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How do I move towards making one meal?

(14 Posts)
Dancergirl Wed 17-Nov-10 20:24:29

I really need some advice here. My children are, to various degrees, fussy eaters. I've had battles over the years, blamed myself, given myself a lot of stress etc.

Dd2 is worst - she only eats very plain food, no sauces, no fruit or veg of any kind, no pototoes (not even chips). She's nearly 8. My oldest dd (9.5) is better and eats loads of fruit and has a bit more of a varied diet but there are basic family meals that she won't eat, eg shepherds pie, spag bol etc.

My youngest dd (3.5) used to be ok but has got fussier over the years, probably picking up from her sisters.

So...what have I done...made a rod for my own back and do variations of dinners for them all. Not a completely separate meal but I might do two types of carbs eg baked potato and pasta. I like my children to eat and I think enjoying food is extremely important.

But I'm getting fed up of it and my mum thinks I'm pandering too much. So...how do I go about making ONE thing for all of them? Do I do it in stages, or all at once? And do I only make things I know at least 2 out of 3 children will eat? For example, it's completely pointless making jacket potatoes for tea with various fillings because I know dds 2 and 3 won't touch them. And I worry about dd2 as her diet is so limited - she has an ok breakfast, school lunches I insist on and sometimes she eats them and sometimes not...so it might be if I go down this route, she just wouldn't eat much dinner at all. I don't think it's a behavioural/attention thing with her - she is genuninely scared of different textures.

So....what do I do and how to do it...?

Othersideofthechannel Wed 17-Nov-10 20:30:13

Do they all like bread?

I cook one meal, they eat what they want but must eat one thing (I engineer it so there is one guaranteed winner per child) then bring out the bread and cheese, then fruit/yoghurt.

The other day DD ate beetroot, bread, cheese and yoghurt. DS ate omelette, bread, cheese, yoghurt and banana. DH and I ate everything.

homeboys Wed 17-Nov-10 20:30:21

Message withdrawn

ANTagony Wed 17-Nov-10 20:37:43

Have you spoken to the school about what your DD2 does consume of the school dinners?

Some children will eat a surprisingly different range of foods in different settings. At least if you know she is a little more amenable at school that you need to toughen a little at home, if she is exactly the same at school then you may be able to get help and support of your GP.

My youngest isn't that keen on potatoes including chips so I empathise with that but fortunately loves just about everything else.

Could you try getting them involved in the cooking. Things like home made pizza. They each get a base to roll out or even a shop brought one then choose the toppings. Starting with potentially a sauce or just cheese then they have to pick at least one thing of each of two plates one being meats the other vegetables to decorate the top. Just one slice of pepper/ pineapple/ tomato/ broccoli/ mushroom would be a start.

If DD2 eats a good breakfast what foods does she consume at this time of day?

Dancergirl Wed 17-Nov-10 21:08:46

Ant - yes the school have been very good at trying to encourage her. The main lunchtime supervisor gets her an extra piece of bread if she doesn't each much main course. Dd2 is actually very honest with me what she eats and what she doesn't. There is usually pasta/rice/couscous most days which she loves, normally some of the protein depending on what it is and a piece of cucumber on her plate which she doesn't touch. Usually eats the pudding.

Re the cooking. I know this works for most children but believe me, I have tried this and many, many other things but she is just happy eating what she knows and that's it. She might enjoy making the pizzas but I know for sure she wouldn't try them.

Breakfast - she has a bowl of (dry) mini weetabix, cup of milk and a piece of toast and butter or choc chip brioche.

Otherside - yes they all love bread and I could give them this...but I think if I cooked something like shepherds pie for example, only dh and I would eat it - the girls would just eat bread!

ANTagony Thu 18-Nov-10 15:27:30

At the end of the day they are children and to an extent need to do as they're told.

I accept you say you've tried the cooking and many many other things but you also say if they don't like what's put in front of them they get bread? Do they just know how to manipulate mum a bit too much?

How much do you really want things to change?

I'm sorry if that sounds harsh but if you really want things to change you need to be firm and consistent. As I see it and as your opening post states there are two basic routes. You can either go the firm eat whats on your plate or you get nothing else or go the I want you to try a little bit of something different with each meal of bread/ pasta/ couscous i.e. a small piece of carrot (initially literally one slice), a grape, a tea spoon of jam.

If they wont even try a tiny amount I'd consider having consequences. Like wise when they do and have tried 5 new things in a week they could have a reward?

If you find it very stressful I'd go the second route but be prepared for standing firm. Its less than one mouthful of new food but I bet they'll potentially try holding it in their mouths, gagging, throwing it on the floor, hiding it and just being incredibly stubborn.

This must be compromising your family life. It must be difficult to go over to family and friends to eat, and for the children to go to friends. Just keep your end goal in site.

Dancergirl Thu 18-Nov-10 19:43:39

Ant - thanks for your post, not that harsh, just want advice really.

I see what you're saying and I do agree to some extent. I do believe that there are some things that children just have to do and dh and I are fairly strict with most things.

Are you saying I shouldn't even offer them bread if they don't eat the meal?

And as for consequences if they don't try something....what sort of consequence would you suggest?

A year or so ago I did actually try the making them try one bite of something route. Dd2 got so distressed trying one microscopic bit of carrot and was so miserable, I started to wonder what would be achieved long-term by this - a life-long hatred of carrots maybe...? And she wasn't being manipulative, she was genuninely distressed.

Of course I want things to change very much but I also want my children to have positive associations with food. I've heard many stories of people being made to try/eat certain foods as children and it put them off that food for life.

There must be a middle ground somehwhere.... confused

Dancergirl Thu 18-Nov-10 19:56:07

Ant - forgot to add re going to friends to eat....not so much of a problem because I wouldn't dream of saying to anyone my child only eats x,y or z, it's just rude. They manage, even if they fill up on carbs.

My MIL fusses over them too and always asks me what they'll eat...but I refuse to get into that either - I always say just make anything (and ONE thing).

It's at home that's the main problem.

ANTagony Thu 18-Nov-10 20:12:26

The situation has got beyond not liking carrots and its all three not just one of them. At the moment they are turning noses up at a vast array of foods. They may well not like some but its such an extensive list that I struggle to believe that they've really tried them all.

I'm a bit of a carrot and stick mum so believe as much (or more) in reward as punishment. So a bit of good old bribery. Pocket money being based on chores and having tried their 5 foods, TV after dinner, use of computers, mobile phone credit, friends over to play - what ever you feel comfortable with and feel you could stick to.

For a 3 year old I'm guessing you have the opportunity to work on extending the range of foods without the influence of the school age two? If so it may be easier to work on this separately.

I hated swede as a child because at school dinners we had a teacher who loved it and made us it two big ice cream scoops of the stuff. I didn't mind it in small quantities but I was quite petite and this was a vast quantity of food for me. I think its okay to dislike things but its not okay to not try. We operate a one mouthful rule which sometimes leads to tantrums but I don't believe will lead to negative associations in the way a plateful could. I also say I'm more likely to let them leave something if they've cleared the rest of their plate and leave the moaning to the end of the meal not as its put in front of them.

Could it be turned into a bit of a game. Do they like the X factor or Strictly come dancing with voting off each week.

Could you have your five or seven new things each week and they get to vote one off that they like the least and then they don't have to try that the following week, however the one that they like the most they do have to have but it no longer counts as a new thing.

Could they be involved in picking the new things? Could you brainstorm a list of 50 or 100 foods fruits, veg etc and make a card for each one then they can either choose their five cards of the week by looking or you can turn them upside down and let them choose at random.

It sounds as though your dd2 has quite a sweet tooth so you could even play around this with things like a single chocolate covered raison, chocolate spread, hot chocolate, bitter 90% coco chocolate, orange rind in chocolate, pain o'chocolate etc so you're not just trying to introduce foods that are completely out of her current comfort zone, I wouldn't let to many of the softer options available at once though.

Othersideofthechannel Fri 19-Nov-10 05:30:57

It sounds to me like ANTagony's method is making too much of meal out of it if you'll excuse the pun.

If you don't want to cook more than one meal, then don't. Your children eat it or don't. If they don't eat all of it they will survive. Offer them all the foods but don't make a big deal out of it if they refuse.

Both my brother and I can't eat without feeling sick certain foods that we were forced to eat as children.

Neither of my children like shepherds pie. If we have spaghetti bolognese, they used to only eat the pasta. Now the eldest will have the sauce. It took a whole year of him seeing broccoli and his sister saying 'yum broccoli' before he would taste it. But several years on he eats it without a fuss.

I was exposed to spicy food regularly as a child (one parent from a country where this is the standard fare) but was about 10 before I would try it. Love it now!

Greedymonster Sat 20-Nov-10 19:10:21

I have 3.10 yo twin DSs and generally operate Other's approach, but occasionally think I should be more 'active' about it and do something like ANT's approach. Mostly I am too lazy... and also when I have tried to force them to try something through negative consequences it has been a disaster and cemented their 'hatred' of that food.

I have had some success with presenting things over and over again (as component next to other things they will eat), and with getting them to cook. However we made macaroni cheese yesterday and I (they!) made the sauce too thick and it ended up gloopy. They did try it, but not much (I sympathise with the loves cooking/won't try it problem). I think if we'd got it like my mum used to make though (yum!) I may have had more success! However, I suppose tasting white sauce is a bit of a first!! (trying to focus on the positives).

In short, OP, I don't think there's a magic bullet - it is very much like watching grass grow - no instant results. It took over a year to get one DS to eat baked beans, which involved serving them to him once every week/10 days (he scraped them off the toast and just ate the toast). At least his brother ate it (loves baked beans). They petitioned hard for separate meals but I stood my ground.

I suppose what I would do in your situation is in choosing the veg/protein/carb for each meal try and fix it so there is two things out of the three that each will eat, or failing that, one. This can lead to some strange combinations - the boys had pasta, bolognese and peas with cheese on the side for months while I was trying to get them to eat pasta. They ate the peas and cheese, and the bolognese if really hungry, but it took 9 months to get them to eat the pasta. Now they love it. However, they get narked if I don't serve peas up with the spag bol now.......

I'm afraid I also do the rather controversial 'no pudding unless you finish the first course/make a good stab at it' thing.

It is so soul destroying though isn't it? (especially because I eat everything and love food and cooking!)

frenchfancy Sun 21-Nov-10 15:09:30

I agree, totally soul destroying.

I don't have any magic solutions, but I have a similar family to yours (3DDs 11,9 and 4) and have tried various things over the years.

First thing is (and it sounds like you are already doing this) eat as a family. It does make things easier if you eat with them as they can at least see that you are enjoying the food.

Wit th older ones they should have already looked at food groups etc at school. I took this one stage further and really pushed mnot only the 5 fruit and veg and some protien/dairy product/carb each day, but also looked at the number of calories they needed to have a genuinely balanced diet. I certainly don't calorie count, but my dd2 eats very little, where as dd1 eats too much, and by bringing calories into the discussion they could see why I was telling one to stop eating and the other to eat more.

I make one meal only, except on one or 2 evenings a week where I break my own rule and give them kid food so we can eat our spicy stuff they don't like. I try and balance it so if we have something dd2 doesn't like one night, she likes the meal the next night. I we have meals every

I try not to make a fuss at breakfast and let them choose, within reason (no chocolate anything on a school day).

Take it one day at a time, but stop making work for yourself.

collision Sun 21-Nov-10 15:19:20

Make one meal but add things they will eat.

Eg Shepherds pie with peas and separate sweetcorn.

DS1 eats peas
Ds2 eats sweetcorn

Neither of them 'love' shepherds pie but DH and I do and we are sick of pandering to them.

They have to eat a little pie and they can have their chosen veg alongside.

No pudding til they have really tried to eat dinner.

mumeeee Sun 21-Nov-10 16:47:44

Just cook one meal. Tell them tht is what you are going to do and that they can leave it if they want to but you won't be offeringany alternative, You could give them bread with thier meal as I ofteneat bread with mine, But just don't cook them differnt meals. You could ask each child to choose a meal and cok each of thier choices on one day of the week.

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