What I’ve learnt so far (and the war on peas!)

 

 It’s been just over a week now since starting my blog and boy have a learnt a lot!

To be honest I’ve never really thought about C’s fussy eating before. I mean, I just deemed it as him being fussy and that’s just how it was. 

What this meant was giving C the same 5 meals on repeat, letting him eat separate meals mostly at separate times and hiding all his vegetables in his food. While picky eating is a normal phase for children, C’s has been going on for far too long and I really do need to begin to change things before it follows him into adulthood.

In all honestly, by burying my head in the sand, I’ve been letting C down.

What brought all this to light then? My brilliant mind, my intuition, my innate wisdom, I hear you ask? No (I wish!). I sought a professional opinion and began reading “War and Peas” by Jo Cormack. 

Now when I began reading it, I thought it wouldn’t really help. I mean, only I know my child, right? Wrong. A lot rung true with me. It’s written in an easy to understand way and lays out the reasons behind the fussy eating as well as giving you an action plan to follow. It doesn’t teach what to feed your child like so many others, but how to, and how to respond to their picky eating (which I know I struggle with!). Some of the points below were picked up from Jo’s book and I’m feeling pretty confident (though only time will tell!) that I may have found the answer to at least some of my problems. 

1. EAF. Jo’s book is based on the EAF principle. EAF stands for emotionally aware feeding. In short, it’s about understanding the psychology behind picky eating and how to respond to it. It doesn’t follow a behavioural parenting technique such as punishing them, or even rewarding them, but takes the attention away from the eating so it’s not an issue anymore. This not only gives the child ownership over his actions (and we all know how much a child likes to be in control) but takes the attention away from them at mealtimes so also eliminates any power struggles that may be emerging. They may even take a cheeky bite of of something they have previously rejected whole they think you are not looking! 

Children are delicate creatures and having to sit at a table forced to eat something they don’t want to can cause a lifelong hatred of that food. I remember having to sit at the kitchen table every week and eat a bowl of musili because I didn’t like nuts when I was small. My mum honestly thought she was doing the right thing by getting me used to the taste, but to this day, the taste of nuts makes me feel physically sick. Maybe if id have been left to choose to try the musili myself, I wouldn’t have this psychological response to them now.

2. Exposure. Science has shown that children need to be exposed to a food at least 10 times in order to accept it. If I only stick to the meals I know he likes, or hide all the vegetables in other foods, he’s not being exposed at all. I tended to offer something to him a few times and then give up, deeming it something that he just didn’t like. What I should have done was keep offering a variety of things with each meal, or even better, just give him what we are eating. By giving him separate meals, I was simply reinforcing his fussy eating by teaching him that all other foods were bad. If he leaves it, then he leaves it, but at least he’s been exposed to it and he’s more likely to accept it in the future (or hopefully in school when he starts). Basically, he will not see it as ‘bad’ if he’s seen it lots of times before. 

What is also brilliant for exposure is playing with food or letting your child help you cook meals. Mush up some broccoli and let them drive their cars through it, or let them chop a pepper to put with their meal. Just touching and smelling it will get them  accustomed to the food. Bonus points if they actually taste it. Just be careful not to pressure them into this. 

3. Eating together. Children learn through social interactions and modelling behaviour. What we do, what we eat and how we eat are so important. My partner doesn’t get home until 7 on the days we works and that’s C’s bedtime so I tend to give C his dinner at about 5 and wait until the Mr gets home to eat mine. This resulted in C eating alone, more often than not infront of the TV and sometimes on the sofa. He is learning absolutely nothing here.      

Mealtimes were never a special occasion when I was growing up and I guess I’ve mirrored that. We live in a small house which makes things difficult as we have no space for a table but that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t try and squeeze one in or at least still eat together (even if it’s just me, C and baby). I have just never really thought about how important this was.

4. Labelling food. I know that I’ve been guilty of bribing C with sweets or cakes to get him to eat or to behave. This automatically gets him to view sweet things as good and vegetables or even full meals as bad. No wonder he doesn’t get excited about a shepherds pie in the same way he does dessert!

My Action Plan:

  • Eat together at every meal even if it’s just me and C.
  • If he refuses to eat his meal then don’t give him an alternative.
  • Feed him what we are eating, no separate meals. I want to offer him as much variety as possible. 
  • Keep the focus off his eating at mealtimes. 
  • Stop rewarding him with sweets and treat all food the same. Get excited about vegetables! Reward with stickers or trips out instead of sweets and chocolate.
  • Cook with him lots!

It’s going to be a long road but I’m up for the challenge! 

Jam and Honey Thumbprint Cookie Recipe

Yes I know these aren’t the healthiest of things, but they go down well as a treat and they don’t have half the crap in them that shop bought ones do.

Ingredients:

50g butter or margerine

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 desertspoons clear honey

8 tablespoons self raising flour

4 tablespoons jam

Method:

Preheat oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4 and grease a baking tin

Cream together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon, add vanilla extract, egg yolk and honey and mix until combined. Add the flour and mix until a dough is formed.

Break off small pieces of the dough and roll into balls then press onto baking sheet to form flattened circles. Now (and the kids will love doing this), press down with your thumb into the centre of each cookie to make a deep well.

Melt the jam on a low setting in the microwave for about 30 seconds and spoon a little into the centre of each cookie. Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden

Enjoy!

The 7 day eating challenge: Day 1

I decided to set myself a challenge this week and try a new food out on Master C every day for the next 7 days. Today, I had a quarter of a red pepper languishing in the door of the fridge that needed to be used so I thought ‘why not?’

 

pepper

 

As I was making our scrambled egg for lunch, an idea popped into my head. Why don’t I cut up the red pepper really small and mix into into the egg? I honestly thought that I had come up with the idea of the century, it will be like a scrambled omelette and its red, not green, so there was a tiny chance that Master C would accept it.

Boy was I wrong. As soon as he saw the red ‘bits’, which was pretty much immediately, he said he didn’t want it. I, of course lied and said it was ketchup (it used to work when he was 2!) to which he replied “no mummy, look, its different to ketchup”. Game over.

The story ends with me picking out the tiny pieces of pepper (which is harder than it sounds!) and him still finding the offending pieces of the article in the egg that was left. The pepper was spat out, the egg was left uneaten, and all in all, it was one massive failure.

funny-picture-cat-fail

I think I may have shot myself in the foot with the egg thing too. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s lost trust in a food because of my awful vegetable hiding skills!

I think a new plan of action is needed for future endeavors don’t you? Seems that little man has become quite the detective!

I will continue with my 7 day challenge tomorrow, though I may just offer him the new food outright. He may actually respect my honesty!

Baby steps…

Ok,  I’ve been a tad lazy on the whole “kick this fussy eating in the butt project” this week. Baby is teething and has caught a horrendous cold, so I’ve been dealing with rivers of snot and tears and Master C has been pushing the boundaries more than usual. Mealtimes have once again become a battleground, so I resorted to giving him fish fingers for most meals and really should have tried harder *slaps own wrist*

But really, this was me:

 

 Anyway, I thought I’d do things a bit differently this lunchtime. You know, mix it up a bit to see if it made a difference. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been crap not just for this week but for these preceding years; what with having the TV on to ‘distract him’, letting him sit on the sofa to eat and *gasp* sometimes feed him if he really isn’t keen.

So today I turned the TV off, let him help me set the table, put the food in separate bowls in the middle and let him serve himself. I also made sure that I ate with him, as I’m often too busy to actually sit down at any point during the day, let alone when Master C is actually distracted. I read an article last week that said that letting them choose what and how much they eat can improve things a lot as it gives them a sense of ownership over the meal. As opposed to dumping, what is to them, a truckload of food onto a plate and ordering them to eat the lot. So I thought I’d give it a try.

 

I’ve got to say, he did quite well. Yes it was fish fingers again as I wanted to start with something that I knew he liked.. He obviously took a few of them. Then I made mashed potato and mixed in some sweet potato (he won’t usually touch sweet potato because it’s orange) and to my surprise he dolloped a, albeit small, portion onto his plate after a little moan about the colour and a few suspicious looks thrown my way. The carrots and cucumber I included weren’t touched, of course, but just having them on the table invoked conversation about their colour, if they were soft or crunchy, if they were juicy, etc. Usually it’s just a scream of “Get them off my plate!!” and refusal to eat anything that came within 10 meters of them. 

He did plonk all of the carrots onto my plate at one point, making me say “don’t give me all of them, there’ll be none left for you!” (Hint hint master C, hint hint!) but no, his response was “it’s ok mummy, I don’t like carrots” (huge smile on his face. Like I don’t know that already!)

I feel like this may be the start of something! 

Pasta

pasta

Pasta is our magic food. Its the one thing I know that Master C will always eat (except when hes tired, then nothing works). The great thing about pasta is that it needs a sauce, and sooooooo many vegetables can be hidden in a sauce. But lets not dismiss the importance of getting it absolutely right, for our picky eaters it must be perfect. Now I know that all picky eaters are different, for some its a texture issue so sauces must be smooth, for some its a taste thing so meals must be bland, for some its just the look of the food that can put them off… and the list goes on.

For Master C, it’s all of the above, though due to my shoddy workmanship hes had no choice but to accept that all meals put together by moi look awful (as you can probably tell by the photos). What I’ve picked up on mostly though is the texture issue, and I can’t stress this enough, if this is also true in your household then THE BLENDER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND!! Love that piece of plastic, whirly loveliness, treat it well, use it every single bloody day. It hides a multitude of toddler sins (i.e. vegetables), except spinach.. spinach makes the whole lot turn green if you use a speck too much of it and I have never managed to get that right. With the taste thing, I played about with herbs for a while but he seemed much happier not having any so me and the Mr have to put up with obscenely bland food.. but at least the little guy is eating (sometimes) and that’s what matters right?

So, basically you tip a whole load of veggies into the blender, add a tin or two of chopped tomatoes and you have a pasta sauce fit for any veggie hating toddler, right? Wrong. For about a year I was doing this and Master C was rejecting my efforts until I stumbled upon an Annabel Karmel recipe that was doing exactly what I was but adding Marscapone cheese to the mix. So I tried it, and that sauce has been his favourite ever since. I tweak it according to what we have in at the time but here is the recipe:

Marscapone pasta sauce (yes, the one in the photo):

Ingredients: 1 carrot, 1 courgette, about 200g of baby button mushrooms (these don’t taste as strong as the big ones), 1 red onion (but I often use white as these are usually all I have in the cupboard), 1 clove of garlic (or a shake of the powder), pinch of basil (or a hearty shake if your child likes that sort of stuff and wont see a spec of it on the pasta and deem you as a liar and the whole meal a disgusting mess…ahem… Master C!), a tin of tomatoes or carton of passata (about 400g) and any other vegetable you have lying around.. I have been known to add in leek, celery, bell peppers, anything really as it all blends in together.  and the magic ingredient, 100g marscapone (Or half a tub).

Method: Fry the onion, garlic and carrot until soft (remember these vegetables are going undercover and must not be detected!), add the mushrooms and courgette and fry some more. Throw in the basil and tomatoes/ pasatta and simmer for about 10 mins or not at all if you’re in a rush. Leave to cool for a minute and throw in the blender. Leave to blend for AAAAAGES (we need it smoother than smooth remember!). If your child is particularly particular about lumps then you can push it through sift after this and get a super fine sauce, though I don’t bother with this and Master C seems fine with it. Put back on the stove on a very low heat and add the marscapone cheese (its not too pricey and well worth the satisfaction of being able to sit back and watch your child gobble up vegetables they don’t even know are there). When it’s all melted in it will look much lighter in colour and it gives it smoother, more gentle taste.

Rub your hands together and give yourself a pat on the back. You just got your child to eat vegetables.

Oh and its extra yummy with cheese sprinkled on top (and a bit of salt for the adults)

If you are really short of money and can’t afford a mountain of vegetables this week, then another favourite in our house is simply a tin of chopped tomatoes (the cheaper the better) poured over pasta with grated cheddar cheese on top. It was one of our staples when I was a kid and it really does taste quite nice… I swear!

In the kitchen, on a budget

Read the title. These are my first two stumbling blocks.

Firstly, being in the kitchen. I live in a house where you can’t see what is happening in the living room from the kitchen. And having a 3 month old, I can’t leave Master C alone with him for long (we wouldn’t want a repeat of the ‘trying to feed baby a banana’ incident again now would we!). I also have a tiny kitchen with no space to put baby down in. So I’m either hopping around with baby in my arms, trying to stir the pot on the stove with one hand and hold baby at arms length as far away from the hob as possible with the other. Or I’m running back and fourth between rooms every 30 seconds checking the boys are ok. With the latter, the food more often than not gets burnt and this does not help the fussy eating problem. 

In any case, I have to be quick. And with my New Years resolution of always feeding Master C home-cooked nutritious meals (within reason of course, a maccy d now and again never hurt anyone) this gets tricky.

Something you should definately know about me is that I am not in domesticated in the slightest. I hate cleaning and I hate cooking even more. I am not fantastic at it and, quite frankly, I find it boring. But needs must and, with my partner working full time , it lies with me to feed the kiddies and throw some slop/ leftovers onto plates for me and the hubby. 

What makes it all even harder (I know, I know, like I haven’t moaned enough in this post!) is that everything has to be done on a budget. We aren’t well off in the slightest and there have been plenty of times where I have gone without eating for the pleasure of seeing Master C take one bite of his meal and refuse to eat anymore (but this means more leftovers for me, and I am partial to a cold fish finger!) . Anyhoo, this means that I have become better at finding good food, for a very fussy eater at a good price. 

Here is one of my favourite budget recipes:

Sweetcorn and carrot pancakes

sweet-corn-fritters-all

Ingredients: 200g tin of sweetcorn, 1 small finely grated carrot, 1 egg, 30g flour, tsp baking powder

Method: Chuck it all in the blender until smooth (the blender is your friend! It hides the veggies!), heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan (yes frying is bad, but a bit better if you use olive oil and I’ve tried doing them in the oven.. Master C was not impressed), take a teaspoon of the blended mixture and drop into the pan flattening into circles until brown on both sides. 

Voila! You can hardly taste the vegetables and you definately cannot see them. If you are feeling particularly flush, a few chopped, spring onions thrown into the mix give it a bit more flavour.

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