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Dealing with Fussy Eaters

by Mamapumpkin‏
Posted on 24 June 2014

Although I am traveling right now in Switzerland and could easily write about traveling with children, I have chosen to share my story with fussy eaters. I had them for up to 4 years but they slowly evolved so fret not if you have a fussy eater, they will grow out of it. I have also chosen to share about food because as Malaysians, I think we all have very bad food habits as we were naturally brought up with them. Our parents didn’t really know much about nutrition then and it was fine then, just like our Malaysian education system, fine then but not now. Yes, we went through the local education system and we are all fine but it is different now. Similarly with food, the choices we had back then are vastly different from the choices that our children’s generation are facing and as such, they are at high risk of developing diseases such as cancer and such. I kid you not. My mother has cancer and I believe that cancer stems from the wrong choices in food and lifestyle.

Good Food for Babies

We first started with single purees to assess allergies and likes and dislikes before we started mixing and matching the various fruit and vegetable purees. Your child will like some and dislike some. By the 9th month, I started introducing boiled Chinese porridge with some meat to get them used to the various textures in food. If your child is still not ready for more solid food, then I would grind the porridge so it becomes a puree. I would also start blending less so that the purees are no longer so fine but perhaps with a bit of small chunks in it. Once your child can start chewing on more solid food depending on their teeth growth and mouth skills (always remember that every baby develops at a different rate so you need to follow your instincts), progress to more solid soft foods such as homemade chicken nuggets or steamed vegetables. A great children and babies recipe book to follow is Annabel Karmel’s Baby food guide. She has a range of recipe books for children and they are all very good as they are healthy and balanced.

Great Food for Toddlers

When my kids were toddlers, I used to stress out like crazy about their eating because one would store food in her mouth for up to an hour or more and another just wouldn’t eat. One would only eat apple, bread and cheese throughout the day and another would only eat plain rice, plain pasta, or plain bread. No sauce, no butter, no anything. If you have kids who do this, do not worry. The food in the mouth thing used to drive me crazy but you know what? Just get them to spit it out and move on with your life. If your kid doesn’t like the food or is full, chances are she would either spit it out or keep it in her mouth, so if keeping it in her mouth drives you crazy like me, get her to spit it out and go do your next house chore. Do not ever worry about kids not eating. They will look for you if they are hungry and can go up to 3 days without eating. It is also OK to eat apple, cheese and bread all day every day as your child would be getting fibre, protein, carbs and fats; a well balanced meal. No kidding. You should also start practising some rules whereby you never give your child what she only wants to eat, as in allow her to eat chocolates if she does not eat her well balanced meal. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child gets a well balanced meal. It is OK if they do not like a particular food such as peas. Then don’t cook peas or sneak peas into your Bolognese sauce. But it is not OK to say I do not like oatmeal but I like marshmallows. In our household, my kids are allowed one marshmallow (or any treat they wish if they ask for it) provided they have had at least one well balanced meal per day. As long as your kids has had their daily nutritional requirement of proteins, carbs, fats and fibre, you’re good to go and they can eat other things of their choice but do moderate sugar levels because sugar is really bad for them (and for us!), and they already get a lot of it in their milk. If possible, do not let your child even try anything sweet (junk food such as candy, chocolate etc, too much juice unless it’s a mix of fruits and vegetables, anything that is processed and un-fresh) for the first 2-3 years of their lives. That would eliminate any sugar cravings and a great life habit for their future great health. Love your children enough? Do it and don’t let other Moms pressure you into anything else such as, “How can you deprive a child of sugar? What kind of a childhood is that without sugar?” It is a healthy one, that’s what it is. It is also OK for them to have off food days as long as they fit in their weekly nutritional quotas. Say your child eats nothing for a day or two but makes up for it for the next 5 days of the week, that is completely fine as long as they eat their broccoli, their eggs, their rice and their avocado. A well balanced meal.

For reference, you can use this link (https://www.bcm.edu/research/centers/childrens-nutrition-research-center/healthyeatingcalculator/eatingCal.html) to check how much your individual child needs to eat per day and remember, if they do not do it daily, it is fine as long as they cover it on a weekly basis and don’t get too anal about it.

As toddlers, they are too busy exploring the world so eating is a waste of time to them. Leave food out often as they tend to be grazers. I always left out cheese cubes, vegetable sticks and cereal munches or some fruit for my first girl and she snacked on steam vegetables whenever she was hungry. For my second girl, she was stubborn as hell so I had to either puree the nutrients into pasta Bolognese or puree it and freeze to eat as an ice lolly. At worst cases, I even blended all the vegetables into a juice and syringed it into her mouth. What to do? She needed her healthy nutrients

Fabulous Food for Young Children

After the toddler stage, they start liking fun food and this is where the hard work comes in. It will work for some or most but not all. It worked for mine to make stories and games with their food. Bring your sandwiches alive by cutting them into fun shapes and make stories out of them. Google children’s Bento boxes. Allow your children to play with their food and let their imaginations run wild. We bought a rubber food mat and allowed them to just eat food off the mat and not a proper plate or bowl because it allowed them more surface for creativity to produce a drawing with their food. I’m sorry but it is hard work. Distraction works too. Sometimes we allowed our kids to play whilst we just kept stuffing the food into their mouths. Not ideal but way easier than making them sit at the dining table and not eat. It really is up to you how strict of a parent you want to be. If you want to be strict, then do it and if they do not eat, then no snacks till their next meal. Period.

In this stage, we made a lot of pastas and home made chicken nuggets or burgers loaded with vegetables within, vegetable soups blended eaten with bread; the key is to stuff them with lots and lots of vegetables for great health. Seriously. And if you can, it is not a bad idea to throw into their diet some slow cooked oatmeal with grinded flaxseed, bran, chia seeds and fresh prune juice. In fact, if your kids have a constipation problem, get some prunes, soak 1-2 prunes in some hot water and cover with a lid to simmer for an hour, then pour the water of those prunes into whatever their next meal is or just make them drink the water. It is a great fibre top up. If they can eat the prunes, even better.

My Kids now at age 4 and 9

My 4+ year old who only ate plain everything (pasta, bread, rice) and only apples and bananas (no other fruit at all) has now evolved to eating a whole new plethora of food. There is still food that she will not touch and she isn’t very adventurous but we keep trying and trying to give her the same food for at least 2 weeks before giving up. It takes a child 2 weeks to get used to something so do not give up after she spits it out after 3 tries. Be persistent. Tia now eats at least 10 fruits from just two, refusing to try anything else in the past; she eats a variety of vegetables including raw salad (yay!) and this is after not eating ANY vegetables having to syringe vegetable juice into her body; she pretty much eats almost everything now except durians. Tessa who is 9, also eats everything except durians. Their father does not eat durians so it must be a genetic thing. Fret not about your child’s eating habits. As long as you’re offering them their weekly nutritional requirements and curbing their sugar (please, I beg you to do this because you are really preventing your child from future diseases), life is good. And if you have any food worries or issues, please contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). I may not respond immediately but I will eventually. I am fanatical about children eating right as I feel it is our responsibility in educating the next generation about eating right. Our country deserves to have a healthy generation of smarter young adults to steer and ignite change.


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