite often becomes suppressed over time, such that they no longer respond correctly to appetite as a cue to eat sufficient number of calories.  

Above information taken from the latest Reflux Infants Support Association Inc. newsletter.  Www.reflux.org.au





#8 ankhanh

Posted 27 September 2012 - 08:23 PM

Nowadays there are more and more big children so it is good to serve them more vegetables than meat.

Edited by ankhanh, 27 September 2012 - 08:24 PM.


#9 CamilleJoy

Posted 02 April 2013 - 02:04 PM



My name is Camille, I am completing a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Deakin University. I am currently completing a research project which may interest you! I am looking  into mealtime behaviours, feeding difficulties and family mealtime interactions. If you are the primary caregiver of a child aged between 1 and 6 years, you may like to participate. Participation involves the completion of an anonymous questionnaire that will take you 30 minutes to complete.

You can click on the web-link below to read more about the study and to complete the questionnaire online.

http://www.deakin.edu.au/psychology/resear...illetotterdell/






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