As a Mum of three I have lived through many peace talks with my children at the dinner table. Fussy eating is a common gripe amongst parents and unless you have Supernanny on speed dial, it is something you and your little ones have to solve together. My eldest son is now 8, he is a brilliant eater and will pretty much eat anything I put in front of him other than mashed potato and scrambled egg, I think it’s a consistency issue. However, he wasn’t always a willing eater and I am happy to say it does get easier in most cases. He was an enthusiastic student through the weaning stage, other than the wallpaper paste baby rice, he would happily allow me to spoon feed him fish, meat, vegetables and fruit in any shape or combination with lip smacking pleasure.
Just before his 2nd birthday he had been a bit poorly so was off his food, the doctor informed me that this was the age that they showed their independence about food, no longer enamoured by the high chair and the discovery of food I should expect a bit of fussy eating. I smiled smugly thinking ‘not this child Doc, he ate Coley last week in a cheese sauce with spinach, no fussy eater here my friend’. And as if my Doctor was some weird gypsy casting a curse, within a few days of that appointment my little boy turned into tight-lipped child when the spoon of food headed towards him. When I asked him what was wrong, he replied ‘not like it’. Oh dear. The next week was spent with me cooking dinners and modelling them into some sort of animal to entice my son’s interest. It didn’t work, so I set about liquidising his 5 a day into a pasta sauce to hide any incriminating vegetable but somehow he knew. My son could spot a green vegetable at 50 paces and wasn’t about to give in. Eventually, I returned to the clinic where ‘evil doctor’ had tempted fate to be met with ‘its normal for his age’ or ‘he might be teething, stick with soft foods he likes’. But I didn’t know what he liked anymore, apart from fairy cakes and dried apple rings which didn’t seem to cover his food groups, I was at a loose end.
But we persevered, I kept up my forest scene dinners, ate our dinner at the same time with lots of ‘Mmmmm’s’, determined not to be broken down. Shortly after his 3rd birthday in December, we found out that we were expecting our twins the following August. At the same time, we were also planning our wedding. We had a hell of a year ahead of us so it was time to get our boy eating enthusiastically again. I’m not really sure how it happened but it did, with a bit of persuavive pressure to help Mummy grow the babies, he found his love for food again. I’m not saying it was easy but my son starting school helped. I can clearly remember the day I let him have his first school dinner, it must have been the peer pressure in the canteen but he bounded out of his classroom telling me that he now liked ‘that meaty spaghetti’. I was almost moved to tears, he likes Spaghetti Bolognese again and with my little boy beaming up at me with his red stained mouth I knew I had turned that corner.
Now my eldest is 8 and the twins are 5, unfortunately mealtimes are not plain sailing again. My eldest has remained a food lover but the twins have more than compensated for his enthusiasm. My twin son has a love of all things saturated and I have to ‘breadcrumb’ any type of fish or chicken so he can dunk it in ketchup, whilst my daughter could break a Guinness world record for the longest time sat at a table storing food in her cheeks without chewing. We have covered the checklist of ‘shopping together, ‘baking together’, ‘teaching them about how lucky they are’, but most mealtimes are met with one of the twins uttering that sentence that sends shivers down most parents spines, ‘I don’t like it….’.
However, we had a breakthrough recently. Much like the appeal of McDonald’s and Pizza Express have of getting your children to eat with the whole bribery of toys and treats, I found that kids microwave meals go down a treat with my little ones. It could be my cooking obviously but hubby assures me that it’s not! But my kids love it when they have an individual microwave tray purpose made for them. It’s not a full-time solution as I am always keen to cook with fresh ingredients but as a once a week treat when you have gymnastics and football to squeeze in, it is a lifesaver to have a 3 minute cooking time to deal with. We have long been devout M&S kids microwave meal fans with their Mighty Meaty Pasta becoming a household name in our family. But there is a new microwave kids meal on the market that went down a storm in my house, the No Added Salt range due to hit Tescos this month. A group of Brentwood Mums who were struggling to find organic, free range and naturally healthy food that proved cost-effective and gratefully received by their children, decided to create a new product range of frozen microwave meals.
With this range of meals made by parents for parents, my 3 children were happy guinea pigs last week when we tried out their Spaghetti and Meatballs and Sausage and Mash. The portions were generous and there were plenty of hidden vegetables. My sons devoured their spaghetti and my daughter ate her sausages and mash in an impressive 1 hour 20 minutes, which is good for her. If you’re looking for a night off without your child missing out on a healthy dinner then I would recommend you pop a couple of these in your freezer as a standby. Give yourself a break from blanching tomatoes and customising a pie to look like a hedgehog.