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If you have a fussy eater, how do you handle it?

(16 Posts)
ttalloo Sun 21-Aug-11 21:37:56

I'm at the end of my tether with DS2, who's nearly three, and eats a proper meal perhaps twice a week. For breakfast he will only eat half a brioche roll with Nutella, while for other meals he might condescend to eat pasta, rice, sausages, steak or lentils, with plain yogurt, broccoli or carrots, but only about once a week will he actually clear his plate. The rest of the time he demands spaghetti instead of penne or sausages instead of steak, and has his grandparents (they look after him Monday to Friday) dancing around him producing meal after meal in an attempt to get him to eat.

I don't do this - he either eats what he's given or has nothing - but neither approach seems to be working, and he's lost a lot of weight over the last fortnight when we've been on holiday (when it's been very hot, and normal routine has been disrupted) and he has lived on milk, ice-cream, chips and bread. (The last time he was weighed he was on the 78th percentile (91st for height.)

He seems to have a limitless capacity for crisps, chips, biscuits, chocolate and breadsticks (which I try very hard not to indulge, especially in between meals, so that he doesn't fill up on crap), so clearly he does feel hungry but he just isn't interested in proper food. His brother is an adventurous eater, interested in how dishes are made, and how things taste, and is a joy to feed but I'm finding mealtimes with DS2 absolutely horrendous at the moment, and I just don't know what to do. sad

LynetteScavo Sun 21-Aug-11 21:51:21

A 2 year old demanding spagetti instead of penne, and being pandered to?

No wonder he is fussy. This pandering needs to stop...you need to be very firm with the grandparents.

When you say he lost a lot of weight on holiday, was it noticeable without weighing him? I wouldn't worry about the holiday weight loss, lots of children live off ice cream and bread for a couple of weeks when in a strange place and survive.

It may be that he is a snacker, and needs lots of small meals...so have healthy food always available, but hide anything unhealthy very well. (I have an 8 year old fussy eater,who needs to snack, and I literally have to hide icing sugar wrapped in plastic bags in the freezer, and crisps and biscuits locked in the garage.)

ttalloo Sun 21-Aug-11 23:43:28

The pandering is a source of friction between me, and my DH and his parents. They think that I'm being neglectful in not producing meal after meal at lunch or dinner time to find something that DS2 will eat, and I think that they are mad to go to the effort of making three different dishes, all of which DS2 will find something wrong with, and refuse to eat. He's not even consistent - he might demolish a plate of spaghetti one day, and then refuse to eat it again for a month.

The weight loss over the last two weeks is noticeable in that his ribs are more pronounced than they used to be; I'm trying not to panic, because even DS1, who has a huge appetite, and is sturdily built as a result (but not fat) has slightly visible ribs.

I just don't know what to do to encourage him to eat properly and to develop a taste for food that's good for him. He won't touch cheese or fruit (apart from raisins if he's in the mood), only eats carrots, broccoli and potatoes (and only then about a handful of times a month), and would quite happily live off carbohydrates. And crisps.

(But your comment about hiding the icing sugar in the freezer struck a chord; I keep mine at the back of the under-stairs cupboard where DS2 can't see it -given half a chance he grabs a spoon and tucks in heartily. I just wish he felt that way about fruit, vegetables and chicken!)

kayah Mon 22-Aug-11 00:28:20

I would say first rule would be no crisps

he is too young for them anyway.

If you or PIL's won't have them in the house then he won't be having them.

I believeein one step at a time approach in this scenario smile

LynetteScavo Mon 22-Aug-11 09:14:17

My fussy eater is the middle child, so in a way it's been easier to ignore it than if he were an only child. I serve up meals to the family, and if DS2 doesn't like it, he doesn't eat it. After 2 years of me serving up shepherds pie once a week, he decided to try it, and said it was OK....he's still not keen on it though. Luckily he will eat some fish, veg ect (as long as they are not touching) but he has to be hungry to do so. The only pandering I do is to keep some pasta separate if I've made something like a pasta bake. Quite often a meal for him will consist on nothing more than pasta grated cheese and ketchup. I know he's hungry between meals because he will search the kitchen for something tasty. If he were to find a packet of biscuits he would hoover them up in a flash.

Luckily he is very keen to have vitamin supplements, such as Minidex. smile

ragged Mon 22-Aug-11 09:26:53

I wouldn't care about the grandparents pandering, that's on their time, let them get on with it, unless they are offering lots of crap??

I would ban the Nutella with bread roll for breakfast, I'd keep it to with butter or plain or something similarly non-treat like. I'd strictly limit the "crap" in quantity (some kind of daily or weekly rules) & offer lots of the blander but less crap stuff if that's all he'd eat.

I do have a fussy eater and he's a lot fussier than yours; for that matter, I know a lot of little boys who are wildly fussier than mine or yours. So I'm minded to think this thread is more about pandering & getting het up than about intransient fussiness. I don't know if this applies to you, just that it seems like some people dance around thinking they must get their young DC to eat variety when actually a narrow list of healthy if boring foods seems healthier (and saner) to me, esp., with capricious LOs.

Your 3yo eats raisins and broccoli?! shock wink

ttalloo Mon 22-Aug-11 10:16:14

Maybe my expectations have been raised by DS1 who'll try anything, eats a huge variety of foods and would rather eat a fruit salad than chocolate, but DS2's fussiness has come as something of a shock, and what I'm looking for is a way of dealing with it so that he doesn't starve or get malnutrition from eating vegetables only twice a month, never eating fruit and hardly touching meat.

I don't mind if he eats a limited variety of healthy foods - and yes, he does eat 'difficult' things like broccoli, raisins or lentils, but he doesn't do it consistently - and mostly eats less over the course of the day than DS1 does in an entire meal.

The issue with the grandparents' pandering does matter, ragged, because they feed the boys three meals a day from Monday to Friday, and if DS2 turns down chicken and vegetables, and they then make him risotto, which he then turns down because he wants pasta, it makes a circus of mealtimes, and undermines my 'take it or leave it' strategy.

From what lynettescavo says, 'take it or leave it' is a very long-term solution, and requires perseverance and endurance on my part - it's just so dispiriting to clear away plate after plate of untouched food, or to watch him shudder theatrically when offered a banana.

But he did eat four and a half mini chipolatas and half a small carrot yesterday evening for dinner, which is what passes for a decent meal for him... shock

ragged Mon 22-Aug-11 18:32:28

Ah, all meals/5 days/week is a lot, I presumed it was just lunch.
You will have to work out a strategy with the grandparents. Maybe they won't change, ; I still think most children could handle one approach from you & a different one from them.
I really don't think his diet is that bad, ttalloo.
If you average it out over the week or month it's probably pretty darn good.
I'd faint if any of DC would ever eat lentils (DH & I love them).

Fluffycloudland77 Mon 22-Aug-11 20:12:57

Stamp it out now, my nephew lives on;

sausage rolls from well known bakers
fruitshoots
ice cream
waffles
fish fingers
and lots of junk food.

No eggs, milk, un-processed meat or fruit and veg.

And he has the GP trained to just give in. As if he would have starved to death if he was born 1500AD when processed food wasn't around.

I won't take him out for a meal in case someone thinks he's mine. Oh and he can't use cutlry properly yet. They cut it up fir him and just uses a fork.

BeaWheesht Mon 22-Aug-11 20:30:50

I'd just say relax and do nothing tbh. At age 2 ds ate

Yogurts
Sausage rolls
Lots of fruit to be fair
Cheerios
Occasionally sandwiches - well bread and butter.

He is 4 now and still fussy but eats things I never thought he'd eat like salads, steak, bacon, mince.

I did nothing.

BeaWheesht Mon 22-Aug-11 20:30:50

I'd just say relax and do nothing tbh. At age 2 ds ate

Yogurts
Sausage rolls
Lots of fruit to be fair
Cheerios
Occasionally sandwiches - well bread and butter.

He is 4 now and still fussy but eats things I never thought he'd eat like salads, steak, bacon, mince.

I did nothing.

ttalloo Tue 23-Aug-11 09:44:16

Thanks everyone. You've all made me feel a bit better about DS2. Aside from the crap he would happily live on (crisps, chips, biscuits, ice-cream, chocolate, breadsticks), he does eat, assuming he's in the mood, the following:

Yogurts
Milk
Raisins
Broccoli
Carrots
Potatoes
Chicken
Sausages
Ham
Beef
Lamb
Fish fingers
Bread
Rice
Noodles
Pasta
Pulses
Cereal

It's just that he doesn't eat much, and is liable to refuse to eat one day what he ate the day before. It helps so much to know that he could be worse - and also that there's not much I can do other than persevere and not pander.

To this end, since we came back from holiday on Saturday, he's had no treats and I've been clear with him that now we are back he has to eat what's on his plate or get nothing. So we had a hideous day on Sunday when he scarcely ate a thing apart from a very modest dinner, but yesterday he did much better and ate small portions of proper food at lunch (black-eyed bean stew, rice & yogurt) and dinner (Thai chicken curry and noodles, once I'd removed the peas and sweetcorn).

I feel slightly less panic-stricken now. Thanks.

flimflammery Tue 23-Aug-11 09:54:12

"He seems to have a limitless capacity for crisps, chips, biscuits, chocolate and breadsticks "

What child doesn't? grin

Your list of what he does eat is actually not too bad, I know children who have a much more restricted diet. I would guess that his meal refusal at the GPs is more to do with exerting his power than food.

I too have a good eater for my firstborn and a fussy no. 2. I've started a reward system (beads in a jar) and I reward her for trying a tiny taste of something she doesn't eat, or for eating all her dinner if it's something not too objectionable.

daimbardiva Tue 23-Aug-11 11:22:24

Your list seems reasonable to me - I'm struggling with a 2 year old who will not let fruit or veg in ANY form pass his lips just now...

I do think you need to have a word with the GPs though - their pandering sounds like it has got to ridiculous proportions and your son will be getting totally mixed messages through your different approaches.

bacon Tue 23-Aug-11 16:44:51

whow...demands....but then its the grandparents thing again always the same problem! First of all you have to set out the rules to the grandparents and if its not working then youll have to put them into nursery care I'm afraid. Grandparents are undermining the good thing you are doing and setting out very bad routines and rules that are going to be hard to break. They are doing what is the easiest option and I have a friend who has had the same problem and now has a fussy demanding nearly 3 yr old. WhatI love about private nursery is that pandering isnt done and sets a good precedent.

We have simple rules here, chocolate is in treat size and only availble once a day (usually afternoon) No crisps children do not need crisps - crisps are whats causing the fat kids. There is too much fat in crisps and if yr giving crisps and chocolate I wonder who hungry yr child is. Keep crisps to weekend and save your shopping bill. Save the chocolate for praise on eaating the meal not the other way around.

Really, this isnt helping with your busy lifestyle and you have to address the grandparents first. My DS2 started playing up with his food but we went back to spoon feeding and hard disciple, it worked within a few days and now he's fantastic - just like DS1. I cant stand having other peoples children over if they havent table manners. Should be instilled by 2.5yrs end of.

notcitrus Tue 23-Aug-11 17:05:25

I've got a fussy eater who goes through random phases. What I find helps a lot is asking him if he wants omelette for lunch or pasta and red sauce. No, XYZ isn't an option. Usually after a bit of whinging he will eat some.

Maybe the grandparents would be willing to do that - give him a choice rather than tell him take x or leave it, but once he's chosen, he has to stick with it? And maybe provide other snacks like bananas or sandwiches?

I have to admit that I'm rather glad ds goes to nursery as he eats quite a lot of things there where peer pressure is a big influence, that he won't eat at home! I also limit 'treat food' to weekends/before bed and sometimes get him to drink juice (vital to avoid constipation as he won't eat fruit or veg) or eat something on the grounds that [treat] is for people who've eaten/drunk all their XYZ!

I'm pretty sure that ribs are supposed to be visible and usually are even on slightly chubby children (ds's are, and he's perfectly in proportion according to the charts), especially if they've just grown a bit.

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