Most parents just want the best for our kids, right?
Especially when it comes to health and nutrition. That’s why it can be so frustrating when your little one downright refuses to eat that perfectly balanced (and tasty, for that matter) dinner you’ve just spent an hour preparing for the whole family.
And as you stare down another night of having to cook multiple dishes just so your fussy kid doesn’t go to bed hungry, it can sometimes feel like a losing battle.
As a mother of a one and five-year-old, I can assure you I have had many nights like this.
My daughter Zoe can probably take the crown for being as fussy as they come: The princess of fussiness. And although she is progressively growing out of this phase, we still face a daily struggle of making sure she eats a balanced diet.
But I've learnt a few tricks along the way (and sometimes this involves tricking her into eating certain foods - no shame in doing this, by the way). So here’s an insight into what my fussy 5-year-old ate this week.
We start the day with a sure winner, Weet-Bix.
Zoe likes her Weet-Bix served with warm milk, chopped banana and a dash of cinnamon. My trick is to add just a little extra milk, as the cereal continues to absorb liquid and she won’t eat it if it's dry. Winner.
For snacks while we’re out today, I’ll pack sliced cucumber and yogurt pouches.
I’ll try to offer the cucumber first, in the hope that it’s eaten in her hungry state. It doesn’t always work though, especially if the kids know that yogurt is in the bag.
For lunch, my kids will eat a Vegemite sandwich.
My daughter usually leaves behind the crust, so sometimes I chop it off before giving it to her (it seems like she eats more of the actual bread if I do this).
I sometime leave the crust on just to “test” if she eats it, although I’m usually left in disappointment with a sandwich which looks like a mouse has attacked it.
Dinner tonight is spaghetti bolognese. My daughter used to love bolognese sauce, but she's refused to eat it ever since she turned two.
I serve it up very hopeful, but she doesn’t touch the sauce and asks for plain pasta instead. I give in: at least she’ll have a full tummy tonight if she eats that.
My one-year-old son on the other hand gobbles up the entire bowl of spag bol, except for the pieces which end up on the floor and all over his head. Let’s declare that a (messy) winner.
Breakfast is Vegemite toast (yes, we go through a lot of Vegemite in our house). Winner!
It’s my daughter's kinder day, so for lunch she’ll have a packed lunchbox.
I find the school lunchbox is the best time to introduce new foods to a fussy kid, for a few reasons. Firstly, you won’t be exposed firsthand to the frustration if they refuse to eat it.
Secondly, they don’t have the option of sneaking into the pantry if they get fussy.
At school, they simply have whatever is in their lunchbox, and most likely they’ll have an appetite. So fingers crossed their hunger will lead them to eating (or at least trying) that new food.
I try to sneak in at least one new food, and stick to “safe foods” for everything else. This has worked for me on many occasions where my daughter will return home with an explanation of how proud I’ll be of her.
Today’s lunchbox contains a banana sandwich (Zoe’s favourite), sliced cucumber and carrots, strawberries, ham, crackers and cheese.
Everything is a hit, except the skins of the cucumber and all of the carrots. Let’s declare that a partial win.
Dinner is tacos. Zoe refuses to eat most of the meal, except an empty taco shell and a handful of cheese. Not so much a win…
I warm up the “back up” option; a bowl of soup I had in the freezer. I make it by blending up cooked chicken, cauliflower and carrots, along with some cooked soup pasta. I season it well so she doesn’t taste the veggies, serve with bread, and it’s always a winner.
Breakfast is a bowl of rice bubbles. Zoe likes to add a scoop of chocolate powder, so I trick her and use a kids' choc protein powder which contains added vitamins that I found a few months ago. Winner.
Lunch is a jam sandwich. Not the most nutritious meal and high in sugar, but she loves it. I sprinkle some chia seeds before serving, just to make myself feel a bit better about it. Winner.
Dinner is frozen chicken nuggets and chips. A cheat meal, but it’s a sure hit and I’m not prepared for a repeat of last night. Winner.
Kinder again today, so we have a quick breakfast bowl full of rice bubbles. It's a yes again - winner.
In the lunchbox is a ham and cheese croissant, sliced pear, mixed berries, a yogurt pouch and a rice cake.
It returns at the end of day with a half-consumed croissant, pear not touched and uneaten berries. I get frustrated that my efforts did not fully pay off…
Dinner is chipotle sausages rolls. My kids love sausages, so I try to find low sodium varieties, but I’m just glad that they eat them without much argument.
I serve up watermelon after dinner, which is a family favourite.
Breakfast request is a peanut butter and banana sandwich: winner!
Snacks are cut apples. My daughter occasionally only eats the flesh of the apple and leaves behind the skin. So frustrating as it feels like half the apple is wasted.
Lunch is a bowl of mac n' cheese. I add a pinch of nutritional yeast before serving; my daughter doesn’t notice, and it boosts the nutritional value of an otherwise nutritionally empty meal. Winner.
Dinner is Friday night pizza. My daughter only eats one type of pizza topping: cheese and olives. This is progress from the “I don’t eat pizza” phase she only recently grew out of (seriously, what kids doesn’t like pizza?)
When we place our order, we are very particular to the pizza shop to not add tomato sauce, otherwise she won’t touch it. We learnt this the hard way.
I cook bacon and eggs for breakfast. The bacon is a hit with everyone, however my daughter doesn’t touch the eggs today. She makes up for it with three slices of toast though.
Lunch is light today as we are still full from breakfast. I serve a platter of crackers, cheese and sliced fruit to the kids, which is mostly a hit.
We go out for dinner, and the only thing my daughter generally likes on the menu is chicken nuggets and chips. I'll call it a winner.
Sunday morning breakfast is pancakes with strawberries.
I add a scoop of kids' protein powder to the pancake mix to boost the protein value. Winner, except for the half litre of maple syrup my husband allows my daughter to pour over her pancakes.
Pancakes are eaten and tummies are full, so let’s declare that a win.
We are out and about during lunchtime, so I buy a few avocado sushi rolls for the kids and I. Everyone is happy.
For dinner, I grab a whole cooked chicken from the supermarket and serve with tortilla wraps and smashed avocado. Zoe consumes two whole wraps, so I’ll take that as a major win.
Written by Alison Said
Originally published on MamaMia.com.au on 16th August 2021
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