“Eww! Do I have to eat that?”, if that’s a regular dialogue in your house, then you’re dealing with a fussy eater. Well, I do have a confession to make, I was one too (still am!)It wasn’t until I ended up in a hostel, where I was disciplined to eat anything that lands on my plate. When I told this story to our Features Director, Alisha Fernandes, she asked me to check out chef Kelvin Cheung‘s latest post on self-feeding. It was definitely an eye-opener and something that mommies of newborn babies can take note of to avoid future picky eaters, like me.
This topic really intrigued me and I decided to get an expert’s advice on it and help out moms, in general, to tackle with kids who have fussy eating habits. I got in touch with the nutritionist, Anupama Menon for the same. Based in Bengaluru, Anupama, who has a bachelor’s degree in Food Science & Nutrition and a PG in Food Technology & Nutrition, has founded ‘Right Living’, which is a nutritional counselling & education entity. I asked her a few questions pertaining to the topic and here’s her professional opinion:
Q. Are there any particular nutrients that a child requires while growing up?
All the nutrients are important for a growing child in the right amounts. Protein especially as it’s required for growth, muscle and tissue repair. Vit D, just like in adults, tends to be deficient in children. Getting enough sunlight at the right time is important (8am and then again between 11-1pm) but may not be always possible due to school timings and other activities. Hence it’s important to supplement their Vit D needs. Iron and calcium are also important elements that cannot be ignored at any costs.Though I have made special mention of these 4 nutrients, all nutrients are important for a child’s growth, development and ideal brain functioning.
Q. What are the different techniques or diet plans a mother can use to change a picky-eating child’s habit?
A child could take anywhere between 8-10 turns to accept new food, but new kinds of food churn excitement on a child’s palette. S,o it’s important to keep exposing the child to a variety and different kinds of food. But also be patient and if a specific food is rejected, do not force feed the child. Instead offer it in another form a couple of days later.Vegetables tend to be the bottle neck when it comes to feeding enough servings to kids for the day. These can be added to rice as in pulav or in dals (spinach dal), in cutlets (a mix of a variety of veggies, sweet potato/potato etc) or to rotis. But do remember that veggies when had as above are restricted to smaller servings as opposed to what is required. Hence, it’s important to also serve veggies as accompaniments and as they are, as salads, as soups and as other forms which are interesting but concentrated with veggies. It’s important to develop a flavor for vegetables, only then will children be able to have the recommended 3-4 servings per day. Try different kinds of soups, veg preparations from different cultures, fried veggies, salads with lots of flavor, most importantly keep experimenting.
Q. Are there any alternative food options that a mother can look into for daily nutrients?
Fresh food cannot be replaced by anything. They are your primary source of energy, health and nutrition. So, make sure you include different kinds of grains, proteins, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits in your child’s diet.But inspite of your best efforts if your child is deficient in any nutrient, you must supplement with supplements under the guidance of a medical practitioner.
When I was reiterating these facts at our lunch table, a few of my colleagues pitched in and confessed that they were or still are fussy eaters too. The conversation soon moved over to how our mothers, at times, tricked us into eating the things we didn’t like at all. We soon realised that each of our mothers had a different way to tackle with our picky habits. These are some ways that’ll be helpful for moms who are having a tough time dealing with their picky eaters.
Like most of us, Karishma didn’t like her leafy veggies and a well-known chef’s recipes came to her mom’s rescue.
I hated spinach and so my mom used to tactfully spin boring dishes around with the help of Tarla Dalal‘s recipes. She used to make fancy dishes like carrot and spinach rice, in which you could barely taste the spinach. So, I’d get the nutrition, and I loved the taste so it was a win-win!
Fish being one of his staple foods, Harshad’s mom decided to trick him into eating veggies with it.
Spinach, beans or any leafy vegetables, my mom till date cooks them along with small prawns.
For Jessica, eggplant was kryptonite for her, so here’s what her mom did.
She would add all the vegetables into the pizza sauce.
For our #BossLady, eating meat wasn’t a problem at all. In fact, that was the only thing she wanted, so her mom used it as a bait.
I used to want to eat meat all the time so my mom would make soya nuggets and tell me it’s meat.
I have heard about keto-diet, cauliflower rice but had never heard of cauliflower pizza crust, but it was Shrutee’s mom’s trade secret.
I hate cauliflower and never ate the vegs, so my mom grated it, mashed it and made cauliflower pizza crust. As a kid, I never figured it out.
Reena’s mom had different techniques in store to make sure she has her veggies regularly.
She makes palak dal, so that I eat leafy veggies through that, and she also makes methi, raddish or palak parathas (so, I get nutrients through parathas). She also smashes the vegetables and mixes it with beetroot to make tikkis.
It seems parathas are a big hit in tricking children into eating veggies. Even one of my school friend’s mom used this technique and Janhnavi’s too!
My brother and I aren’t too fussy when it comes to food, but we aren’t fans of cabbage and cauliflower. So what my mother did was diced the cauliflower and stuffed it into a paratha. And with cabbage, she grated it and added it to the dough and there we had, cabbage parathas! We loved these parathas just as much as we hated it as a sabji!
Sukriti wasn’t the picky eater in her family but had a fun story to share with me about her niece.
My niece didn’t eat potatoes. So, her mother used to mash it with beetroot and she happily ate it because the red colour attracted her.
Rashmi Bhosale (It Me)
I used to and still hate eating green peas so my mom makes a green pea puree curry that looks good and tastes yum! For my dislike for beetroot, she used to entice me by putting it on like a lip tint on my lips and then making sure I eat it.
Pallavi had several stories to tell me, and here are the techniques that her mom and even her grandmom used to discipline her.
My mother’s go-to trick was to put on TV (specifically DDLJ). So, while I was mesmerised by the colours on the screen, she would stuff food in my mouth. If you have a child as restless as I was, it’s great if you follow the technique my grandmom used to do with me. I used to get supremely bored eating food, so she used to ask me to run around our huge dining table twice after every bite I took. Occasionally ask me to get her stuff from different places in the house. Come to think of it, a great way to make your kid do chores really early in life too. One thing my mom did was NEVER GIVE UP. She would make sure I finished my plate no matter what. Even if it took her hours to feed me. My mum made me an independent eater really early on in life by making sure I could eat on my own. She started off by giving me big pieces of food – like fruits on a plate that I could easily pick and eat. Later, she used to roll the rice into small balls on the plate or break rotis into little pieces. My mom made sure I eat on my own also because she made being fed by her or someone else like a reward that I should earn if I was good. Yup, gangsta mom.Aren’t these some fun and innovative tips? I feel the conversation is just getting started, and we’ll find more such unique ways to deal with the picky eaters in our lives. So, I am gonna take this topic to Malini’s Girl Tribe and ask other real moms out there about their techniques in dealing with such fussy habits. I am sure I’ll have fun and intriguing tips from them too. So, join in the conversation and tell us how you deal with your picky eater.