Winning the mealtime wars?

When Miss now Five turned two she went from being a fabulous eater that astounded everyone with her varied diet and interesting tastes, to a stubborn, infuriating food refuser.  Some days she ate little more than a handful of sultanas.  What she ate one day the next would be pushed ceremoniously away with an upturned nose the next.  Sticker charts worked once, and then each night’s dinner was again refused with an “I don’t want a sticker tonight!”  And so I began a two and a half year long battle to win the war on food with her.  I trawled websites, cook books and the local library in a desperate attempt to find recipes and meal ideas that would be so tempting she just couldn’t refuse them…. while, of course, still being healthy.  We tried growing and picking food together, cooking together, letting her dish herself up, in short we tried everything we could think of.  It was exhausting, frustrating and generally fruitless.  About six months ago something changed.  I don’t think it was anything I did, I just think she was more hungry so dinner had greater appeal.  Kinder might have something to do with that.  Now meal times with Miss Five are often a pleasant experience, she regularly asks for seconds, and independently polishes off a bowl of whatever it is I’ve dished up.  I won’t say she’s perfect, we still struggle to get her to eat vegetables on their own (she’s a committed carnivore!) and soup still gets the upturned nose attitude, but it’s a huge improvement.

However, I am quite horrified to admit that Miss Three, whom I could always count on to eat well and with gusto, has become a total mealtime terrorist.  She enjoys nothing more than bringing the family to our knees trying to deal with her antics.  The once totally independent eater now requires feeding with a spoon (considering I am an advocate of baby led weaning from six months this is something I’ve never really done before).  The humouring and cajoling for every mouthful drives me crazy and what’s worse is her habit of flicking her head away or clamping her mouth shut just as the spoon is about to go in, resulting in food in hair, on face, down the front of her clothes, on the table, chair and floor.  ARGH!!!!!  Mr Good and I are at our wit’s end and are confused about what our next strategic move in this war should be.

Don't let this sweet innocent face fool you!

Don’t let this sweet innocent face fool you!

My thought is to ignore the antics (rather than doing the whole counting, naughty corner, early bed punishments we’ve tried in vain), offer food that can easily be eaten with her hands and again hopefully finding some meals that are appealing enough she just eats them without all the fuss.  And if they are refused then she may well go hungry (is that too cruel?).  I made these Salmon Picklets last week which were my one food win for the week (aside from the take away pizza that made up Saturday night’s meal).  I picked these for several reasons.  Firstly, both the girls love seafood.  Secondly, I could make them small and easy to eat with their hands.  Thirdly, I could smuggle in a little of the silverbeet that grows in my gardens.  And lastly they looked tasty enough for everyone to enjoy…. and they were.  Instead of the green beans, I served them with broccoli which remains one of the few things Miss Three will still reliably eat.  Her other favourite foods are mushrooms and pasta.

So with this all in mind, I am on the hunt for healthy, delicious, food-to-eat-with-your-hands to try and tame the wild creature that emerges at mealtime.  Suggestions welcome…… PLEASE!!!

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3 Responses to Winning the mealtime wars?

  1. Sorry, I must be on the same side as you in this war. We too lose more often than with when it comes to food unless it’s vaguely unhealthy. Soup is a losing battle and involves meltdowns, often from me, trying to get it eaten. Fruit is a fall back, maccaroni cheese (GF) is my back up meal. We eat nachos too often and hot chips have crept in to become somewhat of a staple. We are managing mash at the moment though. Potato mash or even root veggie mash, a mix of all sorts. If colour appeals, look to purple potatoes (to grow together even?) or add a small beetroot for pink mash. Carrots or sweet potato for oranges. 🙂
    As for kids going without, it’s happened here, quite a lot. If I serve up a perfectly acceptable meal that they turn their noses up at without even tasting then they put it in the fridge and I serve it up again for breakfast. We had a 4 day hunger strike from Allegra 😦 and she made herself so sick that she hasn’t pulled that stunt again. Didn’t I feel like an awful mum but she refused everything we offered including favourites – she wasn’t sick either, just being stubborn and making a point. Jas is the anti-soup protester but after explaining why I wanted him to have the home grown chicken bone broth soup (he’d been unwell and bone broth is a great healer) he reluctantly ate it. Orik is actually now one of my better eaters but we do fall back to a lot of fruit still.
    When we are having a particularly challenging week with food I try and remind myself that kids won’t starve themselves (too long). Just lock up your treats tight (my kids were sneakily siphoning off the dates by the handful).
    Best of luck.

  2. Sapling House says:

    Oh I know this so well! The only thing that has worked for me is to simply not make it a war. You offer food, they choose to eat or not. No anxiety, coaxing, rewards or punishments. Eat a wide range of healthy foods and always offer at least something on the plate that they like. Ginger has slowly come around and although she doesn’t eat a lot she at least is trying things! Best of luck xo

    • Barbara Good says:

      You are totally right. And that is my new strategy, no wars!! I always struggled with Miss Five – when she was younger – offering something she liked. She was so finicky that you could never guarantee what she liked one day would still be good the next (expect of course if ti was chips or chocolate or lollies etc). Thankfully now she’s a pretty good eater so I no longer worry at all with her. Miss Three on the other hand has a few standard loves which she will always eat, broccoli, mushrooms, and olives (a weird selection I know), so as long as I add at least one of those she will eat something before turning into a terrorist. We also implement the timer rule if things are taking too long, once the timer goes off the food is removed regardless of what’s been eaten.

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