A spoonful at a time: Fussy eating and a picky toddler

Why does my child not LOVE food and eating the way I do?

There are good days and bad days… Today is a very good day, considering she has a cold: 5 tsp oats, 8 tsp thai chicken soup, a whole orange! and its only midday!Whoop whoop! But when it’s bad it’s really bad… like 3 teaspoons of noodles, a biscuit and a bottle of milk, for a whole day. But of course, a packet of chips disappears no problem.

You may think that I am exaggerating, that it’s just fussy toddler-eating but unfortunately my fears were confirmed by a clinic nurse and paed, DD is about 2-3 kg under the recommended weight for her height ( based on growth curve and percentile thingy). Paed says if she doesn’t gain sufficiently in the next month, she may need to prescribe something to increase appetite…I am not an all organic and natural type, but when it comes to my DD I try to avoid unnecessary chemicals, additives, and medication… so hence my drive to get this kid fattened up. Also a low weight could affect immunity, and with DD at crèche I don’t need a compromised immune system as well.

As mom, I am frustrated, stressed out, concerned and guilty, and I feel so alone in this struggle…

Moms are responsible for offering healthy food often, offering variety…I feel like I have done this, for the most part. I am partly to blame for my DDs fussy eating and tactile defensive eating issues. I am guilty of putting pressure on my DD to eat, and I was not adventurous when it came to introducing her to foods, especially harder textures like toast, apples, cucumber and raw carrots, even hard biscuits, for fear of her choking. I stuck to cooked/pureed veg, soft fruit, minced meat and pastas…

And now I sit with a problem –She has a poor appetite (in comparison to other kids I know) AND if she needs to chew something more than 2-3 times, it doesn’t belong in her mouth!

So the plan of action is as follows: Add calories and a mind shift

Add calories: Paed has prescribed Pediasure (500ml per day) and recommended that I add olive oil/butter/pediasure to her food whenever possible.  Continue to offer healthy, energy-rich, nutrient-rich food often (Peanut/Almond/Cashew nut butter, Meat, Avocado and other fresh fruit and veg etc)

The advice that has changed my attitude towards my DDs eating :Take the pressure off your child (and yourself). (Credit: Dana Obleman and Pediasure website) Relax and make mealtimes an opportunity to catch up and communicate! This may be a one way conversation for the most part, but making mealtimes a social event, moves the focus away from plate and onto the social interactions . I have found that this has alleviated my stress levels (very slightly), in that I don’t go into battle everytime  we eat – no more ‘one more spoon’ and other begging and pleading tactics. I can’t say that this has miraculously helped my kids eating behaviours, but it has made it less of a struggle from both ends.

I still worry when she doesn’t eat, but if she doesn’t want to eat, or eats one spoon and says ‘all done!’, then I take her out of the feeding chair, no begging, no pleading, no drama. If they do not want to eat, don’t force the issue. They will eat when hungry (I hate when people tell me this but it must be true?!)– how would you like it if someone forced you to eat?

Another tip: Serve smaller portions than you think they need and do so a fun way. My DD prefers it if things are served seperately (like pasta or rice seperate from sauce). Too much food on one plate also seems to put her off. Arranging food like a face or cutting sandwiches in fun shapes seems to encourage her to touch/chew and SOMETIMES eat more.

On the positive side, my DD loves eating many healthy things like rice cakes, cheese, feta cheese, pasta, oats, mealies, peanut butter, watermelon, banana, broccoli, cauliflower, apples and avocado – so these are our nutritional staples – all packed with goodness!

Like everything else in my life, I give this to God in prayer…I pray for a healthy, happy daughter with a positive relationship with food!

And then, I drink wine J

Cheers to all the moms out there who  alone in some aspect of mothering, not because they have no support, but just because we sometimes do, it’s a mommy-thing.

Resources that have helped me thus far:

The Dana Obleman Food Sense book has really helped me understand toddler nutrition, how to help DD create a healthy relationship with food and other great advice, recipe, food log book, worth every penny! Go to: http://www.kidsfoodcenter.com/do-it-yourself-options

Pediasure website: http://abbottnutrition.co.za/child/toddler-nutrition/toddler-picky-eating



  1. All the best in your journey, it shall all come in good time….i truely believe. At least she has some good food options that she already love :). Some good advise in here that i can deft use. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing such sound advice. Also, dont be too hard on yourself about the struggles you may experience with your kiddum. A child’s sensory personality also plays a massive role in this. And thats not something you can change. It could go either way, and we as moms have to learn the best suited approach in dealing with it. As you’ve rightly started doing. All the best. Keep us posted

    • A quick update on DDs eating and weight: she gained 300g and grew 3 cms at her checkup! Paed very happy with her progress, as am I! Her appetite and her relationship with food has really improved. I think it is thanks to Dana Obleman’s food sense program… Less pressure on me and DD, so mealtimes are more enjoyable. I continue to monitor her intake closely and aim to up calorie and nutritional content where ever possible.

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