Monday, 1 June 2015

Toddlers and Food.... Does it have to be so complicated?

I find it really frustrating when I read about things that are likely to happen when you have a baby/toddler.... but then find myself completely unprepared when it actually happens. 

We have now entered into the fray of toddlers and their eating habits, and it's driving me up the wall. 

S used to eat anything and everything, and now it's a battle to get her to eat real food at all. She'll snack all day long if we let her, but come dinner time (or even the mere mention of dinner) and she throws a tantrum. 

Unless it's sausages (chicken or pork, she doesn't really care) she generally won't eat meat. Sometimes she'll eat fish, and sometimes it's like I've tried to poison her. 

Rice (which she used to adore) has gone out of the window, even vegetable rice, which is unheard of. She'll eat spaghetti bolognese about half the time I put it in front of her, the rest of the time it gets ignored. 

Spaghetti or pasta with a tomato sauce that doesn't have minced beef in it..... poison again. 

She will eat baby sweetcorn, which should be a victory, but it doesn't really feel like one when I look at my receipts from the food shopping. Meat is so much more expensive than vegetables. I would much rather she didn't eat the cheap vegetables and ate the really really expensive chicken. Almost all the meat in Dubai is imported, so incredibly expensive, and I cringe when I look at all the wasted food. 

S will, of course, eat chips (fries for the non UK readers). Not mashed potato, not sweet potato chips (fries), but white potato chips, the more heavily fried the better. 

Part of me just wants to throw in the towel and just serve sausages and chips to her for foreseeable future, but I know that there is no way she'll ever eat chicken again that way. 

We have started shortening the time she has access to snacks, so I know when she gets to mealtimes she's hungry, I can often hear her stomach rumble. It doesn't seem to be helping much. 

I know toddlers are supposed to get like this, and I can plainly see that it's S's way of having some control over what she does day in, day out, but it still drives me mad. 

My favourite incident has to be the day I lifted her down from her highchair after she left her plate completely untouched, even though it was stocked with food I KNOW she likes, and asked for rice cakes. When she was told no, as she hadn't eaten any dinner, she reached up, took her plate off the highchair and (staring defiantly at me) dumped the contents all over the floor. 

To say I was mad would be a huge understatement. Burning up in rage would be more appropriate. I do frequently have to remind myself that it's only going to get worse, wait until I have teenagers in the house. It doesn't really stop me getting wound up right then and there though. 

We've tried a variety of different ways to encourage her to eat, including, but not limited to:
  • Eating in her highchair
  • Eating on her child's chair at her little table
  • Eating stood in front of the TV
  • Eating at the table, with her little brother and mummy and/or daddy, sitting in highchair
  • Eating at the table, with her little brother and mummy and/or daddy, sitting on a dining chair
  • Not being allowed to leave the table/highchair until everyone else is finished, even if she doesn't eat
  • Praising her when she eats
  • Acting like it doesn't matter whether she eats or not
  • Encouraging her to eat some food
  • Trying to spoon feed her
  • Turning the TV on
  • Turning the TV off
  • Letting her get down when she asks to (even if not eaten) and leaving the lunch out as a snack for her to pick at

In short, nothing has really been working, if she isn't going to eat, she isn't going to eat. In the end, and rather at the end of my tether, I have decided to work with her on a middle ground. 

She has three meals a day, and two snack times. These are now scheduled so I know that there is at least two hours between snack and her next meal.

I fill her snack box each morning, and that is her snack for the day. It doesn't get refilled, so she can't fill up on cheese crackers, or Nibbly Fingers. I've found that this way she will eventually eat the fruit or the vegetables that make up her snack. 

I make sure she always has a choice at breakfast, and if she won't choose, I'll guess which one she's most likely to eat (usually omelette). I tend to find that even if she asks for toast and jam, if I give her both toast and jam and some omelette, she'll eat more omelette than the toast. 

I have switched pork sausages out for chicken sausages, so at least I know she's getting some white meat. I tend to serve sausages or spaghetti bolognese at least every other day, so I know she's still in the habit of sitting down and getting a full meal into her. 

I'm on the hunt for white fleshed sweet potatoes, because if I roast them in long strips (so they look like chips) she'll eat them even though it's not actual white potato. It's not perfect, but occasionally needs must. We don't tend to have normal chips in the house (even oven chips) and I want to keep it that way.

Baby sweetcorn is always on the menu along with one or two other vegetables. So far she only ever eats the baby sweetcorn, but I'll accept it for now. I also always include raw carrot in her snack box, because she will eat it eventually. 

I keep her carbs to rice or pasta, given she's not eating it anyway, I'm not bothering to go to the effort of mashed potato. 

Chocolate and sweets continue to be a rare treat. The main source of sugar she gets is from fruit. 

Any meat that she doesn't eat at dinner, goes into her snack box the next day. It rarely gets eaten, but I feel better that it's had two chances to be rejected. 

This is my middle ground, it's not perfect, but it's the best I can do. I accept there will be some wastage of food, but I feel better knowing that every other day she will eat her meals.