🌤️Family Adventurers Come Rain or Shine
Mummy to Max and Ben
Lover of the great outdoors, gardening, photography, yoga, and opera singing ♪
When it comes to my children and their relationship with feeding, by far the longest transition has been them joining us at the family table. Weaning was accomplished in a matter of months, breastfeeding lasted just over a year, but encouraging my boys to have a healthy and varied diet has been a process that has evolved over a number of years.
When we were weaning, I was full of hope that my boys would embrace variety in their diet. They were both so curious about food, and keen to try everything I offered them! I loved trying out new recipes for them and including as many different tastes as I could. I naively thought that we might escape that fussy eating toddler stage that everyone seemed to talk about.
But then my eldest, Max, turned 2, and almost overnight any kind of colour or flavour was rejected in favour of bland, beige freezer food. If it wasn’t covered in breadcrumbs, he wasn’t interested. At first, I dismissed it as a stage and wasn’t too concerned, but when it became clear that this was going to continue for the foreseeable future, it was something that quickly became more and more of a concern. He didn’t like vegetables, he didn’t like pasta, and he didn’t like cheese, so options were very limited! Fruit was never a problem for us, but we struggled to find a single vegetable that Max would eat and I despaired of getting any goodness into him.
We tried all the usual tips: don’t force it, involve them in cooking the meals, encourage them to help in the garden to grow the food, talk about the meals that you’re eating yourself and encourage them to try. But none of these seemed to change things at all and even at 4 when Max started school, I would have described him as quite a fussy eater. I think spaghetti bolognese was about as adventurous as we got at that point, so we made great use of blending and grating up vegetables to go in that, which would be eaten unnoticed.
And yet, I look at Max now, at 6 years old, and he’s a pretty normal eater. He still turns his nose up at lots of vegetables, but we’ve managed to identify some that he loves, and I’m comfortable that he’s getting his 5 a day.
So what have we been doing that has finally worked? Undoubtedly, a big part of the willingness to try new foods is simply down to growing up a bit. But I also put a lot down to encouraging an interest in growing food and in cooking for Max. Although my first attempts at doing this when he was younger showed no signs of having any effect, I noticed his love of gardening and suspected that might be the key to winning him around. It’s always more tempting to give food a try when you’ve spent months growing and tending to it, and the curiosity ended up winning him over and he’s been willing to try most things.
This year has been our most successful growing season so far, and I deliberately chose to grow things that I know he likes, alongside things that I know he doesn’t like (such as peas, beetroot and pak choi). It was amazing to call Max over to harvest our first peas from their pods, hesitantly try one, and then declare it ‘delicious’! In fact, it’s been a very rare occasion that we’ve managed to include any of the peas in our meals as the boys both eat them as snacks straight from the pods. There really is nothing like the taste of fresh homegrown vegetables. He’s not been as keen on the beetroot we’ve grown (‘disgusting’ apparently), but you can’t win them all!
So if you’re in the middle of the bland freezer food obsession, don’t despair, there will be an end in sight. If you try something and it doesn’t work, do keep persisting a month or so later, and you may find that the timing is now right for your child to be a bit more adventurous. And if not, try not to worry too much. It’s a very rare adult who lives on fish fingers and chips alone!