Monday, 7 September 2009

New recipes and fussy eaters

Reader, I have a confession. Well, a typically middle class Mummy confession. Adam, my eldest, my four year old, is a fussy eater. Not just a little bit fussy either, he is a full on, will not eat, meal times can be a misery fussy eater. He's been this way since he was about 8 months following a particularly nasty stomach virus. Obviously he will eat chocolate, crisps and anything bad for him. I am actually thinking of renting him out as a quick way of working out whether food is good or bad for you, on the basis that if he will eat it with enthusiasm and without coaxing, it is without a doubt the worst type of processed, sugar/salt filled food available.

We don't stop trying though. Every night I cook something vaguely healthy and try to get him to eat it. Some nights we manage ok. Others turn into a bit of a showdown. Sometimes I can deal with it, sometimes I can't (as Charlotte Moerman of the Buggy Blogs writes in her book Instructions Not Included writes 'hell after all hath no fury than a mummy whose laboriously made fish pie has been rejected').

As a fully paid up member of the middle class mummy society, this inability to get my son to crunch down on a raw carrot for snacks or to eschew crisps for a bit of filled gem lettuce leaves often feels as a downright failure. Of more concern though is the thought that his younger brother will watch this little behaviour trick and take it on board for himself. Currently Luke eats most things, but I can already see that he has learnt from Adam, and the vegetables are getting more difficult to get down him by the day.

In short then, I'm desperate for ideas, for any help in how to get healthier food into Adam. So when Ebury Books asked me if I'd like to review some Annabel Karmel recipe books, of course I jumped at the chance.

Now, I'm no stranger to Ms. Karmel. Of the three recipe books we bought out with us to Bosnia, 2 were hers. So sending me more of her books is a bit like preaching to the converted. But, any new recipes, anything that might become acceptable to my little fusspot, are very desirable. First they sent me the latest Annabel Karmel New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. This is the fourth edition and I have a previous edition with me, so I was able to complete a fairly exhaustive compare and contrast. At least, of the chapter 5 which was the only part of the book relavant to me now with 2 toddlers in the household. Much as I wish to Blog with Integrity and conduct a thorough and exhaustive review, going back to pureeing food was never going to happen. Anyway, I can confirm that the new edition looks pretty good, has colour pictures and a couple of pretty pastel pages, but the core of the book, the recipes and the information that comes with it is pretty similar.

Luckily for me they rapidly realised their mistake and proceeded to send me the Complete Family Meal Planner which was far more appropriate. So for the last month I have been testing out a range of different recipes. As I mentioned before, I've got a few of her books, so wasn't surprised to see many of the recipes were repeated here. She has a few themes which she uses often. A meal based around meat or chicken with soy sauce, honey, garlic and lemon (or a variety of) are commonly found in the book, definitely delicious and sadly not acceptable by my little fusspot. On the other hand her Hidden Tomato Vegetable Sauce is the only way to get Adam to ingest any form of vegetables at all, as long as I don't get over excited and try to hide too many vegetables in it. That mistake took me about 6 months to recover from, so for anyone else thinking of trying to sneak a few extra veggies in that way, think twice. Her Bang Bang chicken is the only dish that I can confidently say will lead to a clean plate. The Chicken and Apple Ball recipe was a surprising success too.

I have two gripes with the recipes though. The first is her assertion that fussy children will eat food if it is presented well. So, there are such incidents as the Teddy Bear Rissoles with olive and peas for eyes and carrots for the ears. Now, in this household, for food to touch anything that is red, orange or even (heaven forbid!) green apparently means that the entire plate is rendered unfit for human consumption. There is no way that I would ever be able to persuade him otherwise. I know that Ms. Karmel is supposed to have had a fussy eater as a child, but in my experience this tactic takes up a lot of time and will lead to certain misery at the meal times.

The second moan is that I find her dishes can be unnecessarily complicated. Not to cook, for even someone with my meagre culinary skills can manage them pretty easily, but in the food. In our experience we have found that the best way to get the fusspots to eat something is to keep it as simple as possible. So, for example, rather than fill burgers with breadcrumbs, onions, chopped red peppers and parsley, we are far better off going to the butchers, getting the best quality meat possible, getting the butcher to mince it, make it into a patty and cook it with nothing else added at all.

But I'm whinging. I've already said that I'd be lost without her books. Anyone with children who doesn't have one of her books on their shelf should. On the other hand, if you already have one (or two or even, like me, 5) then you probably won't gain too much from these additional ones.

Right what's for dinner?


Liz (LivingwithKids) said...

My son is also a fussy eater. He doesn't like anything 'mushy'.(He has a few allergies but nothing insurmountable.) Basically after lots of experimenting his menu is now quite boring. The only veggies he will eat are green beans, carrots and mange tout, so I stuff him full of smoothies (yes yes shop bought). He likes chicken, fish and proper hamburgers. No chips (!) But the one thing he insists on (and always has done)is that his food looks like food, not like snakes or clown faces or whatever. I love Annabel's recipe books (particularly the new party one,absolutely stunning) but some children (ie mine) don't like their food to be 'disguised'. They like to know what they're getting.

Kat said...

I have a fussy eater who is slowly getting out of the habit. One tip I can spare is maybe having him help prepare his food. This worked magic with LaLa. For instance if I was making scrambled eggs, I would let her mix the eggs. Just little things like that might make him more interested.

yummymummytips said...

I have 2 fussy eaters - and by that I mean really fussy. The won't eat, chicken, fish, pork (except sausages), lamb, turkey, beef (except burgers), green vegetables (except pees), salad - of any kind.

One of the two mentioned fussy eaters will also not eat fruit.

Mealtimes for me are hell and we I have to admit have just about given up eating out all together because I cannot stand the stress of it all.

What really gets me down is that when they were babies they were great eaters, then the older one was ill for quite a while and we just couldn't get him to eat any of the stuff that he used to love. His little sister just followed suit and she is now worse than he is.

But my youngest will eat just about anything that you put in front of her.
I have always used Annabel's book and now that the children are older we cook together on a Saturday night. Last week my oldest begrudgingly chose to make Lamb Khoftas and then fretted about it all day.
We all had fun cooking and he had seconds - which was a huge victory result for me. Middle daughter ate the pitta bread and nothing else but without Annabel's fab books to boost me along I fear they may be eating jacket potatoes every day!

Gail said...

Our eldest was super fussy and we have had some bad scenes (she used to be able to vomit up unwanted food after being put under pressure to eat it - onto the table - nice...).

She is now 8 and eats well, but I dont think we did anything clever apart from consistently insisting that she eat some of her "healthy" food and never giving her anything else to snack on to fill her up. It is actually true that a kid will not starve itself (even though it sounds so harsh when you are told it and you fear the tempers that will ensue when angry hungry child (much worse than just angry child) is having a tantrum. The way to finally break her spirit was that we used to insist that she ate some fruit in the morning before ANYTHING else. She was not allowed any breakfast until she had eaten a piece of pineapple, or melon - she usually had a choice. So she started getting 1-a-day and we built from there. But ultimately, I think it is all about control from the kids - they can control what they eat and they cotton on pretty damn quick that it bothers you if they don't eat what you want.

Honestly, I am now on my third, and i just barely comment on what she eats. Make no fuss, have no reaction to her eating things, just keep quietly serving her healthy meals full of colour, variety and nice flavours.

Good luck. Don't let yourself get too tattered over it. I also know families who eat a load of crap and their kids are all alright, doing well at school, not social misfits. I know that it is not the best, and you should instill healthy eating habits in your kids from an early age to ensure they lead a happy and lengthy life, but there is so much about nutrition these days that I think we can all become a bit obsessed. If you eat nice food at home, healthy stuff, and the kids don't see you and your husband stuffing nachos or burgers all day into your gobs, they will probably copy your habits in the end.

Half Mum Half Biscuit said...

I agree with Kat - getting Dylan helping in the kitchen means he is more likely to try things, also if he can grow or pick it, it helps to. Failing that getting him to choose it from the supermarket...I think it does take a while for kids to get used to 'new' tastes, so sometimes I let him off with just 'tasting' whatever it is...good luck!

Rebel Mother said...

Olly is completely the otherway. Eats anything and everything including snails and worms if I dont watch him! Strange child.

Amber is a pain and picks at her food like a sparrow.

Well done on those cookbooks - I may take a look at those.


Mamma Po said...

I feel for you Bib as my daughter was also horribly fussy and as a result painfully thin...until about a year ago when she suddenly decide that food was good and has proceeded to morph into the eating machine. She is only just 4 so there is yet hope for young Adam!

In the meantime, check out the efforts of this father of a fussy eater Awesome hah?

wify in england´s pampa said...

No matter how worried I might be about what my son prefers to eat or what he refuses even to try, I decided for myself that my child (4yrs) will never ever hear or suspect I'm worried about it. I am keeping an eye on what he is eating daily and sometimes have every reason to be worried and call him a fussy eater, as my mother did with me, but I ignore it and let him decide what he wants to eat. I myself decide what comes on the table. It works very good for now. It makes it a bit difficult if we go to our relatives or friends. As soon as my son is eating only bread or potatos, they start making comments or even ask me to make an extra meal for him. Something he likes. When I refuse it, they give me that look, that makes me feel a very bad mother for a moment, but I can reassure them that kids on holidays do not have to have special treatment and that they can live a couple of days eating unhealthy or always the same stuff. There is only one thing, if we are having a meal home, together as a family, we are all supposed to enjoy it. No spoken worries, no struggle about another bite, no comments on what is he refusing to eat. I am cooking for all of us and it is a good compromise, also mostly healthy, lot of vegetables, nothing fried, lot of stews and soups. Pizza, chips from the oven and spaghetti in tomato sauce are also part of our menu but only as often as we all can bear it. My son does not eat everything I put in front of him and I never insist on "only another eight bites". He eats sometimes very good and sometimes like a small bird. But most important: he looks healthy (not only to me) and is quite happy to hear every time, no matter how much and if he had only rice and yoghurt or if he did go for some extra with chicken and cellery sauce that he is a great eater. And I completely agree, it's always more fun if he can cook with me. I makes him also proud if his suggestions what to buy in the supermarket are welcome. My suggestion: stop worrying, unless the pediatrics say your child is undernourished, everything is just fine. Food and cooking should be fun and if you enjoy the game your kid will follow.

Pablo (yo) said...

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Pablo from Argentina

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Liz - smoothies are a bit of a life saver here too - although I have to make them as they aren't in the shops. Sounds like you are doing well on the veggie front, carrots are an occasional and nothing green here, not even peas!

Kat - Thanks for the tip. Funnily enough that was exactly how we finally got Adam into eating eggs. Do you ever manage to get her involved with making bigger type things?

YMT - Mealtimes out can get really stressful with fussy eaters. I've decided not to get stressed about it though, and figure that he'll grow out of it in the end. I dream of getting them to make Lamb Khoftas, looking forward to that day arriving!

Gail - Yes, we've had the vomiting onto the table trick too. I think you are so right though. I've decided to stop worrying, let him get on with eating what he wants, no snacks in the afternoon at all and keep serving up the food. Seems to be working as he is improving... slowly!

HMHB - Thanks, it is exhausting!

RM - One of each! Goes to show that each child is different.

MP - Adam is just 4 too, and is improving... slowly. He is also pretty thin, but his Dad was that way and I think genetically he is destined to be slim. Going to check out that link right now!

Wify - thanks. I have a whole post brewing about Bosnian children who seem to eat everything and can say 'ah, I don't fancy any more chocolate' which mine CAN'T do. I think you have totally the right attitude. If the kids know eating is a pressure point then they will play up a bit. Do you know the Annabel Karmel books? If not, and to truely integrate into British Mummy culture then you should have a look at some. They are great. I've given a copy to the a teacher at the boys nursery and she is translating a few recipes to try out.

Josie @Sleep is for the Weak said...

Oh dear I going to be the awful mother here. I got put off Annabel Karmel's books cause they seemed so complicated! I'm so lazy...

Kai's 14 months and we took a baby-led weaning approach with him so he's only ever eaten regular family foods with us from the start. So toddler foods always seem like a huge effort - I tend to prefer cook books with just good, basic family nosh in them.

Luckily it seems to have worked quite well and generally he's a brilliant, none-fussy eater. I say generally - there are still days where he'll eat nothin but yoghurt or cucumber but I feel has the POTENTIAL for none fussy habits.

I guess time will tell - give me six months and maybe I'll be begging Annabel (and you!) for tips!!

Mummy said...

You have almost certainly tried this but letting Eve pick and cook her own food seems to work. She is a bit smaller, but it might work. At weekends, when we all eat together, we just dump a pile of stuff on the table, almost all of which is healthy, and let her pick. I even got her to eat lettuce this way last weekend, when normally she screws up her face at it and shouts "no" loudly.

We also cook her food together and she gets to pick what goes into her sauces. She seems to prefer eating things she has made herself. Long may it last!

As an aside, I was a horribly fussy eater as a child and seemed to have survived on mainly fish fingers and white bread.

nappy valley girl said...

Brit, I feel your pain. Littleboy 1has been a fussy eater since he was first weaned. It's not so much that he only eats junk - he likes unusual things likes salami and houmous and won't touch chocolate -but he only eats a very limited repetoire of foods and vegetables are pretty much off limits. I have, however, persevered with a few things and he will now eat carrots. But it took a lot, lot, lot of persuasion. We started with dipping them into humous, and now he will eat them by themselves and really likes them.

He does eat fruit, so I just make sure he has plenty of that. And I have noticed that now he is four, he is prepared to be a tiny bit more adventurous with new foods.

So my advice would be, keep trying new things and eventually he will surprise you and there will be something he likes. (Both my boys surprised me hugely by liking chicken teriyaki recently - I know for a fact they would not have eaten it six months ago). But there is nothing more frustrating than a fussy child and I have been known to throw food across the room in fury!

gaelikaa said...

Being Irish, I have given my kids the habit of eating potatoes, potatoes and more spuds. I regret it now. Indian chickpea curry (chhole) is one dish they relish. Other than that, bring on the spuds....thanks for your congrats Emily. It means a lot. I got quite a surprise on potd today!

Sandy Calico said...

There was a TV documentary on last year called 'My Child Won't Eat'. I felt sooo much better about my parenting skills after I watched it. One child only ate Cheesy Wotsits and Cadbury's chocolate products, another ate only yoghurt. You get the idea. They were healthy though! The main message was that the most important thing is to get calories into children. This is a difficult concept to grasp for those of us wondering why our little ones won't eat raw cauliflower as a snack, like the good children do in the parenting books! Hang in there. Apparently they grow out of it. x

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Josie - the books are not too difficult as long as you don't get too involved in making snakes and boats out of every meal! So gret that he is not a fussy eater though. Go Kai!

Mummy - Adam does do a fair amount of contributing to the cookking, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. He does however seem to be growing out of it and I cling to the fact that there are fussy eaters out there who go on to be pretty adventurous - I take it you eat more than fish fingers and white bread now!

NVG - it is so frustrating to cook something and not have it even touched! I remember reading about your boys surprisingly liking for chicken teriyaki with some envy, even tried out an Annabel recipe for it, but no. Adam, is getting better though. I think he's growing out of it, slowly. Wish he'd hurry up a bit though!

Gaelikka - POTD so well deserved! I guess you can put potato in curry and feed both your cultural origins in one dish!

SC - I didn't see it, I might go and see if it is available to watch online. I can see that he is growing out of it, we'll get there in the end. I'm far more chilled about it now than I was 18months to a year ago. Thanks for the support!

Iota said...

My children have always scorned my attempts to turn food into smiley faces or pigs or mice or whatever it is.

Great reviews.

Gringa-n-Mexico said...

I've got a recipie for chocolate cake that has pureed mixed vegtables in it (sounds insane but works!) I'll get it for you.

You've been doing a lot of research so I guess you've heard of squishing up califlower and hiding it in your mashed potatoes? I do it to my husband and he doesn't know it.

Will he eat a burrito? I've found I can hide all sorts of pureed vegetables among the meat. Add on extra calcium cheese and call it a day - and yeah, my husband thinks he's eating meat&cheese only.

Silly man.

Apple chips? Bannana chips?

Good luck to you, I'll come back with the cake recp.