About a month after she started on solids, my little girl became the pickiest of fussy eaters. From that time up until the age of almost 2, having such a fussy eater toddler in a house of foodies has been one of the most frustrating and mind boggling things I have had to deal with in motherhood leaving me often to be found in a cupboard screaming and beating myself over the head with a stick.
I grew up in a household where food was the centre of everything. Food on offer all the time. And I loved it. So there was no way I was simply going to shrug off this picky eating business. No way Jose. Yes every trick in the book has gone down in order to get this pickiest of picky hair-tearing eaters to eat and a lot has been learnt along the way. Here are my top 21 fussy eater toddler tips for surviving the picky eater’s club, learnt at my own now grey haired expense…
Oh pancakes how I love thee so! Pancakes have moved from being a special treat to a regular morning fixture. You can get a picky eater to pretty much eat anything in a pancake – not just fruit but you can sneak some veggies in there with Carrot and Apple Pancakes or Spinach and Banana Pancakes – who would have thought it! Just make sure you blend up whatever you are sneaking in good and proper (see no.6 ) to make sure your plan doesn’t get foiled! You can also use them as a savoury lunch option.
As tempting and versatile as pancakes, the major plus of these is you can turn your leftover mix from the pancakes (see above) into waffles on day 2. Hazaar! I particularly love me a good old Pumpkin Waffle mix I do.
3. Sweet treats
OK so we all know picky eaters love sweet treats but you can get a little bit creative with sneaky variations here. Think about throwing in some parsnip in there with a Carrot and Parsnip Muffin mix; or sneaking some avocado in them with a Chocolate Avocado pudding which is simply amazeballs. A little bit of experimenting is needed on this front but it’s worth it for the wins! Instead of making cake with the traditional flour think about making a Flourless Almond & Apple Cake which is highly nutritious being mainly made up of almonds and eggs. Another winner are these Sweet Potato Brownies.
Porridge could be oh so boring but if your little one is icky about the texture of some fruits e.g. mangos, strawberries etc. whack them in a porridge instead! The same goes for bananas, apples and best of all on the veggie front – carrots! If you don’t believe me just check out this recipe for Carrot Cake Porridge.
5. Omelettes and quiches
Somehow in many cases, omelettes and quiches seem to pass the fussy eater test…I’m guessing this is closely linked to No. 6. Anyhow, these two are therefore great ways of sneaking in all manner of items. I have got away with sneaking in avocado and spinach into omelettes and broccoli, spinach and butternut squash in quiches so definitely worth a shot!
Toddlers especially can be totally weirded out by certain textures. Have a play around with different textures – my little one HATES the texture of scrambled egg but likes the smoothness of hard boiled egg (who would have thought!). This is also a big reason why they shun many fruit and veggies at this stage – it being a developmental thing – so don’t sweat the small stuff. Chances are they will eat more than just peas at some stage in their life.
7. The blender
Yes, the blender is your best friend when entertaining a member of the picky eaters club. The rule is: blend it, then mix it in. It’s amazing how much fruit and veg you can blend up and sneak into things. My little one is a total weirdo about anything hard or lumpy so I give any mince a quick hand blend before serving to her, for example.
8. Tell a “white” lie
This is a bit naughty, but when times are REALLY tough on the eating front, sometimes it’s just easier to lie and say that everything is chicken until they realise how much they actually like everything else!
When we went through a really bad period when even sandwiches were out of favour (WTF!!!?) then cookie cutters were my go to. Yup, I was the saddo mummy standing in the kitchen cutting up the sandwiches into heart and star shapes and you know what, it bloody worked!
10. No strong flavours
OK this might be a bit dull for you when you’re making family meals but seriously, what tastes good to you does NOT taste good to them. This might sound obvious but even the slightly fishiest of fish, the slightly too spicy meals… No, just no.
11. Don’t react or be creative in your reaction
Depending on my mood either two of these works a dream. If fussy pants is being a fuss pot I find the best thing is just to casually say “OK that’s fine” and more often than not they get on with eating it. Other times if they are picking on a certain element of the food e.g. saying “No chicken” do something random and make up a crazy song about chicken. You sound insane but it totally diffuses the situation and usually gets them eating.
12. Eat together as much as you can & let them eat off your plate
Sitting down altogether for meals can be hard in today’s modern age but if you can only get one meal together whatever that be, do it.
13. Change up the setting
Sometimes the picky eating seems to be totally alleviated by a total change in scenery. Need to diffuse a picky eating situation quickly? Make it into a picnic, have it by the window, change it up…
14. Get them to make their own food
This I found massively helpful, especially when the little one started disliking the go-to lunchtime meals. I would stand her up on a little stool and get her to help make her own omelette, for example – they seem to really pride in eating what they have helped make. For some inspiration on food toddlers can make check out what Netmums says about it here.
15. Offer dessert whatever
The whole power struggle over dessert just doesn’t work and belongs in the dark ages as far as I’m concerned. I found that offering dessert no matter what’s been eaten at main often leads to more of the main being eaten afterwards. Although they can be serious picky eaters, confusingly toddlers often tend not to discriminate when it comes to what food is eaten with what and when, unlike us adults.
16. Ready mades
If it’s all just blowing your mind, don’t feel bad about giving ready made toddler/kiddy meals. There was a time when the picky eating was so bad I was just so over it that I just rolled out the ready mades and fish fingers. She loved the taste and texture, ate properly, I was not fretting, everybody was happy and the bad times passed.
17. Make it cheesy
I know some people worry about slathering cheese all over their kids foods but if you need a magic trick to get them eating the good stuff that’s underneath it, so long as it’s really packed with good stuff then I say go for it! It’s a good source of calcium after all. You could do much worse.
18. Make it creamy
What’s not to love about a creamy sauce? If you feel a picky eating episode coming on, stir in some milk, yogurt or cheese for a better chance of it being chowed.
19. Get the dollies/teddies involved
It’s amazing how a picky eater sees their dollies and teddies “eating” what they were not too keen on and is suddenly game too.
20. ‘Hide’ things in what they like
This is a case of mind over matter. Take sweet potato or butternut squash as an example. Put it obviously on a plate and uh oh…not happening. OR mash a little of it up with rice which my daughter shoves fistfuls of into her mouth and BINGO!
21. Go to the source
This is probably my favourite tip as it is genuinely a lot of fun. As I mentioned before, my fussy face has been weird about many fruits, including strawberries (WTF!!?) for the longest time. However the other day we took her strawberry picking and she was literally shoving strawberry after strawberry in her gob that day and thereafter. I plan to take her to the picking farm for every new fruit and veg that comes into season so we can sprinkle a little more of that magic.