Old-school ways to challenge the fussy first-born

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“With more time at home, we instigated eating dinner together rather than two sittings and two different menus. Now family meal time has improved how much risk my son takes with trying new food,” writes “Mummy” columnist KATE MEIKLE

THE battle of the veggies is alive and well at our house and I have exhausted every trick in the book in my quest to get my son to eat a more balanced diet. 

Call it mother’s guilt, but I feel I did it all wrong when it came to our fussy first-born’s food. 

As a baby, it was easy to spoon feed loads of the good stuff into his gob, but as he became a toddler it became a very hard sell. 

Mind you, he was also a sick little guy and needed three surgeries over the ages of 18 months and 30 months for ear, nose and throat issues. 

It resulted in a lot of times when yoghurt was a “good enough” dinner when everything was rejected by my sickly toddler. It was a tough time and I wonder if his blocked nose and ears impacted his taste for food. 

That’s when we entered the “beige” phase that lasted so long it became a way of life. I almost tore my hair out. My son only wanted to eat beige-coloured food. Bread, pasta (plain), cheese, fish and chips and white rice were the only things we could get him to consume, despite efforts otherwise. 

I envied the smugness of the parents whose kids chomped down broccoli florets like a packet of Twisties. I grew angry and frustrated every dinner time, when I tried to prepare something different with some hidden goodness. I grated and blended any vegetables I could get away with into fried rice, bolognese, rissoles, muffins… And don’t get me started on the vegetable pikelets that ended in the bin! It drove me crazy. 

I would get excited that I had found the right recipe and then be so disheartened when it was discarded and I would give up for a period before trying again. Potato gems and sausages featured far too much in his diet and I felt guilty and tense about it. 

My mothers’ group friends would share tips and tricks: 

“Try soup!” 

“Try smoothies!”

“Blend up the bolognese sauce so it’s impossible to pick out the zucchini!” 

“I put grated apple into my mini muffins,” they would proffer. 

The best our son ever did was eat a token raw carrot and the odd cucumber stick. 

Now, at the age of six, I’ve had enough of this fuss and pantomime. 

He’s very limited in what he likes. It’s enough to pack a decently healthy lunchbox, the same every day – cheese and ham sandwich, apple, cucumber sticks and popcorn – but just not enough to know that he’s enjoying the variety of healthy and interesting food and flavours. 

One fine day, we might just want to take him somewhere that doesn’t serve chicken nuggets! 

So we’re trying an old-school method and noticing a change. Covid has played a part in this – with more time at home as a family we instigated eating dinner together rather than two sittings and two different menus. Sounds obvious, but family meal time has improved how much risk my son takes with trying new food. 

My turn to feel a bit smug, sitting round the table with my family, talking about our days while enjoying a stir fry or roast chicken. We still battle, but it’s not as bad if we all are on the same side of the dinner table. 

Perhaps I am breaking the rules (tut, tut) but we do offer a reward when he does his best on his veggie challenge. It might cost us a few extra chocolate frogs but it is doing the trick to get him to eat peas! 

His godfather, I’m told, used to only eat carrots, potatoes and apples when he was little, before widening his diet to broccoli “trees” and then becoming a full-blown vegetarian later in life. 

So as painfully slow this is, I am heartened that we are taking baby steps, every mouthful making sure we get on the right path for our fussy first-born. 

 

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Kate Meikle
Kate Meikle is a staff reporter for "CityNews"

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