He’s Not A Salad Dodger; He’s A Salad Dodger’s Son

Hmm. Well having just had my 4-year-old son hand me back each lettuce leaf off his plate and having been informed that he hates salad, it’s still status quo here in the battle to get veg and salad into him. Yes, I have a very fussy eater on my hands.

Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit - probably not a fussy eater

Short of sitting on him, my armoury of psychological tricks is rapidly running dry, save complete disinterest and feigning death (the latter would probably be frowned upon by Social Services and warrant front page coverage in the Daily Mail – “Mad woman’s fake death inspires vegetable binge in toddler” or some such).

The marketing of salad to children has always been tricky. I became vaguely interested at the Tale of Peter Rabbit when his lettuce eating made him sleepy and am convinced that the Magic Roundabout’s rabbit, Dylan, has clearly been smoking some sort of vegetable (I hesitate to use the word weed here obviously).

Other than that, I remember the biscuits in Enid Blyton’s “The Magic Faraway Tree”, the fabulous tea Mr Tumnus the fawn puts together for Lucy in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and the picnic in “Wind in The Willows”. J. K. Rowling could have done an extra service to parents across the land if she’d introduced vegetables into the plot of Harry Potter, although you couldn’t really see Hagrid as a vegan could you?

Caitlin enjoys school dinners and proudly announces each day that she has eaten some vegetables so I am hoping it’s an age and/or control thing with Ieuan. Surprisingly, Ieuan often comes home from school with a “clean plate award” sticker, but he’s always suspiciously hazy about what was on the plate he cleaned.

Even more suspiciously, Ieuan recently had tea with one of his best school buddies and reportedly ate peas, carrots and, (cue my incredulous face), broccoli. I’m not sure what’s going on but I can’t get that quote of Gandhi’s out of my head “be the change you hope to see in the world” because, if it’s true that kids learn by copying I’m not exactly grade a material as a nutrition coach. Or possibly as tough as Ieuan’s friend’s mum.

If I stop and think about it, I’M the true salad dodger.

I’m not a fussy eater but I’ve got into the awful habit of eating the same thing most days to keep my weight stable. I now know to the gram what I can eat and what I have to avoid. I eat the veg which hubby cooks with our evening meal but he is always wading through the ‘veg cupboard’ removing blackened carrots and yellowed broccoli. (Have you noticed that men are generally food nazis when they don’t have to do the shopping themselves?).

I must confess that my staple diet consists of hot cross buns, marshmallows, jaffa cakes, diet coke, Babybel cheeses, curry and red wine. It’s a good job Gillian McKeith has vanished off the radar or she’d be chasing me with a large pointy stick and a poo pot.

My favourite story about Gillian McKeith comes from Nigella Lawson (looking depressingly good in Nigellissima despite chowing down on a vat of lard and cream judging by her recipes). she has named the cupboard in her house where she keeps the cakes, biscuits, crisps and sweets as “The Gillian McKeith”.

Anyway, I’m digressing as usual. But I think I’m the one who’s going to have to have the diet overhaul before Ieuan can be inspired to try a salad. And I’m going to have to eat the stuff. Not smoke it.

Have you got a fussy eater in your house?

Linda Hobbis & The Potato of Doom

Behold the marvel that is my culinary expertise. Hmm. We are in the middle of the famous fussy eating phase, particularly with Ieuan who, if it isn’t i) bread, ii) baked beans or iii) banana, is pretty loathe to try a food beginning with any other letter.

fussy eating phase - baked potato in the shape of a hedgehog

Behold the marvel that is my Hedgehog Baked Potato!

The sweaty panic that overtakes mothers at the thought of their veggie hating offspring appearing on “Freaky Eaters” and then, as an obvious progression, “Embarrassing Bodies” is grim.

I have read numerous parenting books and the fussy eating phase features in many of them.  But I find myself inconsistently chopping and changing between those plans which promise the greatest success in the shortest time.

I think this is a strategy which many mothers, whether currently employed or on a childcare sabbatical as I am, think will work. It is the madness of business logic applied to small children. Let’s motivate them and reward them. Let’s team build and yomp across the moors with home-made blueberry muffins!

I get very confused. Do I reheat discarded meals until they eat them? Do I deny them anything else until they fall like Victorian urchins on the broccoli and carrots? Do I send them to bed hungry? The tendency of small children to deny themselves what we adults would consider one of life’s greatest pleasures (food!) in order to assert control never fails to baffle me.

Our kids don’t fill up on sweets, chocolates or fizzy drinks. They have the odd biscuit and packets of crisps are shared. Our biggest failing is probably the addition of milkshake powder to milk in order to get them to drink it. We do eat quite a bit of cake, especially Jaffa Cakes and Welsh Cakes (recipe here) but in conservative quantities and only after at least a little of the main meal has been tried.

So in an attempt to up the ante regarding their veg intake, I spent over 40 minutes preparing potato hedgehogs (stop snickering).

My potato is one of the recipes from the inspiring book by Fiona Faulkner – “25 Foods Kids Hate …and how to get them eating 24” It’s Day 1 and as Fiona would say, you can’t give up. I’m also reading Kathryn Mewes “The 3 Day Nanny” which has a range of tailored plans for solving childcare dilemmas (sleep, eating, potty training, behaviour) for children up to around 6 years of age. Then there’s Jo Frost’s “Confident Toddler Care“, another well-thumbed tome.

On the subject of potatoes, by the way, you’ll find more tips on how to get the best out of them – even the green sprouty ones – in this post – Save Our Spuds!

I find myself going round in circles and trying various approaches to all of which the children seem immune. The only person who ends up having a tantrum I’m afraid to say is me! I spend the rest of the evening muttering to myself like the first, mad Mrs Rochester and refusing to play whilst the children canter happily about, oblivious to Joan of Arc in the kitchen.

I’m resolving to take the bull by the horns and ‘woman up’. I’m determined to instil in my kids a love of food and an appreciation of nutrition. I don’t want them to treat sweet foods as a reward or a comfort (a bit of a tall order for most of us, that one!).

If there is a plan that you have used or you have a secret ‘never fail approach” please leave me a comment! In the meantime, at least this cooking practice should improve my rather rusty skills.

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