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Selective eater and family meals

(27 Posts)
norfolkdumpling Thu 10-Jul-08 20:56:42

I need MN vast bank of knowledge to get me through the upcoming summer holidays without going nuts.

Here's my situation. DD1 is 6 years old. He started becoming fussy about food around 2 years old (this was before I joined MN and could search the messages and find out that this is pretty much par for the course). So in the intervening years DP and I have made all the classic mistakes with a picky eater.

Currently he will only eat the following:
sausages, smoked ham, roast pork, steak and roast beef, chicken, crisps, chips and roast potatoes, bread (all kinds as long as there are no seeds), oatcakes, pastry, butter, margarine, Philadelphia (and cheddar as long as it's melted), Yorkshire pudding, white fish in breadcrumbs not batter, cheese and tomato pizza, baked beans, boiled eggs, tinned cream of tomato soup, apple sauce, apples, all types of cakes, sweets and chocolate.

For the last two years we have paid for him to have school dinners mainly because we thought that he might at least try peas etc if he saw that other kids his age have no fear of them. I do keep putting new things (for him) on his plate at weekends but he is so stubborn he would rather go to bed hungry than even taste them.

My query is how can I create exciting family meals over the summer holiday that include at least one thing from the list above (so that he doesn't have a tantrum at the table)? Last summer we nearly died from stodge overload and we really missed the pasta, rice, cous cous etc that we eat in term time when he's not here for lunch.

Elasticwoman Thu 10-Jul-08 21:33:40

Easy. You just put the food you want him to eat in front of him. If you think he won't like it, put v small quantities. I will serve several kinds of veg with a roast, but don't get upset if they don't polish it all off. You eat same food yourself. If he doesn't eat it and goes to bed hungry - that's his choice. Absolutely no sweets or food treats of any kind unless he has eaten a reasonable amount of what's on his plate. Ignore/put up with the tantrums. Do not let him think you care whether he is still hungry or not. He won't starve. You can't make him eat, but you can withhold treats. A very hungry child will try new things. A child who knows he can have a biscuit later, won't be too adventurous.

In our household, we don't talk about the food very much at the table. It is tedious and stressful to discuss how much children are eating. I have seen parents anxiously standing over children at a meal time (nursery tea at a hotel). It is both painful to watch and counter-productive.

norfolkdumpling Fri 11-Jul-08 10:13:32

Thanks for replying, Elasticwoman. But my problem is he gags on pasta etc. I don't want my DP and DS2 to (or myself - trying to keep my figure!) to have to eat a meat and potato cooked in fat dish every day during the holidays. I have tried the whole withholding treats tactic and believe me he will go for days without eating anything 'good' that I put in front of him (and because he's so tall he loses weight quickly and looks really gaunt when he does this). Also, his younger brother delights in winding him up waving around the treat that he is given after polishing off every single thing on his plate.

Anymore suggestions, anyone, please...

sleepingbag Fri 11-Jul-08 10:23:19

my DS 4 is similar and will gag on certain food, even chocolait!! So now if we have a meal that i know he won't eat all or some, i just give him the bits he likes or if none of it something simple that he likes. We ask him if he wants to try are food but don't make a big deal out of it.

norfolkdumpling Fri 11-Jul-08 20:11:11

Sleepingbag, it's good to know I'm not alone.

Let me flesh out what meal times are like for us at present. During the half term I thought I'd have a go at expanding DS1's range of foods in preparation for making summer holiday meals a little more exciting for us all. I made lasagne (thinking he likes melted cheese and beef so there's nothing too scary in there). I put out garlic bread (which he had told me he ate at school) and salad.

So how did it go? Not good would be an understatement but I don't want to swear on here. First of all he did the usual whining ('I hate lasagne. Why have you cooked it?') I calmly told him to leave what he didn't like. While I tried to keep everything light hearted and off topic concerning food with DP and DS2 he continued to vent his spleen. I told him just to eat the garlic bread to which he replied, 'I don't like garlic bread'. DP then waded in (as he always does no matter how many times I tell him just to ignore the tantrums) with the threats that the Playstation will go in the bin etc etc unless he tried some lasagne. Meanwhile, DS2 polished off the garlic bread, salad and lasagne. In the end, with tears streaming down his face, DS1 peeled the cheese off the now festering lasagne and gagged on it because he was so distraught. He didn't get anything for pudding and spent the next half hour crying into his pillow whilst I 'had words' with DP in private.

Still hoping that someone out there will give me some suggestions for family meals around DS1's list of foods he will eat (see OP).

hannahsaunt Fri 11-Jul-08 20:24:43

Ds2 can be quite fussy so e.g. we all like sausage casserole (tip into large ovenproof dish: sausages, baked beans, onion chopped v finely (could leave out), mushrooms, tin of chopped tomatoes, pkt of pancetta (could leave out) and braise in oven for an hour turning sausages once). Serve with green beans and mashed potatoes; 7 days out of 10 ds2 will eat the mashed potatoes (usually despite protesting and eats them mindlessly, almost by accident, without really realising that he has done so). No sweat if he doesn't eat them but everyone else can enjoy even if he doesn't.

Tonight we all had salmon whilst he had cod in breadcrumbs - all cooks together in the same oven so not really pandering. He had baked beans with his and we had peas/corn and potatoes.

Have lovely steaks etc with your choice of carbohydrate accompaniment and just leave it off his plate. He can have extra toast for supper if he needs a top up.

I figure it will come and don't particularly pander - just work around. He loves cucumber so if we're having a non ds2 veg then he has that instead. He will however eat anything and everything at nursery...

dinkystinky Tue 15-Jul-08 10:40:00

How about trying a baked bean and cheese based lasagne (rather yummy though sounds hideous) - you may find he'll eat the pasta as its in with melted cheese and baked beans.. and can vouch for the fact that it tastes rather nice too (though need to put in a fair bit of worcestershire sauce).

My DS (aged 2) is quite a fussy eater and so am already resigned at meal times to him mostly rejecting/spitting out things he doesnt like - though I find that if we mix something he doesnt like with something he does like, invariably he polishes it all off, leaving us openjawed with amazement...

If is any consolation, my younger sister was exactly like your son (meal times used to take around 3 hours - for one dish!) - she had grown out of it by the age of 12 and now, aged 27, eats absolutely everything and anything...

micci25 Tue 15-Jul-08 10:46:58

mine has gone from only eating fruit and veg to be a selective eater she is underweight because of very poor eating.

i serve up small portions of what the family is eating and she has to at least try it before she gets her cheese pasta or whatever. she normally trys it and says she feels sick but a lot of the time she wont make such a fuss the next time the same meal is offered! it helps if they see you eating the same foods and enjoying them!

oh and the more fuss you make the more fuss they will make i used to crawl around the floor begging dd to open her mouth and meal times usually ended in tears all around!!

now she gets her family meal if she says she doesnt like it i just reply "you wont know unless you taste it" normally her response is "but i do know that i dont like it, it looks funny" which is ignored untill she asks where her pasta is "taste your casserole and if you still dont like it i will go and get your pasta"

micci25 Tue 15-Jul-08 10:50:43

oh and with dd the usual gagging wihch occurs after she has tasted the casserole is ignored and she needs to wait untill i have finished eating before her pasta is made!! and there are never ever any onions in our food!! ever!! hmm not even when i make cheese and onion pie!! grin those little white things she can see are overcooked peas!!

seeker Tue 15-Jul-08 10:51:28

I am going to sound like a Victorian granny here - but children don't starve themselves to death unless there's stuff wrong beyond the scope of this forum. So here's what I'd do.

I would make food everyone else likes. I would serve it to everyone. I would sit and eat, chatting to the others about everything except food. When everyone's finished, I would take away the plates without any comment at all on what has or hasn't been eaten by anyone. (rewards for cleared plates are a BAD idea, IMHO) If you have puddings I would serve pudding to everyone - but make sure it's of the fruit/yoghurt variety.

I would then take those plates away - again without comment. Meal over. I would make sure that there is a fruit bowl available for everyone at all times, and a slice of plain brown bread at bedtime if anyone's hungry. The big thing is calm and no comment. You need to remove as much emotional content from food as possible. But you have to sign your dp up to this as well.

witchandchips Tue 15-Jul-08 10:53:52

Could you serve up what you want for most meals, let him eat what he wants - don't force him to try anything but don't offer an alternative. Offer fruit biscuits and philly for pudding. It could be that he just gets bored into trying different kinds of food.

Do a menu plan for the week and let him have some input for some days, but make it clear that you have the final say for other days as does ds2 for the rest.

norfolkdumpling Tue 15-Jul-08 19:03:05

I knew Mumsnet would come up trumps. Thank you all for taking the time to read and respond to my plea.

Dinkystinky, I am defiinitely going to try the baked bean and cheese lasagne (living in Sheffield though, I shall stay faithful to my Henderson's relish rather than splash out on some Worcestshire sauce). Hannahsaunt, I will keep trying him with the sausage casserole.

Witchandchips, I will continue to write out menu plans every week and include DS1's suggestions.

Now, has anyone got any suggestions for stopping DP foiling my plans to stay calm at the table and not talk about whether DS1 is eating the food placed in front of him?

witchandchips Wed 16-Jul-08 09:30:18

Explain to your dp that the reason for his son's picky eating MAY be that his eating habits are over-focused on at the table. Food becomes a battle ground and a focus of discontent and the child has lost sight of whether he really wants to eat it or not.
Give yourselves a timescale (say a month) and ask your dp to do it your way for that period. If it works fine, if it doesn't then you can look at other options. Emphasise to dp that he really has to keep schtum about your sons plate though otherwise it will not work. Good luck
p.s. i often find men are more convinced by "experts" than their partners. Is their a chapter in christopher greens book about this?

Uriel Wed 16-Jul-08 09:35:57

Agree with seeker.

Would not let fussy eater dominate family meals.

OverMyDeadBody Wed 16-Jul-08 09:47:11

Seeker has already said everything I was going to say, so how about this:

Meal plan, and get DS involved in this, as a family plan what meals you are going to have that week, with everyone getting a turn to choose their facourite meal, and then get DS involved in the preparing and cooking. I have found that a lot of children are more willing to eat something they have actually helped cook.

norfolkdumpling Thu 17-Jul-08 06:49:17

I've been doing the meal plans for about a year (mainly to do with family economics though) and they work well except during long holidays when we have the disagreements over pasta etc (Dinkystinky, you'll be pleased to know that DS1 has readily agreed to try baked bean lasagne). DS2's suggestions wont be difficult because he eats anything and everything and hoovers up big brother's leftovers.

Getting DS1 to help prepare food should be interesting. In the past he wouldn't even touch a potato in its raw form. But I will keep trying tactics like this.

Witchandchips, my partner gets all defensive when I gently suggest that his attitude at the table isn't helping. He does the whole 'You're blaming me again' routine (I realise this probably points to other problems within our relationship). Does anyone know a book or website where he could actually read an 'expert's' advice on selective eaters (probably best if it's written by a bloke as he'll just think it's Supernanny in disguise and boy oh boy does he hate that woman!)

AbbeyA Thu 17-Jul-08 07:05:08

I agree with seeker, don't enter into any discussion. They know that it is an emotional issue and that if they hold out long enough you will be pathetically grateful if they eat anything! They won't starve (starving people will eat absolutely anything-however disgusting-luckily we never get to that point to test ourselves!!)
Serve up -don't discuss -take away. Absolutely no snacks (or fruit only).
I would also make sure they get a lot of exercise. A 5 mile walk would do wonders!
Helping to prepare and cook the meal is a good idea.

witchandchips Thu 17-Jul-08 10:47:18

norfolk dumping. I would actually turn the question back to him. Get him to google the web for a few hours and challenge him to fing ANY website that recommends parents to focus attention on what picky eaters are actually eating!

norfolkdumpling Thu 17-Jul-08 18:03:01

Thanks, witchandchips, it'll keep him off Soccerlotto tonight with that task!

You're right, AbbeyA, food is an emotional issue . If only my mum and dad hadn't died before DS1 was born (or I'd seen a therapist to sort out my issues around food) I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made DS1 into to the fussy little tike that he has become. I really am trying my best to make it better.

MN has helped me with lots of tactics at mealtimes (being calm and avoiding discussion of the food on DS1's plate being the most useful to me). However, I don't want to give him any excuse to kick off at the table or for DS2 to miss out on the pasta, rice and cous cous that he loves to eat. Also, my kitchen just isn't big enough to cook separate dishes for everyone from scratch.

norfolkdumpling Tue 22-Jul-08 07:24:34

The baked bean lasagne was a winner. DS1 didn't even mind the onion I'd grated into the beans. He still didn't touch the pasta but DP managed a whole meal without commenting on what DS1 left on his plate. DS2 decided that he doesn't like baked beans anymore. Oh well, I can't win them all.

Thank you, everyone, for all your help.

lizziemun Tue 22-Jul-08 08:31:50

do you know why he doesn't like pasta. Is it the texture. Can you do him rice or jacket pot instead.

I have a dd1(4.6) who is a fussy ( i mean upto about 6mths ago she would eat brussels but not chips or potatos).

And like your dp i would fuss, argue with her at mealtimes blush.

About 6mths ago i took a step back from it and started doing the following

1. No snacks only 3 meals aday.

2. engourage her to try new foods. for example with potatoes i would mash into her gravy (which she loves) and now she will eat a small amount of potatoes at mealtimes eg about 4/5 chips but it is slowy increasing.

3. Puddings are only given if all or good amount of dinner is eaten.

4. I set the minute minder on the cooker for 30mins and when it goes off then dinnertime is finished.

If i find i am begining to stess with her eating i go into the kitchen for a few minutes to calm down then go back in.

I know this sounds realy harsh but it is working slowly and she increasing the amount and type of food and how quickly she is eating and meals are no longer taking hours to finish and it is no longer a battle.

And like you i have dd2 (10mths)who is a dustbin and i am yet to find something she doesn't eat.

dinkystinky Tue 22-Jul-08 09:25:48

Norfolkdumpling - so pleased that DS1 enjoyed the baked bean lasagne (so sorry it put DS2 off them though!); every little step forward helps!

norfolkdumpling Tue 22-Jul-08 21:19:34

Lizziemum, DS1 will eat a forkful of mashed potato but gags on rice. I think the texture of food plays a big part in his fussiness but I also think he's a 'supertaster' like I was.

When I was little the only veg that didn't taste too bitter for me to eat was carrots (and only if they were cooked in a stew or braised). Even peas and sweetcorn tasted 'bad' to me. Also, I couldn't stand tomatoes and raspberries because of the sensation of the seeds in my mouth. I managed to get over all this by my late teens/early twenties and so I know DS1 can make the same transition.

This evening we had steak pie, boiled pototoes and steamed carrots and peas. DP, feeling flushed from all the praise I gave him last night, did not comment when DS1 ate all the pastry, left the steak (which he usually devours) and only managed a forkful of potato (which he smothered in gravy). Needless to say the carrots and peas remained on the plate too. Still, at least we were calm and able to concentrate on having a conversation about which park we're going to visit tomorrow. And inside I was smiling because I'd made the gravy with the water that had steamed the peas and carrots grin.

fourlittlefeet Tue 22-Jul-08 21:32:59

sausages: sausage biriyani, sausage kebabs (with veg threaded on too), sausage and potato salad (with vinaigrette rather than mayo)
smoked ham: on pizza (with more veg cooked into tomato sauce), wrapped around veg eg peppers or something
roast pork: also nice in noodle soups/stir fries
Chicken: caesar salad, stir fry, fajitas, chicken & mushroom pies
potatoes: baked, wedges (less fatty than chips), cheesy jackets, bubble & squeak
Bread: beans on toast, bruschetta, dippy eggs
pastry: cornish pasties, samosas
Eggs: French toast, croque monsieur/madame with salad, omelettes (courgette very nice and currently seasonal)
Apples: Baked apples, apple charlotte, apple slices on brioche, grilled

norfolkdumpling Wed 23-Jul-08 21:26:18

Thanks for the suggestions, fourlittlefeet. I've tried a lot of the sneaky veg ideas and sometimes he makes a fuss and sometimes he'll scoff the lot. His palate is definitely super sensitive because he's recently noticed that Heinz have changed their baked bean recipe (less salt and sugar, presumably) so even beans on toast can result in a tantrum.

I tried wedges today with my own chicken nuggets and they went down well. I'm going to give a cheese omlette a go tomorrow (courgette is a little adventurous at this stage of the game - it's a bit hard to disguise the green bits in egg!). If that goes well I'm going to stretch it to a Spanish omlette (minus any lurid coloured veg to break him in gently).

If anyone has anymore suggestions keep them coming.

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