One evening, I arranged my son’s dinner into a face: carefully placing strands of spaghetti for hair, zucchini circles for eyes, a piece of broccoli for the nose, fish fingers for a broad smile and two blobs of tomato sauce as rosy cheeks.
The next night Lucas expected me to create another edible character, and the following night… and on and on it went, until five years on and aged eight, I’m still required to arrange his meals into an assortment of characters ranging from Harry Potter to Super Mario and Ben 10…
And it’s not just Lucas, but the other two also want to eat their favourite heroes and heroines. As I morph their meals into increasingly outlandish creations, my husband Alec shakes his head.
‘Why do you bother?’ he asks, rolling his eyes to the sky.
And I have to admit it’s because I want my kids to enjoy their food – and most importantly eat their dinner! And like most mums I’ll do whatever works to ensure they get their quota of veggies and vitamins!
None of this surprises consultant dietician and mum-of-three, Kerry Leech. Kerry believes children are usually fussy about food texture, smell or flavour, although she does admit some kids (like Lucas!), can be fussy about all three.
‘The important thing is to keep family meal times happy times,’ she says. And she suggests being flexible when it comes to food. ‘If your child doesn’t like cooked vegetables, give them salad-type snacks. And remember they often “graze” through the day with breakfast, lunch, and morning and afternoon teas, so if they don’t each much for dinner, then don’t stress!’
Kerry suggests we offer small serves of a wide variety of foods. And sometimes give your child an empty plate and encourage them to help themselves to food on the table.
If your child is fussy, then don’t lose hope. ‘As children get older it’s good to re-offer foods as their taste-buds develop,’ says Kerry.
Another tip to help problem eaters is to get them into the kitchen.
‘If a young child is actively participating in food preparation, they will be excited to eat the results of their hard work,’ she says. ‘…and they will develop a much keener appreciation for their food.’
So with Lucas at my side, I’m attempting an eggplant based moussaka – I just hope I’ll be able to arrange it into a convincing adaptation of Aragon from Lord of the Rings… !