Family Life

Parents of Fussy Eaters, Stay Strong!

My fussy eater is driving me crazy! I am writing this post in an attempt to keep my sanity and reach out to other parents experiencing similar difficulties! Allow me to set the scene with a small victory:

A couple of weeks ago, we visited family for dinner to celebrate Granddad’s birthday. They had decided to try a goose recipe, that sounded delicious, but I knew The Boy would take one look and refuse to even contemplate it! I don’t give in easily and he knows that I won’t panda to his whining, but oh boy, does he push me to the limits! After refusing to even try the goose and insisting that he didn’t like it throughout the meal, he looked at me and said, “I won’t get any pudding if I don’t try, will I?” So, at least this boy is learning- one up to mummy! Eventually, after squirming in his seat, dropping his fork several times and pushing it around the plate a bit, he finally ate a tiny piece. His face was that of the proverbial bulldog, chewing a wasp! Then, to everyone’s surprise, he announced, “Mummy, it’s really tasty! I love it!” To say that I was speechless would be the understatement of the century. All I could do was sit, in a stunned stupor while he wolfed down the remaining meat on his plate! The Boy likes goose! Not hugely helpful on a day-to-day basis but still, I’m going to take that as a win, all be it a small one!

Buzymum - Parents of Fussy Eaters, Stay Strong!

As a family, we love food. Well, all of us except The Boy, who would happily bypass mealtimes altogether and live on snacks throughout the day (ideally crisps, breadsticks and fruit, if he had his own way!) instead. His stubborn attitude towards food has continually driven me potty since he was a toddler, compounded by the fact that his sisters are the complete opposite, will try anything and have few dislikes between them. He just doesn’t have an interest or love of food like the rest of us, despite being brought up in the same way as the girls, trying different things, going to restaurants and travelling abroad.

Not a meal-time goes by without The Boy refusing something! No matter what I serve, there will be a complaint and frustratingly, the complaint generally comes before a piece of food has even touched his lips! As a baby, he was just as accepting of new tastes as his sisters. He ate virtually any mashed food (by number 3, there’s no time to purée) and if he wouldn’t eat something, I didn’t have time to make something else. The kids learned from an early age that everyone eats the same meal and I do not run a cafe!! So why, in heavens name, is The Boy such a fussy eater? Why does he refuse anything new or slightly different? Why do I have to battle with him to take just one mouthful? Why does he not have the love of food enjoyed by the rest of our family?

Buzymum - The Boy refuses to eat meat!

I can honestly put it down to just one thing, nature! How could it be anything else? I’ve nurtured him in the same way as the others, he’s been bound by the same rules and expectations, he was exposed to vast ranges of tastes as a baby, what else can I do? Battle on! That’s all I can do, and I’m no quitter! But it doesn’t change the fact that he’s driving me crazy! The battle will continue but the war is far from won!

So for all parents fighting the good fight, and battling daily to feed your little darlings healthy, delicious food, please take comfort in the fact, that you are not alone and their current fussiness is probably due to a gene inherited from another family member. It always makes me feel better to blame someone else! Take comfort in that knowledge and stay strong:

We shall fight them until the end,

We shall fight them in the kitchen,

We shall fight them at the table,

We shall fight them in restaurants in front of strangers, where we will show strength,

We shall fight them in the park at the picnic tables,

We shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, they are still only eating sausages as their main source of protein into their teenage years, we will carry on the struggle, we will take steps forth to rescue and liberate their taste-buds,

We shall not flag or fail.

Are you driven crazy by your fussy eater? Please tell me there are other parents out there with similar experiences to mine to prove the ‘nature’ theory! It would make me feel much better!!

18 thoughts on “Parents of Fussy Eaters, Stay Strong!

  1. Regarding fussy eaters by nature – I have an anecdotal sample of two children I can compare and contrast. Both brought up by same mother (me), both bf for well over a year, solids introduced at same point, but outcomes completely different.

    My first child (boy) despite a premature start at 5 weeks early, he was ebf to 6 months at which point he developed a keen interest in food – tasted and liked most things (except cows milk – never, ever managed to get him to drink it) and now eats most things put in front of him. Eats large amounts, though remains a skinny teen. Favourite food is sushi and texmex – however, he can’t stand chocolate ice-cream/mousse/cake and or butter in sandwiches or melted on anything, but will even eat these out of politeness.

    Second child (girl) – solids introduced at 6 months – no interest. Despite attempts at giving solid food, totally uninterested until around 9 months, but even then only limited foods tolerated. Not even interested in trying *cake* until age 3. Currently has an extremely limited boring beige diet: either bread, pasta, baked potato or rice with cheese and or tuna or tomato bolognese sauce with no bits, maybe occasionally ham, roast chicken and a specific gravy, sometimes lettuce, raw carrots or peppers, sometimes cauliflower. Thankfully, however, most puddings are acceptable, She is 10 years old and skinny.

    However, my daughter has ASD – which requires a whole other level of parenting/dealing with food issues, and her diet is actually even considered varied in comparison to some children with ASD. It is worth pointing out that fussy eating and limited diet are a common feature of such children, who have issues to do with feelings of safeness, familiarity and dislike of change, as well as dealing with sensory issues (taste, texture, smell) which are either under or over stimulated.

    Despite the ASD, we have the occasional breakthrough as well – probably happens once every 6 months – for instance, she tried, and liked, duck at the all-you-can-eat international buffet. She usually just has pilau rice and naan bread in restaurants, but did try the duck one time, and now always chooses it when we have the opportunity to eat there.

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    1. Interesting. Thanks for sharing your story and sharing your knowledge of ASD and how you cope. Food is such a delicate issue with kids, especially girls. I hope things continue to progress with your daughter xx

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      1. You’re welcome. Yes, I agree it is a delicate issue, and particularly with ASD girls – in fact, it has been shown there is a link between autism and anorexia/eating disorders in girls:

        https://spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/the-invisible-link-between-autism-and-anorexia/

        For this reason, we’re taking a gentle approach with food – if others think we’re pandering to her whims, well, they don’t understand ASD – we’re just happy if she just manages to eat a reasonable amount 🙂 Hope you also have good progress with your own fussy eater!

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  2. I agree that softly softly is the best approach to ALL fussy eaters. Adults are not forced to eat what they don’t like.

    Some children have strong personalities and dislikes. Go with it, IGNORE IGNORE and they generally grow out of it.

    The forcing can backfire too. I know a lot of overweight people who were forced to ‘clear their plates’. Being strong is not the answer.

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    1. Absolutely, I am not an advocate of insisting plates are cleared. Stay strong in your convictions and have clear expectations that are kept to. As long as they are willing to try something, that is a win as far as I’m concerned. Xx

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  3. I find the best way is to put bowls on the table and let the children help themselves along with everyone else of course.

    I hate things like steak and rabbit (I hardly ever eat meat) and I wouldn’t appreciate being made to ‘try some’ . Some people get ill at the thought of the TEXTURE of some foods (like tapioca).

    I would just say , lighten up and ignore. My ex dil “forces’ healthy food down our granddaughter’s throat and when she stays with to us and asks us to “give me a break” If I offer her fruit for breakfast.

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    1. As a child, I didn’t like broccoli but now it’s one of my favourite veggies. Given the chance, I would have avoided it completely and therefore, never would have tried it again. Children’s pallets develop over time and need to experience different tastes to do that. I understand your reasoning but I guess on this one, we’ll have to agree to disagree. Thank you so much for taking the time to enter into the discussion xx

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  4. Hopefully you learned to like it in your own time, that was your decision. Some children and adults HATE being MADE to eat or do anything whatever it is, it’s not a personal insult honestly. it’s part of growing up in my large experience. Unless of course it is an ASD issue as Anna says in an above post. In which case sensitivity is even more important.

    I still say that they will get there eventually without stressing out over it. It’s unwise to compare children too in my opinion. I learned to like avocado at age 17, what’s the hurry ? It’s their lives. xx

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    1. Of course certain conditions require different parenting skills and adults or even older children are not relevant to this way of thinking. My oldest is 11 and though I still encourage her to try something new, she does have a few dislikes which is fair enough. It can take several times of trying a food to except it and that needs to be done at a young age. Comparing children, as far as the outcome of a similar parenting strategy is concerned, is not like comparing intelligence, ability or success. I find it interesting that my children are different/ similar in many ways, but that they were all brought up in the same environment, hence the content of this post. Great debate! Xx

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  5. Yes that’s true about differences in children within a family. Our 3 couldn’t be more different, it’s incredible, but shows that genes influence everything (including eating habits!).

    Though I think that the younger the child the more important it is not to make eating a big ‘thing’ because it enters their subconscious and can lead to unwanted results. My husband was literally force fed beetroot by a nun when he was 3 or 4 and he still can’t even LOOK at a beetroot which is awful. (esp. as I love it!) I know you wouldn’t do that but it shows how traumatic battles at mealtimes can be.

    If you just relaxed it would improve the mealtimes for you and the children !

    On telly yesterday they were talking about going shopping with their children, discussing the veg. fruit etc. letting each child choose their own particular item. Not altogether of course, then prepping and or cooking it. Thus increasing their interest in healthy foods. I thought of you and your ‘refuser’ it sounded a good idea !

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  6. I gave up this fight long ago. I refuse to engage in a battle at every single meal, and I don’t want my child to see food as a weapon in their defeat. I prepare meals, serve them, and what happens after that is not up to me. Eat, don’t eat… Whatever lol

    Forcing meals and playing the “you’ll sit here until you’re done” game has never worked out well for us 😦 I’ve found that managing the situation with a little neutrality makes for a much more positive outcome. Setting up a challenge for a headstrong child to engage in is just asking for a headace.

    Rather than sitting at the table for hours, dinner is over when it’s over, and we move on and eat again at the next meal. Meals are not fights for us anymore. We’ve turned them into calm, enjoyable family time that displays healthy eating attitudes and habits. The demonstration of normal has benefited us sooo much more than forcing quotas.

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    1. Yes, I applaud you in being able to take that stance! I do try to do the same and then get consumed in the ‘mummy guilt’ of whether they are getting this vitamin or that nutrient etc!! I hope it will equal out in the end xx

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  7. I know what you mean about the ‘guilt’ Sonia, but, as Low Country says, it really isn’t worth it.

    What I used to do was give them a lovely plate of organic fruit ,prettily cut up, or made into a ‘faces’ (my eldest used to love making them for my youngest) when they are very hungry as soon as they came in from school or whenever. So then you knew they have the goodness. It was sometimes in front of the telly too [blush]. I didn’t care, they ate it !!

    Fruit before a meal is much more nutritious than after by the way!! x

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