I was blessed with a husband who eats anything, as long as it isn’t raw celery and doesn’t move. My kids, for the most part, also eat pretty much whatever you give them.
So when I was asked about how to feed fussy eaters, I had to do some serious research.
Here’s what I found out.
- Adult picky eaters are recognised as having a specific disorder.
- Kids who are picky eaters may have sensory issues, so they should be assessed for this by an occupational therapist. Now that I am writing this, I remember my son wouldn’t eat anything with ‘things’ in it, so foods with rough textures where out. What 6 year old refuses a chocolate because it is lumpy? He still doesn’t like nuts in chocolate but he eats it.
- You are not alone!
The articles I read on adult picky eaters had a few different root causes. Some of the people stated that they were forced to try foods that physically made them want to be sick. One woman stated that her parents ate a very bland diet of either raw or boiled foods with no flavouring as part of their religion (don’t know what the religion is) and she was forced to eat the same, so she grew up scared to try new things.
A lot of the articles I read stated that adult picky eating is directly related to childhood, whether it was the way your tactile issues were dealt with or the eating habits of your parents.
Look at your fussy eating spouse and see whether he/she only likes certain types of clothes; do labels on clothes irritate them?
You do the same with fussy kids. Do they only like certain fabrics? I remember making my son T-shirt pyjama pants out of T-shirt material and he wore these until they disintegrated because the fabric was soft and the seams didn’t irritate him.
Through my research, I found some very practical ways for you to work around this problem and not drive yourself crazy making different meals for everyone.
The first thing that all the nutritionists and doctors advise on this topic state was not to worry about balanced meals. There is no point in forcing them to eat something they hate. So what if every night is salad and fruit salad? Their diet will eventually give them what they need.
Involve them in your menu planning (menu planning again?). If you find out what everyone likes you can build meals around this. Having a plan on the fridge of what you are making, gives everyone a sense of control.
What are the deal breakers? Find out the foods that they will absolutely not eat. If it is something that you feel like eating, then make a separate meal for yourself now and again! If you can make separate meals for them, why not treat yourself? Make a little extra, you might have someone decide they want a taste of mommies’ food and actually like it.
Let them help. Get the kids and, if you can, the spouse to help actually make the meal. Often, once they see the ingredients which go into the meal, they may be more interested in trying it.
Deconstructed meals- In my house this applies to burgers. The first thing I had to learn was to remake my burger patties, as my family are not mad about the ones from the butcheries. I have posted the recipe before. Click on the link here for it. I will post the link when I publish this article. Each member of my family members likes different toppings on their burgers. So when I am making burgers for supper, I put the cut rolls in a basket and the burger patties on a serving dish. Then in different bowls I put, sliced tomato, sliced pickles, sliced cucumber, onion rings, mushrooms, pineapple, sliced banana (for me), occasionally fried maken* and lastly, lettuce. You don’t need to put out a lot of everything unless everyone likes that particular topping. I have even put sliced Tofu cheese on the table for cheeseburgers. If I made the burgers with vegetarian patties I will use real cheese. You can do this with just about any meal.
Research – there is a site myfridgefood.com where you can type in the ingredients that you have and it will find a matching recipe. I have done this often. I then just tweak the recipe slightly to suit our family and convert to metric measurements when necessary.
Make a food chart. This is a little labour intensive but, if you are struggling, it may be worth it. Get pictures of different foods out of magazines, print them off the internet or even draw them, put them on a chart and then have 3 smiley faces next to them, 1 happy, 1 straight mouth and 1 sad face and let the kids mark the chart. This way you see what they like.
Here are some suggestions for staple foods that most fussy eaters will try.
Plain grilled or baked chicken – gravy on the side for those who want it
Macaroni and cheese – don’t put anything else in. Put tuna or broccoli, or other things, on the side and they can add whatever they want.
Homemade pizza- get the pizza base ready (recipe at this link I will post link when I publish), have your plain, non-spiced tomato base in a separate bowl, the oregano or other herbs separately, the cheese in another bowl and your toppings separately. Let everyone assemble their own pizza, with the rule that if they put it on the pizza they have to eat it.
Green salad or fruit salad
I hope this helps everyone. Let me know how it is going with your home restaurant. If you have solutions that worked for you, please share them with everyone. Remember, you are not alone and your personal experience and solutions can help others.
Images thanks to my friend GOOGLE