Fussy eaters exist. Fact. They are not the product of lazy parents nor do they suffer from any particular allergy. They are what they say on the label: fussy. But such a light, throwaway term really doesn’t quite do justice to the reality of trying to sustain a fussy eater. Begging and bribing - there is no approach you won’t try and no tactic to tempt your toddler or teen into even trying to eat a decent meal.
Do you have a fussy eater in your fold? Here’s how to tell if you have spawned a food fighter:
Breakfast gets off to a rocky start
It’s the highlight of your day as it is the one meal you cannot blame your child’s lack of appetite on or the ill advised snacks/drinks you gave them earlier. Of course they still don’t eat anything but at least it’s not your fault.
Favourite foods are a no-go
An evil trick your child plays on you to lull you into a false sense of security when preparing a food previously described as “their favourite”. As soon as it is served, the child recoils in horror. It may have been a favourite when they threw it in the trolley and made blood vows to eat it. But hey, that was hours ago.
Every plate has to be perfect
All the elements of a potential dinner win are there but because a corner of pasta has an unusual twist or carrot has fallen onto a pea, the dish is now irretrievably ruined. They didn’t want it “like that”. Sobs loudly (from parents in kitchen).
You get picnic fear
It should be the perfect setting: a wide range of foods they can pick at while they play – and surely everyone loves a sausage roll. But no. Apparently not. While you waft wasps from your carefully-planned menu, your child runs into negative calories quicker than you can say ham sandwich. Cue hangry child, hot and bothered meltdown and inevitable insect stings. Cue broken parent reaching for the chocolate mini rolls.
Hours spent don’t pay off
You can actually gauge how repellent your child will find your meal based on how much effort you have put in. Spend hours sourcing their favourite food, cut it into shapes, serve on their super favourite character plate and you are doomed to fail. Throw a bag of McDonald’s on the dinner table (that you only bought because you were sure they wouldn’t eat it anyway) and bingo - clear plates and possibly even a whiff of gratitude.
Playdates can cause chaos
Playdates throw up a plethora of undiscovered food groups - squeezy yoghurts and bear-shaped fruit - that keep other children healthy, happy and stop their parents from tearing up the Annabel Karmel cookbook. It all seems to be going so well when the food is flowing from someone else’s fridge. Once you purchase the food that was so well received? It no longer holds any appeal whatsoever. At least they ate yesterday.
Everyone makes better food than you
Bemoan how hard it is to persuade your offspring to eat anything to your parents, in-laws, friends or Greggs counter staff and you should prepare for the ultimate humiliation. They will politely offer advice, and you will not so politely snub it because you have tried everything. Then it happens: the fussy eater will devour an entire spread of unfamiliar, healthy, not sliced and not cubed food. Raised eyebrows for you and a pat on the head for them.
Fussy eaters 1, parents 0.