And no, it's not because of the ingredients!!
There are many reasons that children struggle to eat. However, there are some factors that often go hand in hand with selective eating.
One of these is constipation. If you have a child that is .. and here's where the soft serve comes in ... not doing BM's the consistency of - yes you guessed it - then there could be an issue.
A soft BM every one to two days is important to keep the system going and stop build up. I know first hand how awful it can be if things go a little wrong in this department. One of my boys got severely constipated (it's a story for another time) and it caused real pain and discomfort.
Being constipated for a long period of time can mean not just discomfort but a stretching of the colon which can take months to rectify. It can also cause bedwetting and bloating.
If we are constipated we are far more likely to approach food differently. For an already selective eater this compounds issues and can reduce appetite.
It is also possible to have BM even with severe constipation so it's important to be looking for the frequent - cough - ice cream-esque movement.
Warm baths, using a foot stool in the toilet, exercise and "going" after meals are all things that can support better BM's.
If you suspect that your child is constipated it's important to get it checked out, especially if it's ongoing. Not surprisingly I have seen this improve the approach to food for children.
This is a photo of my eldest Max and I'm about to share one of my favourite stories with you.
One evening when he was about 2 he said he didn't feel very well at dinner and then proceeded spew all over his chair - eeek! I cleaned him up and he seemed fine so I put him to bed.
The following morning I went to give him his porridge and he said "mummy, I don't feel very well can I have peanut butter on toast instead?".
Now at the time we only had toast - and therefore the peanut butter that he loved - at the weekends. So this for him was something I wouldn't normally offer for breakfast.
But he said he didn't feel well so the mother love came out and I made him peanut butter on toast. Short order cook anyone?
We went out, came back for lunch and I went to give him his chicken, rice and veg and he said (can you guess) YES, "mummy I still don't feel very well, can I have peanut butter on toast?"
Boom. I felt like I'd been slapped. This 2 year old had gone from eating whatever had been put in front of him to only wanting PB on toast in less than 24 hours.
These kids are master manipulators. Do not be taken in by the cute face, the big desperate eyes and the heart-wrenching reasons for not eating the food that's served :)
I was soooo glad Max did this and did it so early on. It put me on high alert lol. I am not a short-order cook and never will be.
As the parent I am in charge of what gets offered. He is in charge of what gets eaten.
I think the "willingly" is the crucial part of this sentence.
Having a child that struggles to eat variety is crushing, especially as we know that the more we try the worse it often seems to get.
Enabling a child to take easy steps forward is what we always aim for. Giving them the confidence that new foods are OK and that something we haven't tried before can be delicious.
This story is that of a lovely mother I worked with last month. Her 4 y.o. comes happily to the dinner table. His very limited range of foods is gradually being expanded. But it's being done at his pace and with him making decisions.
Deciding to eat fish was huge but it was a function of the atmosphere at the table. Calm, nurturing and low pressure. He felt comfortable trying something new and that lead to him eating a sizable amount.
Initially this wasn't the case. He would take a nano nibble of new things (in itself major progress from where he started) but did not have the confidence to eat volume. His mother gradually enabled him to find that confidence.
As she says it's like a super slow walk up a mountain (which is I'm sure is the way it feels) however, when I look at where they have come from in 3 weeks it's still pretty amazing!
Using different colours with our foods or drinks can be great fun with the children.
Blue milk with "Cheerio" fish swimming. Green smoothies - monster juice etc.
There is of course method in the madness:
1. Using colour can be fun. Anything that makes food fun gets a tick in my book. Eating should be a great experience.
2. Initial curiosity may be piqued and we're far more likely to eat something if we're interested in it.
3. Changing the colour is presenting a "different" food and is supporting our children to eat something that is not the same as usual.
4. It can prepare the way for introducing new foods eg. if we're comfortable with a green smoothie we are more likely to accept one that contains green veg.
5. Using foods to add colour is adding new nutrients to the diet eg. beetroot juice to make mash potato pink or spinach juice to colour pasta green.
I love ideas that give parents new strategies to try!
I look at the picture and see endless possibilities :)
When we have a selective eater we are often boxed into a narrow range of foods we can offer. Our child has a list of foods that are acceptable and everything else is "spiders".
However, the first step to wanting to put something in our mouths is having a basic comfort level with it.
We don't willingly eat a food that it outside our comfort zone and we don't build that without getting intimate with it's look, it's feel and it's smell.
This won't happen unless we come close to the food repeatedly.
Serving the foods you want to be eaten (not pressuring to eat, just having them as an option) is the first small step towards having a new food accepted.
Do you repeatedly serve foods you want eaten?
As parents, and especially as mother's we often feel guilt about aspects of our parenting. If only, why didn't I, I should have ....
When it comes to their child's eating it's so easy to feel they are to blame for the lack of variety and volume of vegetables eaten.
But let's add some perspective (backed up by research) to this. Many children are pre-programmed when it comes to their approach to food. Some kids are just not destined to be enthusiastic and confident around eating at the outset.
However, lack of support and conflicting advice can mean that we inadvertently make things worse.On the other side the GREAT news is that the converse is true. We are also in the best position to support our child to eat more widely and that is totally possible.
Often as parents of selective eaters there is the ugly paradox. On the one hand we'd love them to eat more variety but on the other hand we have become too worried to serve them anything new.Not giving children the opportunity to eat new things leads to food jags and funneling.
It means that over time our children do remain focused on the same few foods and are not interested in anything new. The longer this continues the more habits become entrenched and the less flexible children become around new foods.
There are some very simple ways we can support getting variety in front of our children, which is the first step towards more varied eating.
Watch this space for some suggestions to try at home.
It’s a true story, check out the photo.
However, things are often not how they seem on the surface and this is a good example.
Max came to me a few months ago and said he was bored with the toasted muesli my husband makes and wanted to have something different for breakfast.
We discussed what he was angling for and I gave him my parameters. What we eat is, for me, really important and so I have my guidelines :)
He was talking eggs and all sorts of other things but was also cognisant of the fact that mornings are busy and there is only so much time/effort that can be expended.
He was happy to have “non-traditional” foods too. Left-over dinners were OK etc. This would have been the perfect solution if those were not already my lunches for the next day. The thought of cooking enough for him to eat breakfast as well was not a good one. This kid can eat!