How I dealt with my fussy eater by @mothering.mine_

Weaning | Toddler | | Aimee

I wish someone had told me that the day we started Delilah’s weaning journey, life would never be the same again. From that very moment, everything she put in her mouth (or didn’t) completely consumed me. I felt immense pressure to make sure she was adequately nourished every day.

There were good days and bad days. On bad days, all she’d eat was some porridge and buttered toast, maybe a slice of cheese and half a bite of a banana. Meanwhile, the tomato, mozzarella and pesto pinwheels I’d lovingly made were thrown on the floor, the courgette and sweetcorn fritters secretly fed to the dog and the chickpea, sweet potato and spinach curry splattered all over the walls!

We’re BIG (vegetarian) foodies in our house, and food that’s tasty and nourishing is one of the most important things to us as a family. Meal time is our happy time. After a few sleepless nights, I realised I was putting way too much pressure on myself and Delilah to get it right. As soon as I recognised that I needed to relax in order for her to feel relaxed and happy around food, everything got easier and we started to really enjoy mealtimes again.

Here are some of the few key changes we made that completely changed the game:

Positive comments

I also considered my vocabulary, body language and facial expressions. I made sure I was always positive and cheerful at mealtimes and swapped comments like, “If you don’t eat all of your peas, you can’t have any dessert” with, “Peas are a delicious food that make us strong and healthy, just like strawberry yoghurt! Let me know when you’ve finished your dinner and you can have one of those too!” I was mindful of not putting certain foods on a pedestal and belittling others; that way Delilah didn’t create preferences.

Making food fun

Making food fun and appealing to Delilah made a huge positive impact on her eating habits too. I’m no food artist but simple things like turning a pancake into a smiley face with raisins for eyes and a banana for a mouth, or making a flower out of a raspberry and orange segments, made her plate of food appear more inviting.

Change dining sets

Changing up her dining sets every now and then, with different colours and styles of plate, bowl and cutlery, helped. I also found that serving certain foods and drinks on the same sets that we adults ate and drank from was particularly exciting for Delilah and made her feel more included.

Separating different foods on sectioned plates is another top tip. Delilah definitely eats more when she can easily differentiate a type of food that she likes from another that she isn’t as keen on.

Persist with less desirable food

Children need to be offered a new food up to 10-15 times before they will eat and enjoy it. Despite having to throw away some uneaten food, we found it worthwhile to repeatedly serve Delilah food that she was less enthusiastic about, to build up her tolerance.

Change surroundings

Occasionally changing our usual surroundings is a wonderful way of making a mealtime feel like a novelty and is guaranteed to get at least a few good mouthfuls of food in your little one’s tummy. Eating out at a restaurant, taking a picnic to the park or even having a meal in the garden are all great ways to mix things up. I find that Delilah eats lots of food when we’re in a different environment – plus it feels like a fun event!

All we can ever wish for as a parent is that our children begin their lives with a positive relationship with food. Some of us will have an easy ride when it comes to our children’s eating habits and some of us will have a bumpy one. The main thing is that we do our best and use our parental intuition by observing our babies, listening to our toddlers and encouraging our children through their journey with food. Just by reading my story and learning new tips on how to encourage your child to eat well, you’re already doing an amazing job. Keep going, you’ve got this!