Picky eating: one mum’s perspective (a guest post by Mandy Mazliah)

I love having guest posts on my blog as I believe there’s something really valuable about looking at eating issues from different view points. So many parents talk about how alone they feel with their child’s picky eating – I wanted to share a parent’s perspective because it’s really important to know that, if you are the parent of a fussy eater, you are not on your own. Thanks so much Mandy, for sharing your experiences:

Last night my five-year-old son R was engrossed in a game before bed. He’d set up a salad bar and fruit stall using toy food and was busy selling away to his very keen customer, his three-year-old sister, who is always delighted when her big brother wants to play with her.

This both surprised and fascinated me because R is what is often described as a picky eater. Less so perhaps than when he was two, but there is a long list of foods that he will not even consider eating.

Mandy's little girl tucking into an apple...

Mandy’s little girl tucking into an apple…

He doesn’t eat any fruit. No, not even a strawberry. No, not even when he sees his friends eating it every day at school. He won’t even touch the stuff. (Seriously. We were at a fete a few weeks ago where the children were making fruit hedgehogs and he refused to even go near the table).

He’s not hugely keen on vegetables either. Or pasta. Or cheese. Or hummus. The latter three are all things he used to eat happily.

The game he was playing, where he was selling toy food, gave me a glimmer of hope that one day he might actually eat fruit or a salad. It’s a tiny step towards it being normalised for him.

His sister loves fruit but she almost always leaves the vegetables on her plate. It really worries me that my children very rarely manage to eat five fruits and veg a day. And if I’m honest, sometimes it makes me really cross too.

I love vegetables. I’m a vegetarian.  I consider myself to be quite a good cook. I really want my children to share this love of food. I’ve got friends whose kids choose broccoli over pizza. I can’t even imagine such a state of affairs. Of course, these friends worry about other issues, such as whether their child is getting enough protein.

I’ve tried everything to get my kids to eat fruit and vegetables. Bribing, hiding, nagging. “Three more bites, then you can have pudding.” What parent hasn’t said those words?

It took me ages to realise that mealtimes in our house were starting to become a battlefield. I started my blog sneakyveg.com to encourage me to find creative ways to get my kids to eat more fruit and veg – even if this sometimes means hiding them.

Jo and I first met, in a virtual sense at least, when she mentioned me in one of her posts – as she doesn’t advocate hiding vegetables – and as a result I ended up writing a review of her book War and Peas.

I took some really valuable lessons from the book – such as cutting down on snacks and not offering alternative food. It’s really liberating to leave the nagging behind.

Nowadays, mealtimes in our home aren’t perfect but they’re a world away from what they were like a few years ago. Lots of food gets thrown away. Even though saying “yuck” has been banned for well over a year it still gets said a lot. Sometimes people cry when there is broccoli on their plate. But R eats curry! His sister loves fruit and fish pie and is borderline obsessed with hummus. I still blend vegetables into sauces sometimes.

Some days I can’t help myself and I try to persuade my children to eat what’s on their plate (I always regret it immediately). I find it kind of galling to let them eat pudding when the whole meal I’ve prepared for them goes in the bin. We recently tried reward charts for trying new foods. It took so long to get ten stars (at which there was a promised reward) that it became excruciating. We won’t be repeating that experiment.

For now, what I’m trying to focus on is serving up healthy and varied meals and making mealtimes a happy, positive time, without worrying too much about what actually gets eaten.

Mandy is a mum of three from London. She blogs over at www.sneakyveg.com about her continued mission to feed her kids more fruit and veg. You can also find her at www.facebook.com/sneakyveg and www.twitter.com/sneakyvegblog

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