Persistence. The key to combatting toddler fussy eating?
I’ve had lots of people say to me, “You’re lucky your kids are good eaters. It must be easy because you are a dietitian”. Thankfully, my kids do love to eat – now. And I genuinely feel more happy and relaxed at family meal times now with 4 kids at the table than ever before. But I will be honest – it’s still not “perfect” (is there even such a thing?), and it was a long road to get to where we are.
We haven’t exactly had things easy in the feeding department. All 4 of my kids have had food allergies – 2 still see the Allergist regularly. One had the most sensitive gag reflex as toddler, she would eat an entire meal, vomit then immediately ask to be fed again. And one had a horrible run with enormous tonsils and adenoids, having multiple infections, speech difficulties and feeding aversions before needing speech therapy and surgery. All of these are minor issues in comparison to the complexities faced by many other families – but they were enough to add stress to an already gorgeously chaotic family life.
So while I haven’t had the easiest run with feeders, I do feel incredibly blessed that our issues were small, that my training allowed me to see what was happening, and that I had the knowledge to know where to get help, and what to do at home.
But as I said, it was a long road to get here, particularly with Mr Tonsils. In all honesty, how we ended up here was not through luck, or my profession, but through sheer persistence.
There were so many times when I wanted to just give him pasta, again, while we ate something else. Times when I picked up food from all over the floor, screaming on the inside, but calmly outwardly saying “Food stays on the table”. Countless times when I lamented the huge waste of food as I throw the veggies in the bin, again. But it was the persistence with calmly offering without expectation, giving only brief and gentle encouragement, and most importantly, family role modelling that led to where we are today.
Recently, he, the fussiest of my four, finally bit into a cherry tomato (albeit in a effort to squirt his sisters with the insides – but thats how we encouraged him to put it in his mouth) and said “I tasted the juice!”. A few months ago he would’ve pouted “I don’t eat tomatoes, take it off my plate!!!”.
He also ate black charcoal noodles – “Mum, black is my favourite colour”- when they arrived unexpectedly in his beloved ramen noodle soup at a new restaurant. He randomly picked up the broccoli I was preparing for his sisters’ school lunch boxes and said “Mum, I eat this now, I’m strong”. He then proceeded to pop it in his mouth and walk away – the rest of us stunned into jaw dropping silence. He picked up chicken breast of the plate and ate it without a word, after months of not eating it. He drank a green smoothie and called it “hulk juice”, flexing his biceps as he drank.
So, you can safely say we had an amazing week at the dining table that week (cue champagne!), which reminded me that all that persistence with our feeding plan was worth it. We were winning.
I know I’m not alone in this sort of feeding experience. I’ve met so many parents over the years who have faced the same thing. The ongoing trials, but then finally the successes.
This year Julia and I will be putting together a package to help families with their in home feeding issues; so watch this space. We will share the training and experience we’ve had as Paediatric Dietitians, and the trial by fire we’ve had as parents. We’re aiming to provide families with scientifically sound, but genuinely practical advice. It works if you work it. We’ve got proof!
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Angela @ Bloom 🌿