To take a hard line approach with my toddler's diet?

(41 Posts)
ChunkysMum Fri 18-Jan-13 13:51:32

DD is 14 months and has always been stong willed and highly strung. I love these characteristics in her, but they can make some things tricky.

I know IWBU for giving her junk food in the first place, but now I am really trying to improve her diet.

She wants to live on a diet of hotdogs/sausages, chips and a couple of peas. She will eat a little pasta in tomato sauce with cheese, weetabix (without sugar), a little banana, raisins and junk food such as pizza.

I don't feed her junk food all the time, I offer healthy food, but she hardly touches it.

I go to effort to make things like sweet potato chips or vegetable soup with crusty bread, but she still eats hardly any.

I want to go with the approach of offering well-balanced meals and snacks, letting her take or leave them and not supplementing with food she prefers.

The problem is that any time I've tried this, she's hardly eaten anything and then woken up crying for most of the night as she's hungry. I work full time and struggle with lots of sleepless nights.

So aibu to try this approach? Is it possible that she'll starve herself? How long with the sleepless nights last?

TroublesomeEx Fri 18-Jan-13 13:58:48

I always end up recommending this book on these type threads. Lots of interesting, healthy recipes with lots of variety, including healthier versions of the junk food your daughter loves.

valiumredhead Fri 18-Jan-13 14:01:31

She won't starve herself, she really won't. If you don't have junk in the house she can't eat it, she's only 14 months so not like she can nip to the shop, is it? grin

I have to say at 14 months ds's diet was good but pretty limited and no way would he have eaten soup.

redexpat Fri 18-Jan-13 14:07:37

Bump! Mine loves meat and potatoes and bread but won't eat any veg or fruit other than a banana!

A lot of the things on your list arent necessarily unhealthy, and I'm sure you could make your own. We have pork or chicken burgers quite regularly, so I make smaller versions for DS. We always make our own chips so I don't worry too much about that.

Do you feed DD the same that you are eating? DS seems to copy his Dad. We still give him a bottle before bed. I'm not sure how long we're supposed to do that for. I might be in for a flaming now!

stickingattwo Fri 18-Jan-13 14:12:33

I'd say stick with it - she can only eat what you give her and it's our job as parents to create healthy habits. In our house if DC's don't eat all their breakfast or lunch that's fine but no junk or snacks till the next meal. Works fine, they don't starve and if they eat a light lunch will usually polish off dinner. Snacks are fruit, oat crackers or similar. Every meal has some sort of veg and they drink mainly water or milk with juice being a treat if we're in a cafe. Grandparents thought we were cruel mad at 1st, but now see we have kids who eat pretty much what the adults eat so that's handy, behave in restaurants/cafes sitting eating properly, don't run around on constant sugar rushes and given the choice will mostly choose milk over juice and fruit over sweets.
I have a friend who reckoned her 3 year old would only drink fruit shoots and would die of thirst if she didn't supply them, but anytime he was at ours he quite happily drank water cos that's all there was!

valiumredhead Fri 18-Jan-13 14:16:29

If I had my time again I would never bother dishing out ds's meals in his own bowl, I'd just put extra on my plate and let him take off of mine grin

I'd stick with it too. Try and serve something healthy that you know they like each meal too, maybe she won't ne so hungry then?

DS is 13mths and the only veg/salad he will eat is peas so I share your pain!

ChunkysMum Fri 18-Jan-13 14:17:24

We still give DD a bottle before bed shock as she won't drink enough from a cup and we have the night waking for more milk.

I'm really not one of these people who handles frequent night waking well.

We eat lunch (when not working) and supper with her at the table, but she has tea at 3.30-4pm when we don't eat anything.

We go out alot so it's kids menus that seem to have started the problem.

I'm really not a fan of cooking and, as I work during the day and only have a short time to be with dd, I prefer not to spend ages cooking in the evening.

It's disheartening when I make the effort to make something healthy that may appeal to dd and she wont eat it.

CailinDana Fri 18-Jan-13 14:19:31

Don't make life unnecessarily hard for yourself. Cut out the sausages - they're high in fat and salt and don't have much nutrition. Make your own pizza and blend veggies into the sauce. Ditto for the pasta sauce. Make your own burgers (if she'll have them) or your own chicken nuggets, both very easy. Chips aren't too bad as long as she doesn't have them often.

Try some new things but dress them up as "Junk food" - savoury muffins made with veg and cheese, veggie burgers, etc.

If she doesn't eat mash, try to introduce that slowly (use bribery if necessary) as that's a really handy vehicle for hiding fish/chicken and some veggies.

Does she eat cheese? Dead handy for a snack and good for protein and calcium.

Don't suddenly go cold turkey on this - you'll get a huge reaction and a lot of stress. Try to do it slowly. Cut down the "bad" foods gradually and introduce the others bit by bit. Her diet isn't horrendous so a massive change isn't warranted - take it easy on yourself!

valiumredhead Fri 18-Jan-13 14:20:27

I would cut the milk during the night, just offer water in a sippy cup, she will take it if she is thirsty.

Do you offer her something before bed? Then you know she won't be waking from hunger only habit.

valiumredhead Fri 18-Jan-13 14:20:59

Cailin speaks sense.

When eating out just ask for an extra plate and give her some food from each of your plates rather than ordering from the kids menu.

Keep offering her a variety of different foods. I used to make sure there was at least one thing on their plates that I knew they definitely would eat, as well as something I was trying to get into their regular diet that they were unsure of. Sometimes had some odd combinations but meant they didn't leave the table hungry.

Could you switch the meals around so the meal you have together is the main one with new things to try? And then in the afternoon do lighter snack stuff like egg + soldiers with sliced salad to dip? That way she sees you eating the foods she's not sure of? It seems a little thing hut I'm sure it does help.

stickingattwo Fri 18-Jan-13 14:22:59

Another tip - dump the kids meals, just give them some of yours on a side plate. We started down the childs meals route but as they were always chips, sausages, beans etc stopped. also have found that a lot of places will do little portions of whatever you ask for if they have it and if a meal comes with beans get them to swap for peas or carrots or rice or something a bit healthier. We even had porridge supplied ( at dinner time) when we were eating out since no1 child went through porridge for ever meal phase!Good luck!

Lots of toddlers this age are impossible when it comes to food, so I wouldn't worry too much about the future and bad habits -- my DS had a very limited diet at this age but now eats nearly anything.

I would worry less about healthy vs junk and just keep giving her different things and see what she likes. Agree that not liking soup is probably normal at this age! Pizza is not that junky (depending what kind). You will probably be surprised what she will like or not, DS used to reject all kinds of yummy things and then eat spinach and broccoli for two weeks and then never again.

The easiest way to keep your sanity is to just give her what you are eating (perhaps slightly modified, like without sauces or more mashed up). If she doesn't eat it, no big deal, try again next meal.

But I think you have to fight one battle at a time. If you're not sleeping and work is suffering, don't make a huge battle over her diet. Apparently I ate nothing but hot dogs and cheese sandwiches at 2, I survived grin

Thewhingingdefective Fri 18-Jan-13 14:28:26

I don't think it matters what approach you take. Kids are either fussy or they're not. I have four - two are fussy ( one becoming more so, one less so) two are not. One fussy one was weaned on purée and jars, the other was BLWed.

I was hard line on no 'bad' foods with DC 1 and 2 but not so much now and therefore DC 3 and 4 get those too.

I try for 80% good stuff, 20% less good.

BertieBotts Fri 18-Jan-13 14:29:33

I agree with Cailin.

Also fussiness is common at this age and they grow out of it somewhere between 2 and 5 IME, whether you "indulge" it or not. Obviously don't let her eat nothing but pepperami and crisps, but I wouldn't be constantly trying to introduce new foods or leaving her hungry, either. Sneak as much healthy stuff into the foods she does like and occasionally offer new foods and she'll get there.

I find with DS the best time to get him to try something new is to make myself something when he's already eaten (so no stress of trying new food when hungry) - he is usually curious enough to try and likes it around 50% of the time.

Also this book is good:


Sorry if I'm being dense but she's eating at 3.30 and then again in the evening? proper meals? I would just give a little snack in the afternoon and then have her eat her main meal with you at night, she is more likely to try stuff if she is properly hungry.

And don't beat yourself up! She doesn't know you've lovingly cooked her a healthy meal, she just doesn't want it. That's why just giving her some of what you're already having is a great way to reduce stress levels.

VariousBartimaeus Fri 18-Jan-13 14:47:27

I'm impressed with what your 14 month old is eating! DS is 15 months and still eating very mashed stuff. Then again, he only has 7 teeth (all at the front) so I suppose it's understandable.

He is a veg/fruit enthusiast though and isn't keen on biscuits/chocolate so I can't complain.

He still drinks milk in the evening and during the day. I was told recently that between 12 and 18 months they should be having 500 - 800ml milk (including yoghurts/cheese etc.) a day. We average 600ish.

MrsMelons Fri 18-Jan-13 15:02:29

Various DS1 had no teeth until he was 11 months and never ate mashed up stuff after 7 mnoths - their gums are really hard (he couldn't really eat chewy meat like beef or something easily though). Not saying it is wrong for your DS to eat mashed stuff (I have no idea what age the recommended age for completely normal stuff is) but my friends DS still did at that age and was still eating mashed stuff at almost 3 as had never got used to eating proper food so would gag on everything.

DS2 was a fussier eater and never ate a lot of anything really (he loves fruit/veg/pasta so mainly healthy stuff). We found that giving him breakfast, no snack mid morning then his proper cooked meal worked best as he would eat more that way. Once he ate his meal then we relaxed a bit in the afternoon which took the pressure off all of us.

He is now 4 and has just started to get a much bigger appetite so I feel happier about how much he is eating. He seemed perfectly healthy on the amount he was eating before but was just very thin.

HandbagCrab Fri 18-Jan-13 15:18:56

Ds is nearly 14 months and has taken to picking out fruit and veg in his dinner, including fishing blueberries out of his mouth full of porridge this morning after I smushed them in as a preemptive strike!

I didn't realise I was going to have to fart around hiding fruit and veg whilst he's so young. You're not alone smile

VariousBartimaeus Fri 18-Jan-13 15:26:18

To be honest, I've never bothered fighting the consistency of what DS eats as we've had far bigger problems (reflux and frequent night-waking) so my main aim was to make sure he wasn't hungry at night.

We did start to give him less mashed stuff recently but then he got tonisilitis, went right off all food and is gradually eating soft stuff again, but still refuses bread etc. which he usually loves.

Will make normal food our next aim smile

I have two Dd's, dd1 l tended to eat with her but like you not for her main dinner, where I would help her eat her dinner. She eats ok, went through a fussy stage and is just starting to expand the range of food she eats. Once dd2 came along, we we sitting and eating together and I pretty much left her to get on with it from an early age.she's a really good eater and has been using cutlery well since about a year.I think what I'm trying to illustrate is I was far more relaxed in how mealtimes were/are with dd2, and eating the main meal together really does help. 1: she will watch and learn and 2: because you're eating, you don't concentrate on her as much. Bit off track but looking back I wish I'd been more relaxed with dd1

MrsMelons Fri 18-Jan-13 15:52:55

I hope you don't think I was criticising you Various as its not how I wanted it to sound. We had similar issues with DS2 as a younger baby as he constantly had chest infections so struggled with eating, its horrible as he was on the 2nd centile and just could not eat enough to put on weight at all. Once he was well I think he was used to not eating much so its taken a long time to get to where we are.

JugsMcGee Fri 18-Jan-13 15:57:43

It is hard but I eould say stick with it. DS is just 23m and has just got his appetite back, he's barely eaten for about a month. We continued to offer healthy meals and made no fuss, then removed his plate without comment if he didn't eat. No alternatives.

We did have some night waking which is a pain. A yoghurt or cereal before bed (if they'll eat it!) can help.

Cailin has some good tips.

ukatlast Fri 18-Jan-13 16:27:13

No, OP don't take a hard line. All children are different. I had one easy-eater and one fussy-one.

JugsMcGee - do you really mean what you wrote? Your 23m old barely ate for a month and you offered no alternatives? Strikes me as cruel control-freakery. I expect he woke at night from hunger!

chandellina Fri 18-Jan-13 17:15:04

I do take a hard line because I don't want to reinforce fussiness. I typically offer my 13 month old something healthy mashed up (she only has 4 teeth) and that's it. She also has bread and then a fruit pot or yoghurt. There are definitely times she strongly rejects the main meal but if I can get a mouthful in, she usually decides she is hungry.

Breakfast is usually porridge, then a bottle.

She also has a big bottle of milk before bed so I know she won't go hungry.

LaQueen Fri 18-Jan-13 17:21:23

A friend is struggling with this, although her DS is 4 now.

I pointed out that no child has ever died of starvation in a house filled with good food and a loving parent on hand.

It's short term pain for long term gain. Offer her the healthy option, if she doesn't eat it then just explain there will be nothing else until the next meal. At next meal offer healthy option, if she doesn't eat it then explain there is nothing else until the next day.

If she wakes in the night feeling hungry, then you just have to explain again and suck it up. I suspect she will crumble in a just a day or two because she will be really hungry.

BertieBotts Fri 18-Jan-13 17:24:34

I honestly don't think you can "reinforce" fussiness, unless you're going to totally jump on the bandwagon of their unhealthiest craving and only feed them that, while talking in front of them about how disgusting vegetables are.

You can either make it into a battle, which TBH you're probably not going to win, and (worst case scenario) give them a total complex about eating/mealtimes into the bargain, or you can go for the easy route, mostly offer stuff you know they like (made into as balanced a combination as possible) and occasionally offer new stuff with a boring/plain alternative if they really won't eat it.

BertieBotts Fri 18-Jan-13 17:26:50

It's very different when they're four to when they're one though.

chandellina Fri 18-Jan-13 17:49:31

Bertiebotts, you may well be right and I try to never judge people whose children are picky eaters. Yet I do observe that often fussy children are continually given only the few foods they will eat, and that seems to me a type of reinforcement.

BertieBotts Fri 18-Jan-13 18:04:50

It's seriously not fun when every mealtime is a battle, so I can understand people just giving in and giving them what they want TBH - especially in front of others as it's embarrassing for your child to have a tantrum over eating and then be all hyped up because they are hungry later as well.

I don't think that's an excuse to never offer new foods, but I do disagree with the parenting "wisdom" which says that a child should be forced, bribed, cajoled into trying something - IME they're just likely to reject it out of spite then! If you let them pick up new foods at their own pace then it's more relaxed, and more of an exploration. Thinking long term I'd rather my child enjoyed eating and felt relaxed about it rather than it being a chore to get through. I think I'm lucky though in that every time DS has gone through a fussy phase fruit and veg have been a constant - in fact for a while I was trying desperately to get him to eat something else because they just weren't filling him up! Every time I've made it into a battle though it's always made things worse, by relaxing and going with the flow his eating gets better over time until I can see a real improvement without really trying at all.

loofet Fri 18-Jan-13 18:21:16

Just don't make a big deal of it. When you're at the table with her talk to your

nokidshere Fri 18-Jan-13 18:24:37

Making a fuss or taking a hard line in one so young is simply not worth the stress!

Introduce new foods slowly alongside foods she likes. Make healthier versions of her favourite foods. Praise when she eats and ignore when she doesn't.

Neither of my children were fussy and ate pretty much everything, my 11 year old still does but my 14 year old has a (reasonably healthy) restricted diet now and has done since he was about 9.

loofet Fri 18-Jan-13 18:29:38

Fucks sake, posted too soon.

Talk to your other DC if you have any or your dp/dh if you have one (sorry wasn't mentioned) whilst at the table about your day, you all/both eat like normal. Make sure you don't sit staring at her eating or get frustrated when she won't and start going on at her to eat. Put the good food in front of her and have a set time for her to eat it (say half an hour). If she hasn't eaten it by that time then she gets down from the table and gets nothing- no snacks- until the next meal and continue this. Eventually she WILL get the hang of it. An older child would take some time to 'retrain' from bad habits but a 14 month old is still so young it really shouldn't take that long.

She won't starve. It is human instinct to eat and she will eat when hungry eventually. If there's no junk on offer then she has no choice but to eat the good stuff. There are ways around disguising fruit and veggies in with other stuff (cheese, yoghurt and pasta are common ones). Also make sure you're not giving her too much fluids which can suspend hunger.

Don't fret about her starving, it will not happen. A healthy diet is vital and at the age she is you have realised you need to change your ways early enough so you can nip it in the bud. Last thing you want is for this to continue well into childhood. Good luck.

JugsMcGee Fri 18-Jan-13 21:56:38

He wouldn't eat anything I offered, was I supposed to force feed him? I offered toast, cereal, fruit, yoghurt for breakfast, he didn't eat any of them. I cooked lunches, no joy, I did picky cold lunch, nothing, left stuff out for grazing, he wouldn't touch it. I cooked dinner, he would eat a couple of mouthfuls and then mess around and get down. I offered fruit and yoghurt after regardless of if he'd eaten but he was rarely interested. I even tried rice pudding, banana and custard and the odd biscuit. He just wasn't interested and I wasn't going to force him.

Yes he was waking through hunger! That's not too unusual for him though even when he's eaten loads.

Today he was back to his old self, I couldn't fill him up.

ChunkysMum Fri 18-Jan-13 21:56:40

Thank you for all of the posts - you've offered some great food for thought.

It's the weekend tomorrow so I'm going for the 'attempt to make healthy stuff she may like' approach as I'll have more time than during the week. (Although I still don't like cooking).

Going to make pasta with tomato & mascarpone sauce for dinner (it has hidden carrot, courgette & celery). I'll make double portions so I can freeze some.

Any ideas for tea?

She loves using her fork, preferably to stab chips/sausages and then eat them. Funnily enough though, if I get a carrot on her fork she pulls it off and then stabs a chip.

she's eating at 3.30 and then again in the evening? proper meals? It is this way because she eats a meal at her childminders with the other kids after school. Then has her supper at 6pm with us and bed at 7pm.

Apparently she eats better with our childminder.

I would cut the milk during the night, she only has milk before bed, not during the night. I know I need to cut this out, but know it'll require a few sleepless nights and have big exams coming up in three weeks (medical school finals) so have been putting it off.

ukatlast Sat 19-Jan-13 20:25:16

Jugsmcgee 'He wouldn't eat anything I offered, was I supposed to force feed him?'
No of course not.
Sorry your first post sounded like you gave no other options - clearly you did so I misunderstood.
I remember being bullied by dinner ladies to eat at school in 1960s but had a very healthy appetite, I just didn't like school dinners much.

Dietary advice now is not to make a fuss and I really think this works but you must offer foods you know your child likes (at the moment) alongside the new ones.
The thing is my 'picky teenager' is still pickier than my 'eat everything' one but by never making an issue of it, he has cured himself over the years and expanded his repertoire. He likes school dinners.
With girls especially you need to be careful not to make eating a 'battle of wills' and a 'control issue' a controlling rule-heavy household, food may be the only item the child can exert control would be harmful (think anorexia) to push them this far and what LaQueen has outlined would fall into this category for me and I stand by what I said earlier about it being cruel. Everyone has food preferences and babies and toddlers are still finding out what they like - personally I can't stand bananas and fatty meat and never will.

girliefriend Sat 19-Jan-13 20:39:11

I think making it into a battle of wills is a bad idea as you might not win. I say this as an adult who was a very fussy child, the more my parents forced the issue the more I dug my heels in.

My advice is to try not to focus too much on healthy/ unhealthy food, food is food. Put very small portions of each food on the plate - kids really don't need a lot of food at that age. Give them healthy choices for example my dd likes a cold tea of some ham, cooked beetroot, avocardo, humous, cheese and breadsticks.

Put the food down and then take the focus away so talk about something else, don't comment if she starts to moan and if she mucks about with the food just take the plate away.

i have fussy eaters but have found sitting down with them eating the same mael as them helps. if they see you (or any other adult) enjoying food then they are likely to join in and eat . what i do is put out a big board with things that we can help ourselves to like raisins ,cucumbers and anything else that is healthy

TheFallenNinja Sat 19-Jan-13 22:43:21

I don't think it unreasonable in the least, nor do I think it hard line to put in place a policy and stick to it.

It's a policy that's based on a healthy diet to give the best possible start.

Kids make rubbish choices smile that's why the grown ups are in charge.

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