The Picky Eater

Reflections from a Mama of two under two girls

By Xia Isaacs


For many, a time out might mean going to the gym, window shopping or getting your hair and nails did. For me, my little time out happens 3-5 times a day when I (drum roll please) set my kids’ plates as if I’m on a season of Chopped while they are the judges. Below is an example of how I set their morning meals.

Breakfast.

I love breakfast so I wanted to be very creative with my breakfast prep, including colours and a variety of options so that my critics would have a plethora of options to begin their day with.

I normally serve 3-4 different options.

For a quick breakfast guide, choose 1 from each category.

A. The filler.

Egg (boiled, scrambled, sunny side)
Egg bread
Egg muffin
Oats
Cereal (cornflakes, Cheerios)

B. The side.

Yoghurt
toast w/ spread (cream cheese, hummus)
Pancake/ waffle
Muffin
Biscuit
Any nibbles

C. The Dessert.

This is usually any fruit we have available.
Grated apple with cinnamon
Blueberries
Oranges
Banana
Kiwi


My peaceful and therapeutic activity almost always comes to an abrupt end when my 2-year-old reminds me that she is a picky eater and anything, no matter how much effort was put into making it (no matter the varieties, shapes and colours) it just wasn’t good enough. What she actually wants is good ol’ sausage and chips.

Sigh.

Well, that lasted a whole 2 minutes.

I think one of the biggest most universal stresses as a young mom is whether your child is eating “enough.” You literally stress about this kinda thing from the time of birth right up until they’re old enough to make their own food choices – unless you have a younger teenage boy to feed (I watched my 18-year-old brother do this countless of times- he would rather starve than make himself something to eat) and I think, when does it ever END !!!!

And so my journey as a mom to a picky eater has been … interesting. A roller-coaster ride.  There has been tears, frustration, shouting and just flipping the whole table over because I’m just so done because my daughter, without even licking her toasted cheese that she just ate 5 slices of yesterday, is now calling it yucky.

(I’m kidding. I never flip the table – only in my head)

I knew something big needed to change because my toddler not eating was even affecting my mental health. So after unbearable feedback (see what I did there) and endless hours trying to satisfy picky eaters, here are some tips for young mothers, especially if you find yourself in my position with more than one kid under the age of two.

1. Teach them to eat independently. This means serving finger foods cut into appropriate sizes and portions and then encouraging them to eat by themselves. We ditched the purées and went straight to the real deal. My youngest ate by herself since she was 6 months old. There are many articles available on independent child eating and I encourage some theory around this topic. This also helps reduce them from bringing up their food from being overfed or even worse, force-fed because they are eating to their own hunger rather than your assumptions of their hunger. At least this has helped me wean them from bottles and being fed by someone else.

2. Get messy. Stop trying to wipe your babies face and hands during meal times and while sitting in their feeding chair – this can gives them negative feelings towards meal times which could then affect their eating. A tip I swear by is filling a jug with water and dipping their hands inside it while they are sitting in their seat, playing and experimenting with foods. They enjoy the messy textures running through their fingers. They find this so much fun too!

3. Have an eating schedule and stick to it. Make sure your child is hungry. Snacking away during the day could be the reason why your kid refuses to eat.

4. Give them the power of choice. A variety. Chicken two ways, in a chicken and mayo sandwich and just plain shredded chicken on the side. As parents we need to decide what to cook and bring to the table but we also need to let our children decide what and how much they decide to eat. Variety of options totally work in this case.

5. Keep YOURSELF in check. Leave your emotions at the door. The more they see you getting frustrated the more they’ll refuse – it’s all about control and autonomy. They learn quickly that meal time is the only thing they can actually control. This will be a battle you surely won’t win. You also shouldn’t always play the authority figure because sometimes they know what they want to eat or what works for their bodies better than you do. I find that when we assume the role of “guider” instead of “bossy mom”, their response is often better to healthy and happy eating schedules.

6. Eat with your child. Make it a priority to have at least one meal together. This really helps build up the last point 7.

7. Get rid of the distractions such as watching tv or games while eating – cold turkey. This is my favourite of all, because it teaches them presence. There is nothing worst than having the child consume what should be a creative and conscious eating-process while you’re finishing you favourite TV series or they are stumbling about running around the home and you are chasing after them forcing food into their tiny mouths. I find that setting time aside to perform eating rituals creates a far more positive experience for both parties.