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Can someone talk me through the best way to deal with toddler food fussiness?

(10 Posts)
Thurlow Sun 23-Feb-14 12:55:05

I'm just after some advice. 2yo has been teething badly for the past week but I have a horrible feeling that it is going to prompt the dreaded toddler food fussiness/refusal. Now I know they generally all go through it, and if she's going to go through it there's not much we can do about it, but I wouldn't mind having a consistent approach from the start if that's possible.

I understand the theory of stay calm, don't make food a battle ground, they won't starve themselves etc but I'm not quite sure how to put it into practice! And I really don't think I'm doing very well over the past few days at all. I'm just struggling to unclench about it.

So you serve lunch, they don't eat it... do you offer dessert? We've been trying 'try some of your first before pudding' but that's not worked very well, and I've read that's not a good idea anyway. Or do they not get fruit if they've not tried their first?

Do you offer any choices of food? If they don't like what's put in front of them, do you offer another reasonable choice? (I should say she's 24m and not really capable of making proper choices before meals)

If they don't eat any lunch, do you offer any snacks before dinner time? Do you sit them down to 'lunch' again 2 hours later? And how do you cope with the whiny/upset behaviour when they are hungry?

Anyway, I was hoping people who'd been through it and got out the other side could share their best tips or answer my questions?

TheGreatHunt Sun 23-Feb-14 13:03:34

Relax. Don't worry unless it happens and even then don't.

I did with my first. Didn't with my second. Basically with my second, I provide her meals and dit with her as much as I can but don't focus on her eating (easier as she had an older brother to eat with). If she doesn't eat, I get up and wash up a bit and usually she will eat a bit. If she wants a yoghury, I will give her one. But I won't make anything else.

She isn't fussy at the moment - she eats small oorotions and snacks so I let her. She's very skinny although bulking up now and pushing her to eat does not work.

nannynick Sun 23-Feb-14 13:09:02

I care for 3 children (aged 3 upwards), they each will and won't eat different things. So I present things using little pots - a pot of peas, a pot of sweetcorn, a plate of sausages, a bowl of mash potato. They can then help themselves to what they want and come back for more.

With toddlers you can do the same thing by using little pots, plastic bowls.
I have known children who will eat all of one food, then move on to another one. So not mixing things together. With a spoon in a pot of peas, they will eat the entire pot.

Do not present too many choices, it gets confusing. Have a main ingredient on the plate/bowl and a couple of things they can help themselves to in pots/bowls.

Consider colour and texture. Children (and adults) eat with their eyes. They are more likely to eat bright coloured things than brown/grey mush.

Try difference between hot and cold. Many children like cold pasta. They will eat it on it's own, mixed with peas, lumps of cheese.

It can be a long time between lunch and tea... so depending on your routine, then having an afternoon snack can work. We have a snack when getting back from the school run, around 3.30pm... then have tea around 5.30. Snack will be a drink (milk or water usually), a biscuit or cake - if baking that afternoon, then good opportunity for them to eat something they have helped make, fruit.

Paintingrainbowskies Mon 24-Feb-14 21:24:11

The above book is great for giving you confidence to just trust that children will eat what they need.

A great tip I got is to always try and serve something they will eat with the meal (bread, chunks of cheese in the salad, pasta etc).

HelenHen Tue 25-Feb-14 09:40:21

Dh discovered a wonderful tactic the other night. Rd was refusing the salmon, carrot & mash we were giving him but he loves peas... So dh put a single pea on the end of each spoonful and ds gobbled the whole thing up grin . The following night I tried adding peas to the mix but it didn't work as well.

roundtable Tue 25-Feb-14 10:13:49

Sometimes I think it's important to try to remember, although it stresses me out sometimes, toddlers do eat like birds.

Huge quantities one day and a couple of mouthfuls another day.

I only expect my dc to try it. If they don't like it that time then fine they can have a banana or something along those lines to fill them up.

I don't tend to do puddings apart from special occasions. They can eat as much fruit/veg as they want. If I have baked something/have yoghurt/bought something sweet gets presented as part of their lunch or I just give it to them after they've finished what they want on the 'first course'.

I will say no to food requests if I think they're excessive although I do sometimes worry about being too harsh.

I really don't want to make food an issue but it's a difficult thing to get right especially when they're little and work out that they can use food to control.

I try to lead by example, not snacking apart from on fruit and trying to eat healthy balanced meals.

Thurlow Tue 25-Feb-14 11:52:12

Thank you everyone, this is all really really helpful. I know I need to relax but I think I've found the stage that's going to really frustrate me blush

Just to explain, she is starting to get fussier than usual and in the past few days things have been outright rejected in a way they weren't before. I know it's all very normal and it's a form of control and I also know I can't just magically 'fix' it sadly

Hopefully this will just be a short phase but the tips above are a great help. DP and I talked about it yesterday and have agreed that we're going to stick to a rough 'routine' (for lack of a better word) for food from now on, and won't change it whether she's fussy or not.

So going by all the tips above, we will...

Make sure that we know there is something in each meal that she generally likes
Not react to any fussiness or refusal or show that it is frustrating, but praise good eating
If she makes a decent stab at eating a first course, then give pudding as usual which is normally just fruit or yoghurt anyway, but if the first course is completely rejected (barring illness or something like that) then just say "oh, you mustn't be hungry then" and finish the meal
Healthy snacks are made clearly available where she can just dib at them as and when she pleases.
Less healthy or more filling snacks like biscuits and cakes to not be offered unless it is a 'good' food day (without making a fuss of this) - though I guess this is harder when you're out seeing people and she gets offered cake and biscuits there!

Does that sound like a good plan? Like I said, I'm well aware that if she decides she's going to be fussy with food there's very little we can do about it, but I'm a happier parent when I have a vaguely consistent plan I can work to!

roundtable Tue 25-Feb-14 14:02:06

Sounds like you have a good attitude to food so hopefully your dc will eventually pick up on it. It's just frustrating getting there!

I'm trying not to praise good eating, it's really hard though as it's so ingrained, but to praise using cutlery properly; sitting at the table nicely or trying to eat with mouth closed.

Someone who's out of the toddler years may come along and tell me not to be silly but I will give it a go.

Once they're teenagers there's nothing we can do anymore so I'm trying to lay the ground work as much as possible!

Good luck op, your ideas sound great. The days I've stressed about dc1 not eating enough, it's made no difference to his sleep.

Thurlow Tue 25-Feb-14 14:04:03

Yes, the sleep - she's always been a great sleeper so we're spoiled, and I'm terrified that suddenly she'll wake up at 3am hungry because she hasn't eaten all day! grin

roundtable Tue 25-Feb-14 14:52:56

It's all about the sleep! grin

Anecdotally, ds2 now eats a huge amount of food and wakes up constantly. He always had done. People told me I should wean him when he was very little, I waited until 6 months anyway but it's made no difference.

Try not to worry but it's bloody hard!

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