FUSSY EATER WINNING TIPS

Even now my 11 month old is onto lumpy food I keep a supply of pureed vegetables in the freezer, stored in ice cube trays. I include some of her favourites such as butternut squash and other vegetables that she is not so keen on (broccoli, courgette). I defrost the amount needed and use as sneaky greens by adding them to her favourite dishes.

Mixed in with pasta sauce

Used as a spread in toasted cheese sandwiches (her Favourite)

Hidden in cheesy mash potato

I also wanted to pass on my simple creamy tomato sauce recipe-it goes great with pasta. It is just two ingredients - Passata (crushed tomatoes) and Créme Fraiche. Both of which keep in the fridge for a few weeks. Simply mix equal amounts and heat, for added nutrients mix in any pureed/ chopped vegetables you have to hand.

Mrs Marshall
Essex

I have two children one daughter aged 4, and one son aged 18 months. With my daughter weaning was a breeze, but she began refusing vegetables at about 2 years old. Ways I would get her to eat extra:-

Puree carrots, butternut squash or sweet potato and combine with the mashed potato on top of a cottage or shepherds pie. Pouring thin gravy over the top would disguise the colour a little too.

I brought some peas in pods from the market, involved her in shelling them and she was so enthralled she then ate quite a few.

With my son he seemed a lot more fussy I started him later (6 months rather than 5) due to the change in guidelines and found this much harder. I invested in a Babycook (4in1) machine, which although expensive, made my life a lot easier with two children. Things I have done with him are:-

Dips with humous, once I found he liked humous I provided breadsticks (which I know he liked) and slowly replaced them with vegetable sticks, he tried them a few times and gradually stopped spiting them out.

The old trick of grating cheese over vegetables has also worked with both of mine too.

Buffet style meals encourage them both to try the bits they might not otherwise. The best and most useful way I have found is to ring round my friends with slightly older children and ask what vegetables they eat. Then we go round to theirs for a meal. On seeing other children go "wow, yum" sweetcorn or broccoli trees has had a much bigger impact on my daughter than I ever have.

Shelley Rothwell
Poulton le Fylde

My son loves eating wraps as an alternative to a sandwich. We use corn rather than wheat tortilla wraps for a different flavour and to reduce the amount of wheat we eat. (to much wheat may lead to a wheat intolerance).

Falafel wraps (makes 4):

Either make your own falafel or buy them readymade and heat up according to the instructions. 2-3 people.

Make a salsa using chopped tomatoes (we prefer cherry tomatoes but any can be used), a small tub of natural live unsweetened yoghurt and 2 heaped teaspoons of rocket pesto (use more or less as you prefer). Stir it all together.

Spread the tortilla with a layer of humous, sprinkle on the falafel and spoon on some of the tomato and yoghurt salsa. Wrap and eat.

Tips

Toddlers/ children often go into melt down just before dinner especially if there has been a slight delay. Just before melt down can be a good time to offer your child some cut up vegetables-carrot sticks, cucumber slices, celery, peppers etc. firstly providing they haven't been snacking they will definitely be hungry and therefore more likely to eat the vegetables if they are fussy and secondly fresh raw vegetables just before a main meal gets the digestive system going improving digestion and shouldn't fill them up too much. If they do get full then no need to worry because they are full on vegetables which is great.

Just because a child does not like cooked vegetables doesn't mean they won't like the same vegetables raw. Always try both versions.

Avoid confirming their dislikes, for instance if they try something and spit it out, first of all praise them for trying something new and rather than saying "you don't like spinach then" say something like "I guess you are not ready to eat spinach yet, we can try again when you are a bit bigger". Try again the following week. Also only give them a small piece of something new so that it doesn't look daunting.

Rather than chopping vegetables and fruit into small pieces, I find that sometimes children prefer to be given a whole carrot, or a chunk of cucumber instead of slices or even whole lettuce leaf. It can be more fun for them.

TV programmes can sometimes help a child try more foods. Lazy town and Popeye have both worked for me. My son now eats a salad with each meal because of Sportacus and has decided that he likes raw spinach because of Popeye. If they are going to watch TV make it something useful.

Carmela Froggatt (DipION), Nutritional Therapist.
Staines

I was reading a magazine that had a feature in it about the nutritional value of different juice drinks aimed at children. I showed it to my five year old who was surprisingly very interested and showed the page to everyone over the next few days. Anyway it led to her making healthier choices when asked which drink she would prefer when we were out. She picks innocent smoothies or Tropicana go (which both scored highly). We also decided to use the idea of a chart of our own.

I asked my daughter for a list of her favourite snacks. We then found pictures of them in magazines and on the internet and made a chart with the healthiest on top and the worst on the bottom. She really enjoyed the making part and I am convinced it will have a long term effect on her decisions about what to choose in the future.

I hope this idea is useful for you.

Suzanne Heath
Market Drayton

Use a mixed veg sauce, blended smooth with tomatoes and any other veg, this makes a great "secret veg" topping for a pizza, buy readymade bases in the supermarket. Children enjoy decorating on top of the base with cheese, ham, slices of red pepper, pineapple chunks etc. You can also use French bread slices for the base. Small colourful pieces of veg will tempt fussy eaters, serve inside a halved red pepper perhaps mixed with rice, chopped chicken or other favourite foods, sweetcorn/peas are often enjoyed.

Getting children involved in preparing their own meals even very small children can do this will help encourage them to eat well.

Alison Mackey
West Sussex

My main tip is to stay positive. Try not to show your concern about your child's eating habits or to describe your child as a "fussy eater" in front of them. If they believe they are good at eating a wide variety of healthy foods they may eventually become like that.

Keep offering; have chopped fruit and vegetables on the table with every meal and at snack times. Even if most of the time you are the only one eating them at least you are staying healthy, setting a good example and on the day when your children want to try them, they are available for them.

For lunchboxes, try the "lock & lock" plastic boxes with dividers and include loose fruit and vegetables in the small compartments so they are easily accessible throughout the lunch.

Focus on the food they do eat and use these as a vehicle for introducing new food. For example if they like any kind of sauce, new foods can be introduced by liquidising them into the sauce.

When you are introducing a new recipe, include their favourite vegetable and/or carbohydrate with the dish so they at least eat some part of the meal.

Alternate your evening meals between that they like and meals that you would like them to eat. This way you are not having a battle every night but you are also not stuck with a limited diet.

For older children try the magnetic "five a day" charts (do well magnetic games, Fiesta Crafts). If they manage to eat five fruit and vegetables a day for seven days children (and parents) can be rewarded with a treat. As healthy as you can get away with.

If your introducing a new food try it in a recipe in very small amounts first and if your children eat it increase the amount you add each time. That is what I did with the salmon in this recipe.

Kate Hanke
Marston