|This is often what lunch looks like for the boys on the weekend|
My kids ARE NOT fussy eaters... they’re particular.
My boys eat well. They like vegies and meat and fish and fruit. They enjoy food not typically liked by kids like anchovies on their pizza and whole gherkins on their antipasto plate and triple cream French Brie and Spanish goats cheese and pickled herrings on brown bread with raw onion and salty Dutch licorice.
Their palate is broad BUT they do not eat everything.
I get defensive when people refer to my kids as fussy eaters. Aren’t we all fussy when it comes to food? There’s lots of food I simply won’t eat, so is it unreasonable for me to expect my children to eat everything that’s ever offered to them? I think it is. It’s exasperating at times when they don’t like something new that I’ve asked them to try, but I accept that they may not.
So when I’m meal planning, I always consider the following palate nuances of my
family kids [my husband eats everything]:
Texture – my kids can’t stand anything mushy. This includes mashed potato, boiled vegetables, mornays. It also includes any vegetables that have been cooked in a saucey dish like carrots in a casserole or soup. But the upside is they’re BIG on salads, steamed crisp vegies, french fried chips and crunchy tuscan style potatoes [‘cause they’re just square chips]
Sauce – the eldest hates ‘saucey’ dishes. So when I serve casserole, for example, I have to only serve him with just the meat out of it without the sauce.
Pasta – they will both eat just about any pasta combination. Except cream sauces. This makes my life incredibly easy. It also means every month I will make Bolognese, spaghetti and meatballs and lasagne at least once each.
Rice – because they won’t eat mashed potato, I serve most of our dishes with rice which they love.
Soup – they will only eat one. Home-made chicken noodle. Served with rice.
Cake – the eldest doesn’t care for it. He can do a cupcake, sometimes, out of politeness but most times he’ll decline any offer. His favourite cake, that he asks for every birthday, is a vanilla, banana cake I make with Betty Crocker vanilla icing. The youngest has more of a sweet tooth but is still not driven by cake. Neither of them like creamy desserts.
Sandwiches – the youngest always asks for the works. Ham, lettuce, cucumber, cheese, avocado, mayo. Crusts cut off. The eldest’s FAVOURITE is fresh tomato and salt. Crusts on. He can eat 3 in a sitting. They won’t eat peanut paste or cheese spread but I can get away with serving them vegemite or honey. The whole family will put away a platter of BLT’s in minutes.
Meat – the eldest only likes roast lamb done on the weber. My youngest will eat any lamb but particularly loves lamb loin chops with the fat on. They both love steak and home-made hamburgers, chevaps and sausages.
Chicken - roast, take-away, yiros, satay, stir-fry, schnitzel. They love it.
Tacos – BIG winner. EVERTHING is crunchy so they make their own and throw them back.
Fish – I confess, we don’t eat a lot of fish in this household. But when we do, the kids are on board. Tommy ruffs, salmon steaks, whole snapper, tinned tuna. All baked or pan-fried, served with salad and chips. Nothing saucey except mayonnaise.
Eggs – If they’re fried, then they have to have the yolk broken and spread out and cooked right through so that it looks like a pancake. They call it ‘flat egg’. If they’re hard boiled they have to be JUST cooked in the centre and never runny. They will not eat omelette or scrambled egg.
But even knowing all these food preferences, does not always mean dinner time is easy. Sometimes they’re not in the mood for what I’ve cooked and sometimes they’ve filled up on after school snacks. Most times, because I know I’ve considered everything they like, I will make them eat as much as possible anyway. But if they’ve been served something that I know they don’t like, I will support them in their polite refusal to eat it. Just as I would expect any grown-up to support my choice to not eat something I really don’t like.
My advice to newer mums than me when they have ask how to deal with a fussy eater, is always the same.
Firstly, consider texture. If they don’t like carrots too crunchy – steam them. If they don’t like mashed potatoes, roast them. Sometimes you can still get them eating the food you want them to [and that the rest of the family is] if you just prepare it differently.
Secondly, if there is a food flavour that they really can’t tolerate – then don’t make them eat it. If your child’s diet is healthy and diverse, does it really matter that they don’t like avocado? If they will happily eat apples, mandarins, grapes and peaches, is it important that they eat bananas too?
Of course, you must use your own instinct to sniff out a trickster. If you habitually provide dessert after dinner and they know you’re gonna let them have it whether they finish dinner or not – then chances are you’re being played. And don’t even get me started on the trap of offering sweet treats as a reward for eating the good stuff. That’s a whole other blog post.
There are LOTS of helpful blogs and sites with great tips on how to introduce food to kids who are fussy and if your kid is, then I’d suggest you check them out.
But just make sure they are actually fussy first.
Do you have fussy eaters? Or are they just particular?