For about 2 years now, Max has been a very fussy eater. Despite eating anything and everything when he started weaning, once he turned two, he became very picky, and his diet became more and more restricted to breaded chicken, fish fingers, chips, and the occasional bolognese. Any kind of vegetable was out, and we couldn’t persuade him to try new things. He’d even go through phases where he wouldn’t even eat freezer food, and only toast and butter would do. He’d even start picking out the cheese from his cheese sandwich (the only sandwich of choice), declaring, “I not like diss”. Oh, how many times I’ve heard that sentence over the years! I would read posts from other parents who would say how guilty they felt about dishing up their child freezer food a couple of days a week, and I’d feel absolutely awful, because that’s pretty much all Max ate.
All the advice you read about fussy eating says to take a laid back approach, to just keep serving up options and not making a big deal about it, which is what we did. You’re advised not go down the route of ‘if you eat your vegetables you can have dessert’ as apparently that can create negative food associations that your child will carry with them. But it gets very disheartening two years down the line, when you’re still serving up portions of peas, just to throw them in the bin at the end of the meal. And the most frustrating thing? At nursery, he eats vegetables without any issues! To be honest, that’s the one thing that’s allowed me to be more relaxed about it all, knowing that at least he has two days at nursery where he’ll get some goodness into him – that, and the fact that he does like fruit.
But this last week we’ve turned a real corner. A couple of weeks ago now, I decided enough was enough, and that it was better to build bad food associations than to never eat any vegetables at all, so I insisted that unless Max tried two spoonfuls of peas, he wasn’t allowed any dessert. For two weeks he held out, deciding that he’d rather not try them and miss out on dessert. But he gets his stubbornness from me, and I stayed strong on this one, and this week I watched in amazement as he tentatively raised a spoonful of peas to his mouth and ate them. My jaw just about dropped to the floor when he declared them to be “deninish” (delicious!). He had his two spoonfuls and that was enough to get his jelly, so he didn’t have any more that day, but I was over the moon. Ok, it’s two spoonfuls, and yes, they were smothered in ketchup, but it really was one of those small victories that feel huge!
I wasn’t sure if it would be a one off, but we persisted throughout the week with the same approach and it continued to work. Carrots, sweetcorn, and more peas were all eaten, without complaint – and I gradually I noticed that he was starting to eat more and more of what was served up.
I’m still not pushy about him finishing a portion, but I do think he needed that push to try things at home – we were stuck in a rut and his eating was getting worse and worse. Sometimes I think you need to go with what you feel is the right thing for you and your family, regardless of what the current thinking or advice looks like. I just hope this new approach to food continues for us!