Friday, 9 February 2018

Six ways to help my fussy eaters

David plays with his iPad while trying a flapjack - ideas to help my fussy eaters

Restricted diets.  Honestly, sometimes it can be depressing.  There's no medical reason why my boys can't eat things.  They are not allergic to anything (that I know of) and to most people it looks like I feed my kids the same food every day due to laziness. But it's not that.  I am in fact desperate to get them to eat a greater variety of foods.  If you are in the same boat, here's some of the ideas we have tried.

David will never be conned into eating anything different - and that's pretty common for kids with autism.  As he's pre-verbal there's not even much chance of us being able to tell why he will eat one chicken nugget brand and not another.

Anthony can at least explain why his feels he can't eat foods and this is sometimes the key to helping him expand his meals or add in healthy variations.  It's hard to tell whether little Jane is just following her brothers apparently fussy example or not.   But when I do figure something out about why the kids eat the way they do, I try to use it. If they can eat a wider variety of things it may make it easier for them in the long run.  Here's six things we think about.

1. Think about being similar, but not the same

Like I said, David can't be fooled into eating anything different. So there is no point in trying to sneak things into his diet.  He does however like foods certain ways. Things should be bite size - ready to be eaten.  He doesn't like his food touching each other on a plate and he doesn't like 'wet' food either. So if I'm giving him something new, I'll try and hit these targets and pick something similar to that which he already likes.

David has been a long fan of flapjacks and we've managed to get him to try all sorts of flavours using Get Buzzing flapjacks.  He's had the banana flavour and wowbutter one (which is great as it tastes like peanut butter which is also on David's current menu, but it is also actually nut free so fine for his school snack). The mixed berry flavour went down well and I'm building up to the date and seed one.

Anthony's language is at a more age appropriate level.  Food can be presented differently or look different but if we can say it's 'similar' to something he already likes then he'll give a try.  He understands it's not the same but is now willing to give it a go.  We moved Anthony from only eating Hot Cross Buns, to eating tea cakes and Rankin Loaf.  He really likes lasagna for dinner, so he tried spagbol with success.  Then he tried quorn mince and pasta and then macaroni cheese.

Each time he tried a new 'similar something' he'd screw up his face as he processed the flavours and textures.  Then after twisting his face, he'll say "I like it" or "I like it a bit".  Probably my favourite so far is "It's OK, I can eat it" - err thanks kid.  But now he'll eat just about any type of pasta and any sauce.

From an understanding of liking mince, he moved onto 'flat mince' in a burger.  And that led me to understand even more about textures.

2. Think about textures

We'd already identified that David doesn't like things in a sauce.  This is not that uncommon with autistic kids.  People with autism can have highlighted sensory systems which can make, for example, some clothes feel itchy against their skin, or make the feeling of certain textures in their mouths uncomfortable or hard to process.

Anthony was fine with both dry things like toast and soft food like mince, but when it originally came to a burger he wasn't convinced about how having both textures together would feel in his mouth. For the first few times we opened the burger so he ate just the bun, and then ate the burger part.  We used Rustlers burgers because they are the same each time and are quick to make.  Once he was happy with how both felt, we put them together so he was eating a traditional burger.

Then we used the 'similar but not the same' strategy and got him and Jane to enjoy a chicken burgers each at home.   Anthony tried it because it was like the burger and had it with sweet potato chips, which are similar to the regular fries he has had with burgers before. Jane tried it because it was like the chicken strips she likes and also added in some carrot sticks and houmous.  Easy finger foods are still a favourite here!

3. Think about timing

It might seem like a good idea to force new foods down when kids are hungry but it's the worse possible plan in our house.

Firstly, Anthony doesn't like to be surprised by a new food option when he arrives at the dinner table - I've got to give him a bit of warning about it so he's ready to eat when he comes to the table.

Secondly, trying new foods for my kids requires effort for them.  No one is interested in exerting themselves when they are already hungry.  That's just likely to end in a meltdown.  I try to change things when they seem ready, not me.

David will often wait till the whole table has finished their meal, then when he feels the pressure is off, he might just eat or try something.  Perhaps because he feels more comfortable eating on his own. And that's OK.  I will let him sit by himself if he wants to.

We can sometimes use a 'first & then' strategy for timing with Jane.  "First eat another spoon of macaroni, then you can have some custard."  But I'll be honest, she's the only one this works with and I'd rather get her intrinsically motivated instead of  being forced to try.

Jane plays with her gummy vitamins - ways to help my fussy eaters

4. Think about what they might be missing

David eats a very small variety of things but when I talked to his paediatrician and listed wheat he ate she said, "Well, at least that's something from most food groups."  And she was true.  The one thing he really misses out on is vegetables but he at least gobbles down plenty of fruit.

If you are concerned then you can try to add in some supplements.  Working on the similar but now the same, we can get some of the kids to eat Mother's Select Li'l Gummies multivitamins.  Jane loves them because they look a lot like the gummy sweets that they've been given at school when it's someone's birthday.

Anthony doesn't like gummy sweets but he'll take some vitamin drops in his juice if he needs to.

5. Think about where

David eats at the kitchen table for meals.  He's OK with snacks in other places, but will take things to the table at dinner time.  Snacks are best left for David to try in his own time.  Eating with a book or an iPad is fine in our home if it helps him feel safe so he can eat or try something.

However, Anthony's key time for eating burgers was initially whilst watching Formula 1 on TV.  It was so easy to throw the bun into the toaster and the burger in the microwave for a minute while Martin Brundle did the grid walk. We joked around asking Anthony if he would like a, 'Lewis HamBurger,' or 'Nico Hulkenburger' which will only make sense if you know who the drivers are. Last year it was 'Nico Rosbergers'.

He now watches other fast cars on The Grand Tour.  So eating a Rustlers Southern Fried Chicken Burger during a drag race on the show was 'just fine thank you mum.'  So what if it's in front of the TV?

Who knows what's next?  Perhaps I'll get Anthony to try some of my soya milk in his cereal? Goodness knows what David would make of that.  One things for sure, with my kids, there is no point in forcing the issue, better to think of ways to help them at their own pace.

If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them.

We were sent samples of Mother's Select Li'l Gummies and Get Buzzing flapjacks for purpose of review and loved them so much we've included them in our post. 


  1. This is such an interesting post and one that will make readers think which is always a very good thing. Commenting for myself and on behalf of BritMums and thanking you for taking part

  2. That's a really good tip - not trying to hide things but tell the kids how it's similar to something else! I'll definitely try that!

  3. Great tips here! Having a fussy eater is so tough. I was terrible when I was little, my poor mum! #kcacols

  4. i have taught autistic kids within mainstream school but i never thought about eating habits/ Very insightful #KCACOLS

  5. I find that using familiar words or phrases help. when i told my son we were having macaroni cheese, he turned his nose up. when i said it's cheesey pasta, he ate it. #KCACOLS

    1. That's brilliant and we've done it too. Fruit loaf was a bit of worry until I said it was hot cross bun bread. We still call it 'bun bread' to this day.

  6. Great idea. It sounds very similar to how we describe food to our son although we never really push him and he often tried things as and when he's ready.


  7. An extremely informative post, thanks for sharing! #KCACOLS

  8. Gosh yes, food... there's so much I could say about this... Although a lot of then are things you've already touched on here, such as the textures. Very important! And being allowed to eat alone, perhaps in front of the telly or with an ipad or iphone too. Those are things that have been helpful for us. Also, supplements (vitamins and minerals) have had a seemingly good effect on Penguins apetite before, and with that apetite followed a slight crease in interest of trying new foods. x #KCACOLS

  9. This is a great post. I have someone who's struggling with their child eating, so I will send them this post to read. Really interesting. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

  10. Great ideas. My oldest is becoming more picky as she gets closer to school age. Looking forward to seeing if these help. #KCACOLS


I read all your comments and appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me and our readers. I welcome any feedback on my posts and you can always contact me directly. Thank you.

Have a look at our most recent posts:

@rainbowsaretoo Ann H on Google + rainbowsaretoo pinterest rainbowsaretoobeautiful bloglovin Instagram rainbowsaretoobeautiful
TOTS100 - UK Parent Blogs