It can be heart breaking. I know. You’ve slaved away to make a beautiful, healthy meal. Poured your heart and soul into it.
And it gets left on the plate. Usually with a disdainful look.
Mothers of small children are probably the most familiar with this unpleasant scenario. As I (unfortunately) know only too well these days with an almost-3-year old in the house.
Sometimes I wish I was one of those parents talking about how their child loves olives and broccoli and kale and chilli and anchovies. But then Fergal wouldn’t be the Fergal I know and love. And I wouldn’t have this amazing opportunity to (hopefully) help him learn to love a bigger variety of food.
Plus fussy eaters can come in all shapes and sizes so if you have a larger one on your hands these tips are for you too!
4 Tips for Coping with Fussy Eaters
1. Try to see it from their perspective.
Our tastebuds and eating history are all different. So it’s super important to remember that what you experience when you pop that delicious broccoli in your mouth isn’t the same for others. You can’t know what it’s like for them so keep the judgement out of the equation.
2. Take the pressure off yourself.
One of my playgroup friends told me about a book that really helped her family. And mine. Basically the deal is that as the cook it’s your job to put appropriate food on the table.
And that’s it.
It’s then up to your eater (and his / her tummy) to decide how much of this to actually eat.
I’ve found this mindset shift super helpful. Because it’s no longer my responsibility to ‘get’ Fergal to eat his dinner. So I don’t stress if he leaves the table with an empty stomach. It’s his call.
Of course, you know that toddlers are super smart and as soon as you stop trying to ‘get them’ to do something they’re waay more likely to do it themselves.
3. Cook in bulk.
I have a dream that we sit down to eat the same thing as a family every night. But reality is Fergal has his dinner at 6 and my Irishman and I eat after the boys are in bed. At this point Fergal is a tiny carb-lover whereas we’re the opposite so a one-size-suits-everyone meal isn’t happening.
Rather than cook two meals every night I’ve found cooking in bulk to be key!
If I cook a special meal for Fergal like his favourite Egg Fried Rice I make 2 or more servings for lunch or another dinner. Most nights I try and just add carbs to whatever we are having. Again cooking in bulk really helps so I have a supply of cooked rice, quinoa, pasta, spuds or sweet potato to just heat and serve during the dinner scramble.
4. Keep trying.
As Winston Churchill said,
‘Never give in – never, never, never, never.’
Just keep offering a variety of food. The thing to remember is it can take eight or so exposures before we enjoy some ingredients so persistence is required!
For more on this I recommend reading Jeffrey Steingarten’s book ‘The Man Who Ate Everything’ where he tells the story of his quest to overcome all his food dislikes.
Cheesey Cauli Mash
Cauliflower is one of my favourite veg because it’s so versatile not to mention delicious! I also love it for fussy eaters because it’s super nutritious without any off putting green colour. Too good!
enough for 2 as a side
takes 15 minutes
1/2 cauli chopped into chunks
2 handfuls grated cheese
4-6 tablespoons cream or butter
1. Place cauli in a pot with about an inch (2.5cm) water. Bring to the boil and then simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes or until cauli is no longer crunchy.
2. Drain well and return cauliflower to the hot pan. Add cheese and cream or butter and whizz using a stick blender or potato masher until you’re happy with the texture.
3. Taste and season with salt as needed.
dairy-free / vegan – use olive oil or coconut oil. Skip the cheese or add a few handfuls cashews or pinenuts to the pot for the last few minutes or cooking. A few teaspoons of nutritional yeast can help boost the cheesy flavours.
different cheese – most hard cheese will work like cheddar, parmesan, Gruyere or Emmental.
different veg – try broccoli, celeriac (celery root), parsnip, sweet potato or of course good old spuds! Or a mix of any of the above.
ps. Do you have any fussy eaters in your house?
I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. Especially any tips that have worked for you!