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Absolute rut in feeding toddler: ideas needed!

(29 Posts)
Maria2007loveshersleep Mon 13-Dec-10 12:42:40

Hi, I have a DS who is 2.4 & a notoriously fussy eater. Even though DP & I cook every day (we both love cooking) & have a meal plan etc, DS will have none of it & will only eat the following things:
-sausages (including veggie sausages)
-lots of fruit
-bagels and/or bread
-fish fingers
-meatballs (sometimes)
-potatoes (sometimes, less & less often)
-simple omelets (with cheese, NO veg!)

And that's it! It's completely disheartening & I admit I've become so bored / tired of the whole thing that I just give him the same few meals again & again. Which feels wrong, particularly as I love cooking so much!

Any ideas of simple meals that he might perhaps try, and that wouldn't mean I have to slave over separate meals for him everyday (as he won't touch our meals)? Or strategies that have worked for people?

LooL00 Mon 13-Dec-10 13:21:22

We had trouble with dc1 at about that age. We started a no fuss at mealtimes stategy:

1)gave him less to start with (he can ask for more)
2)absolutely no alternatives and no pudding if you don't eat it.
3)no comments other than 'oh you are eating neatly' or 'this is nice and creamy' and certainly never asking if he liked something or telling him to eat it.
4) no getting over excited when he's eating something new and showing it matters to us.

Things got better really quickly.
It all seems a bit mean but we have lovely mealtimes, the dc will try anything new and eat really well.

Suzihaha Mon 13-Dec-10 13:26:27

At the risk of sounding boring, "it is just a phase".

In the meantime, try coating cooked vegetables in egg, flour and breadcrumbs and then frying them. Serve with any dipping sauce he likes. It was the only way DS2 would eat his veg.

I also tried to arrange food to look like faces or vehicles or whatever his favourtie thing was, to make him eat it.

To be honest though, at least he's getting a balance of nutrients from the food you describe so don't worry too much.

RememberToPlaywiththeKids Mon 13-Dec-10 13:28:36

I agree with LooLOO.

This is dinner, and offer it with a 'take it or leave it I don't care' attitude.

no puddings or fruit afterwards until things have picked up - they can be offered as snacks mid morning or something.

No food for 2 hours before you plan to have dinner.

only water to drink during the day.

If starving pre dinner time, then cut up some carrots / peppers / cucumber / frozen peas etc and put them out on a plate to be eaten while playing and waiting for dinner.

As well as not talking about the food I would say also not the style of eating either - have a conversation that DS will like e.g. who can name an animal that lives on a farm - and you all have a stab. Distraction distraction.

After 1/2 hour if nothing eaten then just say that's fine but you will be hungry in your bed if you don't eat and there's nothing else until breakfast time. Say you'll clear up in 5 minutes so if he wants to eat then now is the time.

Then just clear it away and start playing!

TitianTinselTemptress Mon 13-Dec-10 13:43:43

Hello, I am jumping on this thread for a friend whose DD (3.10) is v fussy!

I like LooLoo's and Remember's suggestions, which are very much in line with Baby Led Weaning theory and removes the child's ability to use food to gain power.

It's all well and good to say 'you'll be hungry in bed if you don't eat, but the problem my friends have is that if DD doesn't eat enough, she wakes up in the night really hungry and won't settle - how do you deal with that?

Sleepwhenidie Mon 13-Dec-10 13:45:49

For a "fussy" 2.4yo eater that sounds like a pretty good list to me. My DS would only eat weetabix, yoghurt, fruit and nuggets or fish fingers with oven chips and peas for quite some time at that age. No pasta, potatoes (other than chips), cheese, rice, meat, beans/veg for him! I am sure other parents of fussy eaters will come along to echo my saying that your DS doesn't sound fussy to me!

By the sound of it, your DS should be getting most of his nutritional needs met with all that and 2yo's don't seem to get bored with the same food, indeed they like it!

My advice would be don't stress if he's healthy - just go with it. You don't have to eat the same meals as him all the time! You could try the take it or leave it approach advised by others to attempt to broaden the range of food he eats but it will be stressful and disheartening at least for a while. Or you could just relax and go with the flow and gradually persuade him to try new things and he will almost certainly get better in time. Our DS now eats a great range of food and will try almost anything, although he still hates cheese. Remember too that this is one area in life that 2yo's can exercise a great deal of control and they know it. They will sense if you are anxious/stressed about and may decide to push against you even more - not fun for you but entertaining attention for them and possibly setting up bad habits in longer term.

RunningOutOfIdeas Mon 13-Dec-10 13:53:10

The range of food your DS is eating does not seem too bad. You could try giving him a combination of food he does like with something that you are eating. So if he would normally eat 2 fish fingers, give him just one and a very small portion of your food. As others have said, don't make any comment over what he eats. If he is hungry after eating his fishfinger, and there is nothing else on offer, he might try something else.

Maria2007loveshersleep Mon 13-Dec-10 13:53:20

I think with our DS the going to bed hungry is not such an issue, as he has a bottle of milk at bedtime (which he always finishes) & generally eats well- ie good quantities-, it's just he only eats the things he wants & I- being in a rut-always give him the same things.

With younger toddlers & of course with under-1s the waking in the night from hunger thing is certainly a bigger concern. But with a 2-3 year old who's generally sleeping well I wouldn't worry too much about that aspect.

Your suggestions sound great, but I suspect if I gave my DS more adventurous things & offer none of what he likes, he'd just throw a huge tantrum which exhausts me even as a thought .

And by the way, he also doesn't touch lunch at nursery & always just has the breakfast and tea there which are more bread/fruit based meals.

For example, lets look at our meal plan last week:
Sunday: chicken nuggets with salad
Monday: linguine with pesto & salad
Tuesday: peas with feta cheese & yoghurt
Wednesday: Yellow split pea puree and hummus & vegetables
Thursday: Artichoke hearts with egg & lemon sauce, feta & bread
Friday: Grilled salmon with potato salad & cucumber salad
Saturday: Meatloaf with fried potatoes

Of these things the only things he would touch are: chicken nuggets (^maybe^), feta cheese, yoghurt, bread. That's it...

So would you recommend making separate meals for him (which is what I do, but they're just utterly boring / not so balanced) or going ahead with LooLoo's plan which sounds great in theory but which would mean he would essentially not be eating much?

Or should we just change our meals ourselves & eat sausages/fish fingers/chicken nuggets/meatballs every day (boak confused).

MegBusset Mon 13-Dec-10 14:00:05

His list really doesn't sound that bad, DS1 was eating less at the same age. Now at 3.10 he is starting to be more open to trying new things and will eat pasta, rice, pizza, some veg, most fruit, salad, cous cous, basically enough to have a different meal every day of the week!

I do cook separately for him and DS2, they eat their tea at 5 and no way could I eat then. I know this will get some people's judgy pants twanging but it works for us.

Maria2007loveshersleep Mon 13-Dec-10 14:07:35

MegBusset, I have to say I agree with you, I kind of miss our 8 pm meals with my DP & a glass of wine...

We've been trying to have meals altogether with DS & DP and me eg at 6 pm, but it's just not such a pleasurable experience as DS eats his own thing (eg sausages) & we just eat our own meal. It's disheartening to eat that early & also disheartening to see DS is rejecting the things I make...

I think the 'go with the flow' thing seems better for us at this point in our lives, particularly because things are a bit stressful for various reasons these days, and I can't face a more all or nothing approach, as much as it might make sense.

So I suppose I should perhaps try to make a slightly more adventurous meal plan for DS based on the things he already likes? I'm thinking, for example, things like savoury muffins (he might eat), crumpets with cheese? Other ideas?

MegBusset Mon 13-Dec-10 14:21:47

Yes that's basically what we did with DS1, try new food about once a week based on his existing repertoire, this has really helped expand his menu. Eg if he likes fish fingers then try fish cakes, if he likes bagels then try muffins. I got him eating pasta via alphabetti spaghetti! Also found he likes choosing his own food from the supermarket and helping make it. We watch shows like I Can Cook and Big Cook Little Cook too so that he is familiar with a wide range of foods even if he won't yet eat them.

Sleepwhenidie Mon 13-Dec-10 17:08:57

Us too MegBusset - kids eat at around 5pm and I sit with them and maybe have a snack. DH and I eat after they go to bed, its something we really enjoy doing and its rare that DH is home before 7pm so eating as a family every night isn't practical anyway. DD(2) has always been a much better eater than DS1 (maybe because less attention paid?) and now that DS1 is better, we try to have at least one dinner together a week at about 6.30, which they find v exciting because they have their bath before dinner and daddy comes home especially early grin! For this I make fish pie, roast chicken dinner or pasta of some kind. We also try and go somewhere like Wagamama or pizza express once a fortnight, for lunch or early dinner. To be honest, with 3 under 6 it doesn't make for a relaxing meal out but we think they need to learn to get used to behaving properly in a restaurant and they are getting better!grin.

I think baby steps are the key to broadening the range of food, move between similar things - fish fingers to fishcakes to mashed potato with baked salmon flakes mixed in to fish pie for example. My DS has come full circle from only eating stuff coated in breadcrumbs to pulling the coating off fish fingers to just eat the inside shock. It is easier when they are a bit older to bribe them into trying new things too wink!

Sleepwhenidie Mon 13-Dec-10 17:11:19

Oh - the other thing that really worked for us was my mum offering him things he would never eat with us - sausages and baked beans being 2 key developments! Why he suddenly decided he liked these things is anyone's guess but if someone else is feeding him when you aren't around you never know what might happen! Meg - the tinned spaghetti was the step to pasta for us too [grin!]

RememberToPlaywiththeKids Mon 13-Dec-10 21:43:01

I think it's very common for kids of that age to have issues with certain textures. Looking at your meal plan, there are quite a few 'dodgy' things (from a toddlers point of view) I think, like the split pea puree, meatloaf,artichoke hearts, cucumber salad and potato salad.

maybe if much of what he sees is 'alarming' then he's just getting panicky about meals in general.

I do think it's really really important that if you are eating together than you eat the same meal. You are a family home not a restaurant.

I think personally I would either doctor your menu to be more in keeping with (but not just what he likes!!) (for now) and then slowly build up the variety over time OR do that but you and DH eat later but i think if you can it would be nice for you to have a tiny tiny portion of what he's having so you share a meal together.

I'll have a think of some suggestions.

RememberToPlaywiththeKids Mon 13-Dec-10 21:45:16

oh and salad is also dodgy - they tend to be better with individually cut up veggies in separate piles rather than a trad salad. You may have some luck with iceberg lettuce but the other lettuce is unlikely to be a winner!

RememberToPlaywiththeKids Mon 13-Dec-10 21:47:01

oh and one more thing just quickly. toddlers tend to eat really well at one meal in the day - so pick that one to work with and offer him stuff you know he'll like for the others....

CuddlyNotFat Mon 13-Dec-10 21:52:09

Blimey - I wish my DS(2.6) would eat what yours does! Mine lives off porridge, pasta, cheese and cucumber! And the odd apple!

RememberToPlaywiththeKids Mon 13-Dec-10 21:57:28

quick ideas:

Just examples:

Souffle - eggs mixed with grated cheese and baked - in a ramekin / tipped out on to a plate

...then intro a story about truck drivers liking green food or something that he can get in to and keep that up for a while (days or weeks) and then once he's sold on that add really finely chopped spinach to the souffle so it will look green.... can also do with rice etc

Will he eat just plain cold pasta? odd I know but lots of toddlers love it. You could put a few bits out for him at snack time for him to pick at while he plays. If he does like it you can then do it at a meal time and then later have a sauce next to it. lots from that age group generally loathe sauces mixed with pasta but can cope with them next to each other on the plate.

Fish fingers - start taking part of the coat off so he can see the fish etc (eg top bit). then when you give him fish fingers, give him one with half the coat missing and then a plain bit of fish next to it....

Veggies - perhaps try having a small plate of veggies just out for most of the day EVERY DAY (peppers, carrots, cucumber, frozen peas etc) and don't say anything but sit down with him and while you're playing with him, you nibble away at it. He may well start to copy you after a couple of weeks or so. At worst you'll get your 5 a day!

Does he like prawns? Noodles?

Importantly DO NOT TALK ABOUT FOOD!!!!

MerryMarigold Mon 13-Dec-10 22:00:03

Give him raw carrots when he's really hungry!
{My ds2 refuses ALL veg but he will eat that when he's starving as a snack! Though he will not eat it if it is on the plate with any other food).

I have a v fussy 2yr and 1 month old - my second ds and a lot worse than my first or my dd. He also refuses potato, but will eat potato cakes made with tuna or bacon and egg, then fried.

Spaghetti bolognaise (puree sauce)

Pasta with tuna and philadephia

I try to mostly give him the things he likes as times I have done the 'eat it or leave it', he has left it, and he can do this for a week or so quite happily, so he loses a lot of weight! I try and give 'interesting' things at lunch and a more 'acceptable' even meal. He does sometimes go for days only eating breakfast (crunchy cereal and milk) and fruit, so I will read this with interest. Oh, no snacks past 3pm other than raw veg!

RememberToPlaywiththeKids Mon 13-Dec-10 22:00:49

oh and sit him at the table at a non meal time with a punnet of mushrooms and a blunt knife.....!!! repeat the activity if he likes it and let him see you nick a couple of bits to eat as you walk past.

Also get him to help you with baking and licking the spoon and also help with main meals and savoury dishes and get him used to textures and smells etc.

MerryMarigold Mon 13-Dec-10 22:01:47

I am not making sense, v tired, sorry.

I meant an 'acceptable' (to him) evening meal.

And I will read this thread with interest.

MerryMarigold Mon 13-Dec-10 22:05:54

Oh yes, cooking helped my ds1 try a lot of stuff. He even ate leeks when he cooked them grin. (Sadly not repeated)

Rev084 Mon 13-Dec-10 22:08:14

All kids this age are fussy in one way or another.

My OH is nigerian so what we eat over the course of week is mostly nigerian cuisine and sometimes english. My daughter 2.3yrs loves his food, especially as its very communal, we all eat out of the same dish and mostly with our hands so perfect for toddlers.

Out of the english meals I cook, she loves like spag bol, ragu type sauces. I finely chop different vegetables into it like mushrooms, carrot, parsnip. Chicken liver is good to add as it just sort of melts into the sauce, mild tasting but very nutritious. Loves fruit, can peel her own tangerines.

She loves her meat and sometimes fish. Loves bacon, sausages. I try to focus on the proteins and good natural fats (polys are bad) especially as foods high in these are more satiating than carb-filled foods. Toddlers don't necessarily need loads of veg either, not many people know that you can get all of your daily requirements from animal-based products, liver contains more vit c than oranges.

RememberToPlaywiththeKids Mon 13-Dec-10 22:11:45

I have found with my 2 that what works really well is if they decide they don't like something (e.g. a new veg or green beans or something), we have it every day for 2 weeks (yes I know!) and that sorts that one out! It seems that repeated exposure at short intervals helps alot in them gaining confidence in something. This is where eating together really helps because they see you eating it.

There's something about this age where 'in the wild' they have to be safe so they don't eat poisonous berries etc and so they develop this keen suspicion of food that they find difficult to overcome. Seeing you eat things without any issue / stress really does help them to rationalise.

bessie26 Mon 13-Dec-10 22:21:56

DD isn't that fussy, but I do find she eats better if I only put a very small amount on her plate (she often has "thirds"!), if I put too much out at once, she just plays with it.

Plain pasta seems to work better than pasta in a sauce. Her favourite meal atm is penne, carrots & broccoli - if I do it in a tomato sauce, she won't eat it! (although she will happily eat spag bol hmm)

I tend to put the food in front of her & let her get on with it which works well. If DH is around he will "encourage" her to eat the food on her plate, which just results in her not eating anything (& me getting very pissed off with DH!)

Will be watching this thread with interest, as although she eats well, we are definitely in a food rut & I am bored of cooking the same old stuff!

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