Honey, we have a fussy toddler!

Honey, we have a fussy toddler!

A concerned mommy emailed us about her fussy 2-year-old boy.

She said the following:

“He’s an extremely fussy eater, he will only eat noodles. I can’t even get him on cereal or porridge, he will seldomly eat squishy fruit pouches, peanut butter bread and rice crackers, spinach pies, and fries, and that’s about it. I cannot get him to eat a meal every day, it’s a struggle! I have honestly tried everything – the PD recommended: Sitting together eating as a family, not forcing him to eat, eating the exact times every day, trying different foods 10-15 times, keep offering healthy snacks – you name it! I have tried it. So he’s now on a Pediasure and I add Iron vitamins to his orange juice just so he can get vitamins and some nutrition in his body because I honestly don’t know how to get him to eat.”

Umatie’s response:

I have been mulling over your fussy boy and to be honest, there is no right way to do it and definitely not one solution that will just work.

A two-year-old also has a will of their own, so you have to be gentle with this too as it’s important for them to let themselves be heard. Saying that, all two years olds like options! Something they can choose!!!

Usually, when toddlers are very fussy to the point that they drink liquids only and eat Flings, I would recommend weaning from scratch. Let’s leave that as the second option. Let’s see how he gets on with my suggestions below and we can take the next steps.

He is actually not eating too badly (even if you think he does!) Spinach pie…? That made me wonder! Perhaps he just wants to own mealtimes a bit more as that is quite an adventurous thing to eat. And as parents we do panic easily when our children don’t eat properly. Trust me, he can also feel that something is going on and that there is an issue of sorts. You need to step away and approach this differently. So, my advice would be the following.

Plan of action:

– Take him on an outing to Mr Price or Mambos or wherever there is fun eating utensils. Let him choose his own placemat and plate – a divided one will be the best option – so steer him in this direction. Plus matching cup even. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something he chooses and that’s fun. Tell him that because he is such a big boy now and two years old, he is going to get big and strong like daddy, and for that, he needs to eat yummy food to make him grow big and strong. (let him even feel daddy’s muscles and everyone plays along). You could make up any story really – make him believe that this outing is for him, and the journey his special journey.

Make special time for mealtimes and let him set his own placemat on his high chair or small table and let him get his plate from the cupboard. Now things are going to happen! Let the fun begin!

– I will recommend a few meals from our Umatie website which I think could work as the first phase (all our pasta meals as we know he enjoys pasta) plus a few snacks from our site plus a few things you could buy from your go-to grocery shop.
– The idea is to let him choose. Try not to revert to noodles-only too soon. It is an adventure and he is going to grow big and strong. Once he has eaten something, feel his muscles and stomach… lift him up and say that he is growing sooo well!

– Don’t worry about cereals and porridge – small kids hardly eat this! Most of them are sugar-filled and contain no fibre.

Shopping list

From the Bulky Bites range on our Umatie website choose
Mac Cheese,
Pasta a’la Ouma,
Pizza Pasta,
Faithful Bolognaise
Picky Petunia

From the Vegan Variety range on Umatie’s website choose
Dear Dana sauce

From our snacks in Little Bellies
Any of them really plus the biscuits are really cute too

From the shop
Mini meatballs
Cucumber cut into sticks
Carrot Sticks
Grated Cheese or cheese cut in blocks
Vienna or Chicken Sausage cut up
Mini Pitas
Apple/Banana/Pear/Grapes all cut up in small blocks
Mini Yoghurt
Provita Cracker Bread

Extras to buy if you don’t have them in the house:
Cookie cutters shapes
Kiddie knife
Pasta/Noodles but a different option he is used to – could be shapes too but these are a bit more expensive. Just any noodle/pasta that is in a different shape than what he normally eats

Use the divider plate as it shows off options rather than the food on a plate.

I would recommend choosing fruits and yoghurt for breakfast. Cracker Bread cut up in strips with butter and fine biltong or Bovril. The idea is to fill the 3 gaps of the plate with 3 different things. And change this every morning with 3 different combinations. I would recommend having at least one thing on the plate that he likes or show more interest in.

For the fruit, give him a kiddie knife and let him cut the banana because he is such a big boy. While he is making a mess, pop a piece in his mouth. Also, ask him if you can have a taste cause it looks delicious. Even bread could be lightly buttered or plain and let him press out shapes with a cookie cutter. Another morning you could give him a toothpick (do supervise him with this!!!) and let him put pieces of fruit or cheese blocks or sausage on the toothpick, then taking it off again to eat. Eating time needs to turn into fun time! As he is busy fiddling, you can pop a piece in his mouth. This is also very good for his fine motor skills.

Lunchtime could be another type of platter with cucumber, toasted pitas cut into strips, chicken breast or chicken schnitzel cut into strips, rolled up ham. He can use a fork to poke at the food, cut it and I would also recommend a sauce for dipping. Our Dear Dana is a delicious smooth tomato sauce filled with veggies and has nutritional yeast which has added protein. This is a powerhouse tomato sauce!

You could also make a different type of pasta for dinner and add the Dear Dana sauce through the pasta with grated cheese! SO YUM!

OR Let him take out the Umatie meals from the freezer himself… let him choose a meal. If he is unsure – take out two and ask him to choose which one he wants. Let him take off the sleeve and pop it into the microwave.

The more you get him involved, the more fun he’ll have. Mommy is not stressing, I’m having fun, so what is the problem?

Let’s try and take away the attention of what he is, and is not eating, and make the journey fun and about him! Perhaps his association with food will start to change.

What you have tried so far has not worked. It is a slow process and even if you get him to eat 1 new thing a day, that is a huge achievement. And praise him! Lift him up at the end of the day and praise him for growing a little as you can feel he is getting heavier! All fun!

I am taking a gamble here as I think he is a typical two-year-old, he knows there is an issue around mealtimes and his mommy is stressed. Once he sees a positive reaction, I’m sure he will be more open to trying new things. No force-feeding. No forcing him to finish everything on his plate. Lots of praise for every bite. Even if he plays more and you add toys with the food – perhaps plastic animals that want to eat from his food too…? As long as it’s interactive and fun.

We need to change behaviour and association. And don’t revert back to the things he usually eats, even if he doesn’t eat anything! Then mealtime is finished. No one is angry but he can play and eat as long as he wants. If he wants to get out of the high chair, let him do so. And try again at the next mealtime!

Umatie Love x