As a parent I was adamant that I was going to do all the right things when it came to getting my daughter to eat fruit and vegetables and not become a fussy eater!

There was and still is so much much confusion about when to introduce foods, what type of foods, whether to puree or try baby-led weaning… It’s not easy when we are bombarded with conflicting advice. Advice from parents, advice from friends, books, magazine articles, advertising. One minute it’s 5 a day and then it’s 7 a day, eat dairy, don’t eat dairy… so what is the correct advice?

I think most of it is common sense and with all the stories about the addictive effects of sugar I think the first major decision is to avoid as much processed sugar as possible.

I know at her nursery some parents don’t allow their children to share in the birthday cake celebrations and while I understand the thought process I think denying a child the opportunity to share and join in a celebration is a little sad and perhaps leaves the child wondering why they can’t join in. Perhaps instead of avoiding sweet treats completely, look at some healthy alternatives that use natural sugars, like honey, agarve, stevia and maple syrup. I recently made some delicious chocolate avocado brownies, raspberry protein balls and carrot and beetroot cakes for a school fete… they went down a treat and were all using good ingredients, like raw cacao instead of chocolate, fruit and vegetable powders for colouring and flavouring, dates for sweetening and avocados instead of cream.

Baby-led weaning for fussy eater

When my daughter was 6 months I decided to try the baby-led weaning, it seemed to make sense to get them to explore foods, textures and choose what they want to eat. Yes it was messy and there was lots of waste but she seems to enjoy the process. I didn’t just choose the solid foods, I mixed it with purees just because she liked eating them but added in things like cucumber, bread sticks, houmous, banana, strawberries, grapes (cut in half, length ways to avoid chocking), blueberries and then moving on to broccoli, cauliflower, carrots sticks, sardines on toast, quinoa, rice and pasta. There are some good books telling you what to introduce and when as certain foods should be introduced as they get a bit older and some tasty recipes like Avocado, chicken and potato puree.

She never really liked meat and even now she isn’t really interested but occasionally she will eat some lamb meat balls or chicken goujons. I don’t stress over what she is eating and if she refuses or says she doesn’t like it (even if she has never tried it before) I ask her to try it and then if she still doesn’t like it she leaves it, but I will still keep presenting it and gradually over time it gets introduced into her meal times.

Occasionally I wonder if she is getting all the right nutrients, I have tried vitamin supplements in the past put I think getting a colourful diet is much easier than trying to sneak vitamin powders into her food and drink.

Clever ways to hide veggies for fussy eaters

zingology carrot ice lollie

Zingology carrot ice lollie

We make carrot and beetroot juices and then freeze them into ice lollies, I mix Zingology strawberry and raspberry powders into natural yoghurt and porridge and sprinkle beetroot powder on to salads. She still won’t drink the green drinks although I successfully made a pineapple, spinach, kale and mint green drink which I froze into ice lollies!

She does have sweets but they are limited, all the party bag, christmas and easter treats get put into tins in the cupboard and occasionally she is allowed to pick a treat and we negotiate on how many sweets she can choose, but it is never more that three. It’s now July and we still have sweets left from Christmas and Easter and she rarely mentions them.

Food shopping is treated as a special occasion. I do a lot of mine online with Ocado and then once or twice a month we go food shopping so that she can choose her food for dinner and healthy snacks. Interestingly she now chooses fruit like cherries, apricots and blueberries and vegetables like peppers, sweetcorn, carrots and broccoli  as her treats and we never go down the sweets aisle!

I will never forget the excitement of giving my daughter a corn on the cob to unwrap. She didn’t know what was inside and she shredded all the outside leaves off onto the kitchen floor and was so excited to see that there was a sweetcorn inside, then we cooked it for dinner and has loved corn on the cob ever since.

Drinks are an area that I see as a problem for many parents. My daughter has never had a fizzy drink, there is no need for high sugar drinks, they rot the teeth and are full of sugar. She has always had water, occasionally milk or coconut milk (Koko) and then we buy Rocks organic blackcurrant juice. We make carrot, apple and beetroot juice and if we go out for a meal she has a bottle of apple juice (pressed and not from concentrate). I have a dislike for most children’s drinks, full of sugar, made from concentrate and not a single good thing about them. I know that at some point she will be given fizzy drinks but even now when she is given a carton of juice that is sugar laden she doesn’t drink it and if she is thirty she asks for water.

Have I got it right? She doesn’t eat all the food I prepare but she isn’t a fussy eater. Meals times aren’t stressful, there is rarely a battle over food, she seems healthy and happy and knows when to stop eating when she is full. She likes fresh fruit and vegetables, it might not be an extensive range of foods but that will build over time as she learns to explore and her taste buds mature.

I have enjoyed the process of making new recipes, trying new foods and taking her food shopping. Even though our garden is the size of a postage stamp we grow herbs and the occasional fruit and vegetable… We might only have two figs this year but she now knows what a fig is and last year we only managed to get one successful pumpkin but it’s the excitement of seeing it grow, picking and eating it that gets her interested in new foods. A few weeks ago I saw her out in the garden with the neighbours children getting them to try the salad burnet and telling them that it tasted like cucumber, the three children tried the rocket, mint and lemon balm laughing and giggling as they picked and smelt the leaves…

Tips to avoid a fussy eater

  • A food needs to be presented about 10 – 20 times before a child will try or accept a food, don’t expect them to love it the first time they see it and don’t give up just because they didn’t like it.
  • Don’t force them to eat, encourage them to try and negotiate on how much they need to eat.
  • If they like certain foods make a meal including a few of the things they love and then introduce a new food for them to try.
  • Take them shopping and show them all the amazing fruit and vegetables available, get them to choose something for dinner, take it home and ask them to help prepare it.
  • Sometimes they might not like food cooked so try and offer it raw. Just because you are having a sunday roast doesn’t mean you can’t offer raw carrots instead of cooked!
  • Try fun ways to introduce fruit and veg, we use Zingology fruit and vegetable powders and then bake cakes together using these sparkly powders. Stir them into yoghurts or porridge.
  • Don’t exclude treats but do limit them. Try and have healthy treats made with good ingredients, natural sugars, nuts, seeds, dates, coconut and raw chocolate.
  • Try rice or coconut milk instead of cows milk on their cereal especially if they can’t handle dairy.
  • Try quinoa, brown rice and brown pasta instead of the refined white.
  • Visit a health food store and see what healthy alternative there are such as nut butters instead of the cheap peanut butter. Rice cakes, protein bars and snacks, protein powders for fruit smoothies.
  • Serve water with the meal, try juicing and if you do want juice buy something like Rocks or Zingology powders.
  • Avoid fast food places like MacDonalds and KFC there are plenty of local cafes and restaurants that can offer fresh, healthy and tasty foods.
  • Ask your children to help make the meals, try making home made pizzas where they choose their own toppings from a selection of vegetables.
  • Most of all have fun with your food and drinks and before long you won’t have a fussy eater.

Introducing whole food and juice powders

Whole food and juice powders are an amazing way to sneak fruit and veg into the diet of a fussy eater. Zingology powders take the organic fruit and vegetable and use a gentle process to extract the water molecules leaving all the vitamins and nutrition intact. In studies at Washington State University Zingology strawberry powder was shown to retain the same vitamin C content as its original fruit. These powders are very different to freeze dried powders as they taste good enough to eat off the spoon, they can be used to turn back into juice, freeze juices into ice lollies, bake into bakes, stir into dips like houmous, hide carrot powder in baked beans, soups and stews. These powders can be a good send for parents of a fussy eater.