Do you encourage fussy eating?

Posted Tuesday 29th January 2013   By Ericka Waller

So UK toddlers are the toughest food critics in Europe according to The European Toddler Nutrition Index. Apparently 69 per cent of our little blighters refuse food before slinging it on the floor in protest.

26 per cent of UK toddlers refuse meals at least once a day, compared to just 15 per cent French enfants. This leaves us Brits feeling frustrated, worried, upset, and even angry (gasp!)

Almost half of us cave within seconds, letting our kids “get away” with not eating certain foods. And 39 per cent of us give sweet treats as rewards, compared to just 13 per cent of French mums.

What is the point of these statistics please? Just to make us feel crap? Maybe whoever thought of this survey could have followed it up with “Ten Top Tips on how to be a better mum” by the French.

Luckily, my mum lives in France so I asked her. It seems the key is to let children eat lots of meat with no knife or fork. The ones she observed ran round gnawing on pigs ears, before plucking pigeons with their bare hands for dinner.

I think I’d prefer to scoop mashed potato off the wall. And if I’m honest, it’s not mash. I use Smash, dried mashed potato. I used to make mash with organic potatoes, hand-churned butter and milk from the family cow, but it took bloody ages and they refused to eat it anyway.

I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the amount of effort I put into making dinner, and the amount of food which gets eaten. If I spend an hour making a pasta sauce hiding sixteen super vegetables, it won’t get touched. If I use ready-made pesto and serve with garlic bread, it goes in seconds.

Here’s the thing. I just want my kids to go to bed with food in their tummies. Especially when they have been at school or nursery all day. If that means making them porridge because they did not like the fish pie I offered them, so be it. It’s not unheard of for them to munch marmite on toast as I tell them their bedtime story.

I don’t want every mealtime to be a battle. Raising three-under-fives is battling enough. You should see me trying to have them all wearing shoes at the same time, let alone eating lentil soup.

I don’t believe that going easy on what they eat now means they will be fussy eaters forever.  I was bought up with the “Eat it, or I’ll ram it down your throat” method. I can’t say it did much for me. Food was my enemy for many years.

I’m trying a different approach. Does this make me a bad mother?

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