We all know that we should eat a healthy, balanced diet. Let’s be honest though, how many of us actually do that? It’s all well and good being told that you should eat 10 portions of fruit and veg per day, but it’s another thing actually doing it.
Life isn’t as simple as saying “we must exercise and eat right”, then cracking on and doing it. You may be working late, you might have run out of veg, you might be tired, you might not know how to cook bla bla bla – so many reasons and excuses to not do what the experts say.
Then we come onto kids – a three-year old fussy eater in my case. Obviously you want to feed them healthy, balanced, tasty food which is full of vitamins and all the other good stuff they need to grow strong. But toddlerdom has other ideas about that. Trying to get your toddler to sit down and eat a meal you have painstakingly prepared for them is difficult and wildly unpredictable.
Those little humans are more than capable of eating, but whether they do or not comes down to factors such as their mood, how tired they are, what colour plate they’re using, where they’re sitting at the table, the direction the wind blows and how much the FTSE 100 has changed overnight. Even though you may have the best intentions to fill your little one up with food packed with good stuff, actually getting them to swallow it – let alone put it anywhere near their mouth – is one of the many challenges we face as parents.
When it comes to Toddler L, her food journey has been a bit up and down. There’s been times over the last couple of years when she’ll eat pretty much anything, then spells where she’s a fussy eater and won’t touch anything – even when it’s a dish she previously loved. At three-and-a-bit, things are becoming slightly easier, but the reality of mealtimes with a toddler means that you’re never far away from a tantrum, spitting out food or dropping it on the dog’s head in protest.
I don’t think we’re in a unique situation. Many people I talk to with kids are having – or have had – similar experiences when it comes to food and fussy eaters. One of the top issues being eating vegetables – or should I say, the lack of eating those vitamin and nutrient-filled plants. Up until recently – and I’m literally talking the past six weeks – she’s actively avoided eating veg, but now claims carrots, peas and sweetcorn are her favourites. Kids eh?
In an attempt to get Toddler L to eat her food, I’ve found myself doing some pretty strange things. When the goal is to get food into your kid’s mouth and belly, you’ll do whatever you can to try to make that happen. Let me give you an example of a couple of methods I’ve tried:
Fork Off, That’s My Cutlery: Toddlers love anything that doesn’t belong to them. After a particularly unproductive meal, I decided to switch it up by swapping her fork for mine. I’m not sure why it worked, but it did. She started tucking in straight away and finished more than she would have done with her fork. Me, on the other hand, had to settle for toddler cutlery.
Reenacting Lady And The Tramp: Remember the iconic ‘dogs eating spaghetti’ scene from the Disney classic? Well, this *may* have been something I’ve re-enacted with Toddler L. After a particularly faffy meal in which she’d not eaten much, I tentatively put one end of the spaghetti in my mouth and the others in hers. It worked perfectly and she ended up clearing the majority of her plate – albeit with me on the other end of each bite of food!
Having A Feast With A Gruffalo: As big fans of the Julia Donaldson book, it didn’t take long for me to turn to the Gruffalo for inspiration. By calling the different things on her plate food mentioned in the book – scrambled snake, roasted fox etc – I somehow managed to convince Toddler L to eat the food. Who knew Gruffalo crumble was more appealing than cottage pie?
The Little Bird Catches The Worm: Toddler L was showing no interest in a stir fry the missus and I were tucking into. For whatever reason, I thought it’d be a good idea to pick up a noodle and dangle it about her head – that’s Toddler L’s, not the missus’. Next thing I knew, I was chirping like a bird and feeding Toddler L ‘worms’ from above her head. I think I have an undiagnosed case of avian flu.
Things I didn’t think I’d do as a parent no. 846: Pretend we’re birds eating worms so that she’ll finish her dinner. Toddler L is being VERY bloody annoying when it comes to eating meals at the moment. People who complain about introducing their baby to solids and the whole weaning process obviously haven’t experienced the annoyance, frustration and anguish of feeding a toddler. Trust me, it’s loads worse. As such, I’ve taken to doing some pretty random things in order to get her to eat her food. Today, I was a daddy bird, she was a baby bird and her noodles were worms. Maybe very odd from an outsider perspective, but I don’t give a shit as it meant she at least ate something that wasn’t chocolate bloody eggs. The things we do as parents, eh? No chuffer ever told me that this was what I’d signed up for!
Ultimately though, I’ve never been too worried when she’s going through a fussy eater phase. We’ve always just tried to remain calm and praise her when she does eat something. At the end of the day, she’s not going to starve herself and sometimes it’s just about showing who’s boss. It’s also worthwhile remembering that a baby / toddler stomach is really small – about the size of their fist – so they may still be eating what they need, even if it doesn’t look like it.
One of the ways we’ve tried to counteract any fussy eating spells is by giving Toddler L multivitamin supplements to ensure her nutritional needs are met. She got everything she needed through breast milk at the start, but obviously this didn’t continue forever. When she started weaning, we introduced some vitamin drops – which we got free from the NHS – to her food. We used these until she was about 2.5 years old, but then struggled to get hold of them due to low stock levels locally.
This saw us switch to buying her multivitamins. As the UK’s number one children’s supplement brand, we went with Haliborange and have been giving her one of their chewable ‘softies’ every day since. She’s become so used to this that she won’t eat her breakfast in the morning without her “sweet”, which she proudly displays on the table until she’s ready to stuff it into her mouth – usually alongside Cheerios.
There’s a few different products in the Haliborange range and Toddler L has tried a couple of these. We started with the Multivitamins Softies (strawberry) which contain seven essential vitamins – including Vitamin A, C, D and B12* – for everyday support. However, she’s recently been having the Omega-3 & Multivitamins Softies (Orange) which have the addition of Omega-3 (ALA) fatty acids from flaxseed oil.
Why the change? Well, having recently discovered that the missus and I don’t eat enough Omega-3 (remember the Omega-3 blood experiment where we were considered ’causes for concern’?), logic suggests that Toddler L doesn’t either. She obviously eats very similarly to us, apart from when at nursery two days per week – despite this, I’m pretty sure she’s not overloading on Omega-3 fats by feasting on a platter of mackerel, lake trout, herring and sardines. Beans and spaghetti hoops are much more likely.
Even though we eat fish, it’s not really oily fish. We tend to have the likes of cod, haddock and tinned tuna, which is unlikely to meet the government’s recommendation that all children should consume one 140g portion of oily fish every week. So, being able to give her Haliborange supplements, which not only have the recommended Vitamins A, C and D, but also additional Omega-3 fatty acids, helps us sleep slightly better at night from our Omega-3 deficient bed.
So that’s my experience of having a three-year old fussy eater with a few unconventional and conventional ways we try to make sure she gets what she needs. Does this sound familiar? How do you ensure your kid has a healthy and balanced diet? Let me know below!
Disclosure: This is a commissioned post in collaboration with Haliborange.
*Vitamin A: helps support normal vision, Vitamin C: helps support the immune system, Vitamin D: essential for the normal growth and development of bones in children, Vitamin B12: contributes to normal energy release. Food supplements do not replace a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.