HELP! My toddler is a fussy eater
I am not a doctor, I am not a dietician and I am not a health visitor. What I am though is mummy to a fussy eater and this is what works for us.
The Bear was a great eater until she turned 1. She came down with chicken pox on her first birthday, followed by a nasty cold, followed by hand, foot and month and then topped off with a lung infection which saw her admitted to hospital. This lasted from September until early February, and during this time we were more interested in getting fluids and any kind of sustenance in her to be worried about any long term habits we were forming. However, by the time spring arrived and we had a healthy toddler again, our great eater had been replaced with a toast eating – and not much else – monster. The era of the fussy eater was born.
The past 18 months have been a rollercoaster when it comes to her eating, not helped that at 3 years old she weighs around 22lbs and wears size 18-24 month clothes. As you may have guessed; she is very petite and this is reflected in her appitite. That being said, at times it’s been a struggle that has left us both in tears, as I’ve been desperate for her to eat something in a day and live in hope that one day that something may even been green. Therefore this is what I have learned over the past 18 months when it comes to trying to feed a VERY fussy eater.
DON’T STRESS ABOUT IT
Yeah I know, easier said than done. I found things got infinately better though when I stopped hovering and just let her get on with it. Lunchtime became – and in fact still is – a picnic lunch that can sit out on the table that she will slowly but surely nibble through over a few hours. Standing over her and trying to get her to eat something just does not work in this house so there is little point in stressing both of us out and turning it into a battle of wills.
Same for table etiquette such as cutlery. The Little Man is going through a phase at the moment where he won’t even take loaded spoons from me so he just helps himself. Yes, it’s horrendously messy but who cares? He’s eating and he’s happy!
CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES
At the end of the day, if they are hungry enough they will eat something. They can be stubborn and there are times where we have to hold our ground and weather the tantrums…we are the parents afterall. That being said you also have to choose your battles. If you have a 2 year old who refuses to eat anything but spaghetti and toast then it’s not the end of the world if that’s what they eat until they are ready to reach outside their comfort zone. You know your child and will know if they are refusing based on just being a little monster mid-tantrum, or whether it’s just not something they will eat.
TOP UP WITH A MULTI-VITAMIN
Now if your toddler is anything like mine, then there will be days where they eat nothing all day other than 2 slices of buttery toast, 3 bags of wotsits and a plate of chips. That’s where a multi-vitamin comes in. We currently use these Gummy Bear ones from Healthspan as sometimes getting a child to take vitamins is harder than getting them to eat a strawberry. However, hide it as a sweet and we’re onto a winner. There are so many on the market though that you just need to find one that works for you.
ARM YOURSELF WITH SNACKS
I never go anywhere without a solid selection of snacks on me. With a fussy toddler who can’t be relied on to eat anything off a menu or accept something generously prepared by friends or family, I’ve had to raid our snack supply on more than one occasion. Our bag usually contains:
- A selection of healthy “hopeful thinking” snacks – think apple, grapes, raisens. The stuff my son will eat but my daughter looks at me with a “yeah in your dreams mama” look.
- A selection of good alternatives – think Organix Goodies such as their new great value, convenient family packs of Goodies raspberry and apple oaty bars or carrot sticks. This tends to be our go to when out and about and what I try and get into her.
- A selection of not so healthy options – for use when she’s having a particularly fussy day. This includes biscuits, crisps and everything you said you would never give your child but you’re now desperate. And as long as they eat something, you’ll take it as a win.
- The bribe – in our case usually a lollipop. This is to be used in extreme situations such as leaving a park when they don’t want to, or getting into the car and sitting still long enough to be strapped into the car seat!
It’s a lot to carry around but worth it in our case as if we are ever caught short when out and about, all these items added together can even make a little make shift lunch if needed!
DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO OFF MENU
You’re eating out at a restuarant and look at the kids menu and panic as there is just nothing there that your toddler will eat. Just speak to the staff. Most are willing to work with you, maybe by plating up a childrens sized portion from the main menu or adding a few options together like a small spaghetti bolonaise with a little side of fries.
PRIME YOUR PLATE TO ENTICE PINCHING
Like Joey, many adults don’t share food….unfortuantely that tends to go out the window when you have kids. So think about loading up your own plate a little fuller ready for your toddler to raid from. For some reason they sometimes like stealing food from their parents plates rather than eating from their own so embrace it and try to tempt them with some of the things you have on offer! For some reason the Bear just loves sharing her Daddy’s food even if it’s the exact same as she has on her plate.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO USE DISTRACTIONS
Pre-parenthood I always said that no child of mine would ever eat in front of the TV. We would always eat as a family at the table in the dining room. Then I actually became a parent and like many other things, that completely went out the window. If watching Frozen, or PAW Patrol, or Toy Story again (and again and again) distracts her enough to get another chunk of food in her; then I’m sorry but I’m doing it. What we do have is her own little table and chair set in the living room though so at least she’s sitting at a table when she’s eating.
HAVE A DEFAULT TO FALL BACK ON
Ok. Last one now I promise! One thing I stick to is I refuse to cook replacement meals. Dinner is dinner, and she can choose to eat it or not. I will not cook alternatives on request as it’s just door I’m not willing to open. Before you know it you’ll have 5 disgarded meals and a toddler demanding a 6th option. Or is that just me?!
She knows this too – though still tries to push her luck from time to time. It doesn’t work though and no replacement meal ever comes. However, I won’t let her go to bed hungry therefore our default is always toast. If she doesn’t eat her dinner then the only other option she gets is toast if she wants it. She’s used this on more than one occasion!
And that’s it! As I say, I’m not specialist but after 18 months of battles these are a few of the hints and tips that have come to work for us. I’m hoping it may just give someone out there who is in a similar postion a few ideas to try. What about you? Have I missed any?? Let me know what worked for you in the comments below!
Nicola | Mummy to Dex says
It must be hard to have daily battles about food so I am glad you are taking the approach where you try not to stress and let her get on with it, that’ll make it easier for you both. You’re doing such a fab job mama!
Thanks hon! I learnt the hard way that it just doesn’t work. Far too stressful for us both!
Rebecca Greenway says
I know exactly what you feel like. Rosie has ALWAYS been such a fussy eater and sometimes she just won’t eat. It’s crazy & sometimes I get so frustrated but I know I can’t show her I am. Great tips xx
Oh no. Its so hard isn’t it?! You just want them to eat something but you know the more you push the less it’ll work. Keep going! I’m hoping she’ll magically gain a good appetite at some point!
Margaret Murray says
Hi there. We also have an awful time with food. We went from eating everything to eating nothing. We now have a daily routine of just giving him what he’ll eat. Breakfast is porridge followed by a fruit pounce (won’t eat real fruit), lunch is either pancakes or cheese sandwich and a yoghurt and oat bar, dinner is either potato waffles cheese toastie or boiled egg. We do goodies snacks or organix snacks. He only drinks water or milk and that’s it! I tried everything and it was just making everyone upset. He is just going into age 2-3 down still 18-24 months but he’s chunky so obvs not doing him any harm. Will try the vitamins though xx
Same here! Heaven forbid she eat real fruit but pouches are a God send. I feel like I make the same 3 or 4 meals on repeat but for now I’ll take it and just live in hope that she’ll at some point start eating more variety! In the meantime there’s vitamins! thank goodness Henry is a good eater so I don’t have to do this twice! Xx
I feel grateful that my children aren’t fussy eaters, its just me who is, so i cannot imagine how hard it is to deal with it daily!
Oh wow. This seems like it would be awful to deal with! It sounds like you’re doing the best you can! Keep it up!
My nephews are very picky eaters, I’m gonna have to pass this along to my sister-in-law. Thank you!
I don’t have children, but I imagine this must be a nightmare at times! My mum says I was a picky eater when I was small, and it could be really frustrating. These tips are good though, I’ll keep them in mind for if I ever do have children!
I’m a mum of six children and they were all given the same things during weaning and seemed to eat everything. However my son (5) is extremely fussy and suffers with issues with his stomach and he would live on toast and crisps if I let him. It’s really difficult to encourage eating different things as he gets so upset – some great advice! #humpdaylinky
I am such a picky eater haha. Great tips!
Holly - Little Pickle's Mom says
This is such a good post! Definitely one I’ll be bookmarking. Thankfully, our little one is quite a good eater at the moment but I know that can all change! We’re pretty relaxed with letting him munch his way through stuff – even if it means our carpet is DESTROYED! Ha ha. #humpdaylinky
My brother is quite a picky eater, and I think part of it is he just doesn’t want to try new things we tell him to! So we slip in some different ingredients sometimes
I think choosing your battles is an important point to make. I have a niece who was determined to eat only cheese pizza at one point and while that doesn’t sound like a well-rounded diet, accompanied with a multi-vitamin it was at least food in her system and the phase based!
Britt | http://alternativelyspeaking.ca
Ashleigh Williams says
Great post. I can only imagine how difficult it must be at times! Brilliant tips 🙂
Crummy Mummy says
Totally agree with you. Although it seems ages at the time these things are generally just phases & they grow out of it! #humpdaylinky