Tackling Fussy Eating

In September 2011 I decided to tackle ben’s fussy eating, it didn’t go quite as planned but progress was made, below is a diary of what happened.

Day 9 – 18th September 2011

I prepared the tomato sauce earlier today and even pushed it through a sieve, there was onion, mushroom, carrot and leek in it.

Ben has eaten today, 2 bowls of cheerios, toast at 10 am, 3 crackers, 2 fruitapuras and a bag of organix crisps.

He helped me prepare the pasta bake, cutting up the veg and chicken and stirring and adding.  I didn’t top his half with cheese, just crisps and the mushroom and pepper were huge so easily picked out.

He was clearly starving as was asking again and again for bread before it was ready, I refused.

We sat down, I put just the pasta and chicken on his plate covered in the secret sauce.

One thing to add was when we went food shopping earlier the supermarket had 2 new Cars 2 cars that we don’t have, the boy has a serious addiction to them and would sell me for new ones.  I agreed to buy 2 but explained clearly that when we got home they would go on the shelf until after dinner.  If he ate his dinner he could choose one to open after and keep.  even though I had not wanted to do the bribe thing I also wanted to see exactly how far his heels would dig in.

So we sat down for dinner with the car cruelly placed on the shelf next to us in its box.  He would not touch the food, wouldn’t even pick a piece up, just repeated he wanted it without sauce.  Annoyingly he did eat some of the pasta like this yesterday O.K.

I kept firm and repeated no eating, no cars.

He got very sad when he realised that I 100% meant it, but still refused all food.

This is just crazy, he is starving hungry, desperately wants the new cars but won’t even force down a few bits.

He then tried his new trick of he was tired and can he go to bed, I told him to get down but no it wasn’t bed time.

I feel beaten now and no idea where to go to except to giving up with any veg, accept that maybe in years to come he might get better and keep offering and go with the pasta and chicken.  But it is clear that the usual making him hungry will not fix this, nor will ignoring, bribing, or not offering an alternative or pudding until he tries it.

Seeing your little boy in floods of real tears as he is so frustrated was very hard as I did that (I know I didn’t and it is for his good and all that but still)

So I think scale it back, offer the chicken with pasta (going to try rice too) plain, maybe try some fish?  And try calling Super Nanny?

Day 8 17th September 2011

So I decided to try a different meal today, we went shopping for the ingredients together, Ben was very enthusiastic about helping get the onions etc.  he also asked for a parsnip, so yes we had one of those too.

We did all the preparation together, me helping him to peel and chop all the veg, pour the pasta in and then he stood and stirred it all.  We were going for a chicken, mushroom, leek, pepper, onion tomato bake with cheese and crisps on top.  He took a bite of the raw mushroom and swallowed when we were chopping it up.  It was only when I was pouring the mix into the pasta did I realise I had forgotten he chicken. Ah well!

He enjoyed putting the crisps on top and shovelling a large handful in when I was not looking.  It went in the oven and then the “I don’t like” started, I ignored.  We sat down and he poked through it and found a couple of crisps crumbs that weren’t ‘infected’ and ate those and then started getting annoyed that it was all covered in tomato.

I ate mine and gently encouraged him to eat bits, he tried a circle of leek, chewed it and then spat out.  I think he actually liked it but was determined not to eat it.  It then kind of went downhill.

He decided he didn’t want any so I asked him to get down then so I could finish mine, I said no yoghurt or anything else (No TV is a given as it is confiscated at the moment for a small car v’s TV incident a couple of days ago)  then I tried something new to really test his will.  I said I would be having a yoghurt after my dinner as I’d eaten lots of it.  He had got down at this point and got very sad that I would be eating HIS yoghurt, I was calm but firm and just explained the same thing again (and again) that if he ate 3 bits of pasta he could have a yoghurt.  He did sit back down and ate one piece covered in tomato sauce, this was a first.  He then tried a 2nd bit but it has a small lump of tomato on it and was spat out.  And that was the end of it and he then just said he wanted to go and have a bath and go to bed (5.20 p.m.)

I forced myself to eat 2 small petit filous (yuck) to make the point, it was horrible and felt cruel to do it but it just shows the strength of his determination.  I ended up bathing him and he was in bed for 6 p.m.

I had a long hard think about all this and the issues and the next move.  I have spent the last few months telling people that he would be the child who would starve himself rather than eat what he didn’t like and I think I have proved that this week.  He will go to bed hungry every night rather than eat the dinner in front of him.  And long term that is not a goer for me.

So time to think outside the box (again)

Looking at the positives this week, he has eaten new things so I think the thing is to focus on that and work on that.  He did eat the pasta with sauce on so think I am going to do the same dinner tonight BUT I am going to do the sneaky hidden veg thing.  So my plan for today is to pre make a hidden veg tomato sauce that has no lumps or bits.  Then use that, add some chicken and big peppers and mushrooms (so he can pick out and feel in control of that bit, but hopefully eat some chicken!) and then ad the pasta and do the crisps on top but no cheese on his half.

I have had a few people say to me this week that their child won’t eat potato at all so going to bin that idea and focus on other things, he will eat pasta, I am going to try rice later in the week if the sauce thing goes well.

I was looking at the Annabel Karmel site this morning and she has a load of baby sauce recipes,  so again the current plan is to try these out, get the goodness into him anyway I can and the flavours.  Once he accepts some/any of these then we could try other things.

And yes, I am almost treating him like a 9 month old and doing weaning again, but I don’t see any other option right now and he will be having them with adult pasta / rice and has no issues with chewing and lumps but his head (and will) is stopping him eating a variety of things.

So another new plan, a new day and lets see where tonight takes us.

Day 7 – September 16th 2011

Home for lunch and breakfast and has his usual stuff at the table with me.  Dinner he helped me prepare it all, he is loving that bit, peeling and chopping the veg.  We sat down and he happily ate all the chicken with no fuss and enjoyed it all.  I again encourgaed him to eat the mash in particular.  But no joy.

I said no story and ‘talking’ before bed if no mash eaten, he said fine ad he wanted to go to bed now (5.20 p.m.)  He was in bed asleep by 5.45 p.m.

So I really feel the chicken eating is cracked, he is happily eating it which is great, but I don;t think we will move on from him just eating that with this meal.  I can’t take anything else away and I don’t want to as I don’t really want to bribe him to eat stuff, that isn’t the point of this.  I also don’t want to make him unhappy in the rest of his life due to this.

So after a bit of a think about the next logical step for us I think it is a pasta, chicken, pepper and mushroom bake, possibly with crunchy crisps on the top?  In a tomato sauce.  He used to eat similar (without the pasta and crisps) when weaned onto lumps as a baby.  He will be horrified at the sauce, he doesn’t do sauce, but my logic is that he will either have to pick through it to eat the chicken and/or pasta and maybe will get he flavour of the pepper.  He has eaten raw mushrooms a couple of times when helping me chop stuff, so maybe he will eat that?

But now I am frustrated and feel a bit of a failure, I guess as much as I hadn’t got my hopes up I was expecting a bit of a miracle with the veg in that he might eat at least 1 of them.  The chicken is good I know, but I think it was familiar from chicken fingers.

Had a wobble earlier in that I hit the ‘this is pointless’ stage, he is fine, forget it all.  But then though about it, yes eating the same dinner nearly all week hasn’t been that great for me BUT the sitting down together has been lovely.  The having my dinner before he is in bed has meant I have been eating a proper dinner too (instead of take away/toast/nothing as often happens)

If anyone at all has any thoughts on my next plans or this whole thing please PLEASE let me know!

2 ‘people’ who have enjoyed this week are The Cats they have quite enjoyed all the rejected chicken and thrown food 😉

Day 6 – September 15th 2011

At Grandmas for dinner so he had just pasta.

Day 5 – September 14th 2011

A nursery day today, I collected him and we came home, he was so tired (as was I!) the temptation to give in to the “Can I have crackers? was high but I didn’t.  I cooked the same dinner again.  We sat down and he poked and we chatted about the food.  He said he would just eat the chicken, could he take off the veg so I said ok but he must choose 1 he is going to eat with the chicken.  He chose potato.

And this is where it got interesting…

After some gentle encouragment, he picked up the chicken but said it was cold and he wanted it hot, I calmly said ok and went and got some from the baking tray that was still hot (his had been hot but obviously the sitting down to the eating is taking a while ;)) He them proceeded to not only eat the warm chicken, but rub him tummy and make “mmmmmm” noises.  He ate a lot of chicken, refusing the cold bits but eating all the new bits I was cutting up.  Funny how towards the end the new bits were actually cold but he ate them.  It wouldn’t be ANYTHING to do with him controlling that bit of the eating would it *whistles to self*

He ended up putting some mash into his mouth but spitting it out – it was cold by then.  So no yoghurt.  And he really wanted one too.

So now to decide do I carry on with the same meal, give up and accept he is eating chicken now and just serve that with pasta or try a new meal tomorrow?

Oh and here is the boy who 2 days ago lobbed the dinner across the floor as he didn’t like chicken.



Day 4 – September 13th 2011

Ben was with Grandma all day, he asked for pasta with his chicken and veg for dinner, he ate just the pasta.

Day 3 – September 12th 2011

Ben has been at nursery all day, eaten his pack lunch and I collected him at 5 p.m. and he was hungry.  When we got home he was asking for bread, toast, crackers etc.  I said no I was getting our dinner ready.  He helped me chop the carrots and broccoli and potatoes today.

We sat down for dinner, I had added a bit of variety of corn on the cob and spinach.  He sat happily and he said he was going to just eat the chicken.  He looked at it and then said he didn’t like it, he picked up various bits of the dinner and inspected it and then refusedit all.  I was sitting with him eating mine up whilst not reacting except general chat about the food.

He asked for toast, bread or crackers several times but I kept replying that this was our dinner now.  I made it clear again there would be no tv and no yoghurt.  He got annoyed and as predicted the plate went flying.

I did not react at all, just kept eating my dinner.  He then said he wanted chicken so I picked up the plate and gave him some of my dinner.  About 30 seconds later the plate went flying again.  Lucky Denby bounces (and also this hideous carpet has its uses) But again I didn’t react, I finished my dinner and said OK lets go up to bed then.

When we got down we carried on as normal, I was not annoyed or cross.

Upstairs he asked if he was allowed a story, I said yes tonight but that would be stopping if he didn’t eat his dinner.

So tonight he is starting to see I am serious and he is pushing the boundaries to get a reaction, only problem is I am ready for this now!  Yes I am having a few doubts of course, but knowing he ate the chicken 2 days ago happily and asked for more proves this is about control.

I am trying not to predict the next few days and decide how long I am doing this, as I have no idea what way it will go.  But hopefully he will start eating at least 1 type of veg, and the chicken and then we can move onto the next meal!

Day 2 – September 11th 2011

We were out for most of the day but got home at 4p.m and I started to make the same dinner, Ben didn’t want to assist today.  We sat down and he refused it all.  He looked at the chicken carefully then said no he didn’t like it.  I again remained calm, and clearly explained that there would be no dinner or tv before bed.  He said ok and that he would have his breakfast in the morning.  Frustrating.

Day 1 – September 10th 2011

So after some thought I have decided to tackle the very limited diet Ben eats.  At the moment he eats only the following

  • Fruitapura pouches
  • Various cereal including shreddies, cheerios and rice crispies
  • Most bread products including bread sticks, rolls, toast, bread, crackers etc
  • Baked beans
  • Sometimes but getting less sausages, chicken and fish fingers
  • Pasta
  • Yoghurt

He will then eat (still in a fussy/picky way) biscuits, chocolate, crisps if allowed but only very specific ones/varieties

I have been in circles with tackling this or accepting he is healthy and growing, but after some thought about his personality, other areas of our lives, how we have got to this point and watching an episode of Supper Nanny (and a kick up the backside from the lovely Kairen) I am tackling it.

The plan in my head is to stop him snacking and asking for food all day long and to eat at specific times (as in Nursery) allow him his normal, safe lunch of crackers and fruitapura, snacks will only be toast and maybe yoghurt.

I am going to tackle the restricted diet with a main dinner, after reading all the for and against arguments of doing this, all the pussy footing around the children I just think, he is 3 ½, he has great understanding, he is more than aware of the control he can exert over me and this is what food has become, control, and I have let him do it to me.  So time for me to become the parent I need to be and show him that food is yummy and he needs to eat what his dinner is.

The knock on effect being I will also eat better and with him.  Our family might just be the 2 of us but that is no excuse not to eat as a family.

So yesterday I started implementing this, he often eats 2 bowls of cereal for breakfast and then 20 minutes later says he is hungry, yesterday I said he had to wait until ‘snack time’ and he could have toast. He asked a few times and I gave the same response.  He waited and ate the toast at 10.30 am.

Lunch was as normal and then we went to the supermarket and went and chose the food and veg.  I decided that for a week (ish) we will eat the same dinner, roast chicken breast, potato, carrots, peas, sweetcorn and broccoli.  He has not eaten anything like this since around a year old in a casserole.  Other than that he has only eaten processed chicken in fingers and mash in waffles, faces form.

So as per all the advice he helped me prepare all the food, chopping and peeling and seeing it go in the oven.  We sat down when it was ready, I fully expected tears, plate thrown, the works.  But no, after a brief chat and repeating that this was dinner, there would be nothing else he ate the chicken and asked for more.  He went on to lick the broccoli and carrots but refused to eat.  He ate a mouthful of mash but refused to try the peas and sweetcorn.  But no tantrum or tears.

Before bed he kept saying he was hungry and I just kept reminding him he needs to eat more dinner tomorrow so his tummy is full.  Through all the dinner and shopping I have kept it all calm, no pressure, just gentle encouragement.  But always firm and consistent.

But for day 1, a positive result.




  1. 12 September , 2011 / 7:18 am

    Yay for you! Well done for being calm but firm and making sure he understands that there’s nothing else available. It’s so easy when they won’t eat what you give them to offer an alternative just so that something gets eaten (my problem!). Can’ wait to see how you get on with this and thanks for linking up at the Fussy Eaters Support Club 😀

  2. 12 September , 2011 / 9:59 pm

    Just read your update. It’s so hard isn’t it? Sending you loads of luck for the rest of the week. Keep strong lady!

  3. 16 September , 2011 / 7:48 pm

    Your not a failure, you have got chicken into his diet which wasnt there last week. You also been enjoying meal times together.
    How about asking him what he would like to go with the chicken? Get him to choose between a few things though dont give him an open choice as you will be there all day.
    How about in day to day life make it into a game, how many things can you think of that would go with chicken? Mine were old enough to point out and recognised words so we use to look at menus and on adverts. Who scored the most points got to choose what for tea, sort of thing .

    Rambling now as hoping it gives you some ideas. Oh and also see if your mum can join in. My two wouldn’t eat tomatoes in any form but at Grandmas they ate tomatoes in any form.

    • 2 Stars and a Swirl
      16 September , 2011 / 8:07 pm

      Yes I think we will go shopping tomorrow so he can choose the actual things in the supermarket to go with it. Wondering what kind of sauce would be least scary for him? And also if to move to a lunch time slot tomorrow, and that is all food on offer?

  4. 16 September , 2011 / 8:13 pm

    Surprisingly mine both loved an still do curry sauce, very mild though. If he likes tomato sauce then a tomato flavoured sauce might be worth trying. Maybe gravy with the chicken too?

    • 2 Stars and a Swirl
      16 September , 2011 / 8:18 pm

      He won’t do any sauces so far, won’t try ketchup or gravy. He will eat garlic bread though so garlic is ok.

  5. 17 September , 2011 / 7:47 am

    Keep going lady! It’s brilliant that you’ve gotten him to eat chicken,DD won’t touch meat of any kind 🙁 so I would keep going. The bake sounds like a great idea especially with the crisps on top. Go for it!

  6. 25 October , 2011 / 2:08 pm

    Hi there,

    just reading your post. I’m afraid (for you, not me) that our daughter is a pretty good eater, so I’m not too sure what to suggest as you seem to be doing all the ‘right’ things.

    My only two-pence worth would be 1) on one Super Nanny she seemed unsurprised that a 4 year old girl refused food for 12 days(!) and said she would be OK as long as she was still getting drinks and would soon eat once she saw there was no other option and 2) for foods my daughter won’t try or “doesn’t like” without even eating, I just ask her to lick a piece. We did this about 5 times with melon and then one day she took a bite and decided she did like it. Maybe worth a try?

    Good luck and keep going!! 🙂

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