Category Archives: fussy eaters

Frustrated by Family Mealtimes?

  • Do you find yourself cooking different meals for everyone?
  • Buying more convenience food because it is?
  • Busy and out of balance with life, work and family?
  • Struggling for ideas for things to cook that you’ll all enjoy?

Any of this sound familiar?

Below are some ideas for simple family meals created by my children, I’d love about your favourites and I’ll add them below.

A ‘How I’ Blog – How I Keep Sane at Mealtimes

In the past few months my family food choices have gone down hill, I returned to teaching 3 days a week, so went down the more convenience food route, plus the other days I was off the kids had activities early evening which also disrupted eating.

We all like different Meals 

My family loves food and eats well – just not the same as each other. One of my children doesn’t like meat so much, the other dislikes sauces and my husband doesn’t eat fish or chicken.  I wrote this blog earlier in the year about how eating together improves connection, here, we were eating together just not great food!

Not only have we been filling up on more processesed, salty and unheathy food, it’s costing money.

So what to do, how to get back into a good eating habits?

The holidays and a change in routine have brought some much needed time to create and reflect. With fresh inspiration this is my new plan and I’m writing it down, maybe it will give you some ideas too –

  • Sit down as a family and write down 5 of your favourite home cooked meal choices each.
  • See if any of them correlate – live in hope.
  • Ask them which days they feel it would be good to eat their chosen meal(s).
  • From the 20 or so meals, choose several and draw up a weekly or fortnightly meal plan to pin on fridge or door
  • Create a shopping list from this plan – ask the kids to do this with you.
  • Find out which days they would like to be involved with cooking one or two meals each week.  Mine are particulary keen to make pizzas.
  • Which days would they like to come to the supermarket to help gather the ingredients (they do love a trip as they can stare at the toys too). When they were little they helped write the lists and loved running off to find things. Whilst it’ a pain to take them sometimes and ends up costing more, it is a good time together as well with them.
  • If they don’t like the meal chosen on the weekly plan, what would they prefer and would they like to prepare it the day before with you or on the day?
  • What parts of their favourite meals could we look to grow on the allotment, in the garden, in a pot etc?

Getting the Kids Involved 

pizza 2pizzaMy 10 year old daughter was bored today, so we bought ingredients this morning to make pizza and she taught herself to make one following a recipe online. Not sure she could fit any more olives on. I note the processed ham. I reckon she could make this when she gets in from school on one of the days I’m working.  I’ve taught my 12 year old son Luke to hoover the house this week and fold the ironing. My child labour plan is coming on nicely.

MealTime Ideas

Below are some really simple healthy-ish meals the children chose,  which can easily be adapted plus I’ve added some vegetarian ideas too –

spaghetti bolognaise (of course) meat, I cook a lovely lentil one which they turn their noses up at – sweat onions, chopped celery and carrots for about 10 mins in some chopped bacon if you have it, add mince and brown, top with about 200ml stock, tin toms or fresh ones and cook for about an hour on low.  Serve with pasta, top with grated cheese and parsley.   For the veggie version use all the same ingredients except cook the brown or red lentils in a separate pan, or buy them ready cooked and add to the veg, tomatoes and stock.

cod in lemon and parsley – season fresh cod, fry cod in butter and oil until browned. Take off and squeeze a lemon into the pan, pour over fish and sprinkle on parsley  serve with new pots, rice etc

chicken soup – they just love this – leftover roast chicken (again easy to cook and use up over a few days)  or cook some breasts and chop and put to one side.  Sweat and soften a variety of veg eg carrots, celery, onion, courgettes for 10 mins in butter. Add a litre of stock (I tend to buy organic stock or sometimes make my own in the slow cooker) and some noodles. Once the noodles are cooked add the leftover chicken and heat through for 2 minutes, serve with parsley and crusty bread.  For a vegetarian version try using borlotti beans and pasta – minestrone style.

pulled pork rolls with apple sauce – put a loin of pork in the slow cooker, season with salt and pepper, put on low and cook all day. Serve in white rolls with apple sauce or as a nice roast with some potatoes and veg.

homemade pizza – there are various recipes to make the dough or can use pitta bread, or flat tortillas. Once made cover with tomato puree or thin layer of chopped toms and choice of toppings, then bake in oven for 7 to 10 mins if using pitta or 20 mins if the fresh dough version.  Ellie has chosen cheese, olives, ham, anchovies. Luke wants pepperoni and chillis and is excited about making these.

chicken (or other meat or haloumi cheese) kebabs – fresh cubed chicken threaded onto skewers, could be alternated with veg such as courgette, onion and pepper. Choose a topping or marinade in the day with for example lemon and yoghurt, or pesto, or olive oil with herbs, whatever your kids choose and like. Grill for 15 minutes turning frequently. Serve with salad or veg, rice or potatoes etc.

Friends also shared their favourite meals –

From Lucia Knight – Thank you Jane, We love make your own tacos with pre-made & frozen chilli, wraps and a load of small bits and pieces from the fridge(peppers, sweetcorn, cucumber & grated cheese or anything you fancy). Great for play dates as it can all be made in as little as it takes to heat up the chilli and gives fussy eaters some choice.

Thanks Mark love to try this Paella too – Mark Beresford Chicken thighs chorizo and red peppers. All fried in a large pan. Add chilli flakes. Simmer with sone stock. Add paella rice. Simmer. Eat. Great quick and easy meal. Freezes too.

Would love to hear about your favourite family recipes, please do comment or pm me x

I asked friends to comment on their meal times –

Belinda allowed me to share this, her child has an autistic spectrum disorder,  there is humour to her writing and it puts my own mealtime gripes in perspective, thank you x

‘Jake vomits if a smell is unpleasant to him,  which makes mealtimes interesting. There are many food smells he struggles to tolerate ( even if we are eating them) and it’s difficult to vary his diet as he prefers to eat the same thing daily: wraps mashed avocado pepper cucumber cocktail sausages from Tescos and tomato
Jake also struggles with people eating with their mouths open … a problem every Sunday when we have my mother in law with dementia for dinner. I have to have a seating plan!
Jake eats very quickly even after 10 years of me working in slowing him down!
Poppy is vegetarian
I try not to eat gluten
Jez eats anything except fish!
We do sit down and eat together daily, some days with greater success than others.
Jake is trying new foods having grown them in his veg patch .. courgette being the latest. This is a fantastic step forwards x

Julie writes – I caught Luke feeding Ella spoonfuls of ketchup the other day and Ella is digging into her third pizza of week. Homemade but still…

Come Play on the 23rd in Guildford 

Join me for a play on the 23rd September, early bird applies until the 1st September.  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/exploring-play-tickets-35531141601

JaneTyson.co.uk

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Eating Together Improves Our Children’s WellBeing

The Benefits of Eating Together

The knock on effect of eating together as a family,  isn’t just that kids usually eat more healthily, studies have found there’s a whole host of other benefits including reduced stress, good mental health, improved grades, saving money, better family relationships and greater happiness.

This isn’t a ‘How To’ blog it’s a ‘How I‘ and what has worked for us, hope you enjoy our ‘Shamba’ below too!

What’s It Like Eating Together?

Do you enjoy mealtimes together as a family, do you have time to sit together, are you happy with the food choices you make and feel you have good variety and balance, is eating with your kids a nice experience or a chore?

What About The Fussy Eaters?

All kids go through stages of ‘fussing’ over food and it’s during these times that we may unintentionally reinforce it, so they end up with longer term picky eating habits. Eating together is more likely to encourage children to explore food more and try things out,  especially when they see us modelling how to.

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I Don’t Like Potato

I’ve been teaching for 20 years and during lunch-breaks have seen many school kids pushing their food around their plate.  They find it hard to control their cutlery and can’t wait to get away from the table and nor can the lunchtime staff, who pace around with their cloths, waiting for the next year groups to take their places on the benches.

In some schools, staff do eat with the children,  placing a high priority on the importance of eating together, modelling how to,  communicating deeply and really engaging with one other.

How can we Create Autonomous Happy Eaters?

What if we looked for more opportunities to give autonomy to our children? By allowing our child more choice we give them some space to be and to take ownership of their eating.  By including them in our family decisions we can significantly relax our control and boundaries, and we may discover our children become more relaxed across other areas of their lives, so these skills are transferable.

Eating Together

Since my kids were old enough to eat we’ve sat together at mealtimes.  From about 6 months, minus the salt, they’ve pretty much eaten the same softened food as an adult, they made a complete mess, and still often do. Yet it’s fun fun and sociable.

Make Table Connection & Conversation the Priority

They’ve never been rewarded with pudding if they eat all their food, having  a strong aversion to sticker rewards and making my children ‘compliant’ –  if they don’t eat there’s no fuss about it and if they do it’s the same, no attachment to any outcome. We enjoy being at the table with them, food isn’t the priority, table conversation and connection is.

Serving Suggestions 

Usually food is served from bowls at the table, so they can just help themselves to what they fancy and measure their own portions too.

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There might also be bread & butter, cheese, crackers and salad on offer.

Meal planning 

On Sundays, we sit together and go through calendars and planners in an attempt to get organised.  Again a lovely time to connect and communicate as a family. We often write down meals we would all like for the week, and which meals they can help prepare/cook.

Cooking Together

Encouraging  the children to join in with cooking as often as possible, such as squeezing oranges, grating cheese, making fruit crumbles and teaching them how to handle knives to chop makes them less food adverse and this can be encouraged from a young age.  Always looking for opportunities for them to get involved or do it on their own.

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The children often cook with Nanny Gill when they stay over in Streatham

Team Shopping 

Since they were very young they’ve created their own shopping lists. In the early days this really made learning to read and write meaningful, their pictures and words didn’t need to make sense it was just part of the process. They’d run along the aisles on their own to find things, then be engaged with packing, paying and then unpacking back home. They are still involved at 13 and 11, nowadays they can go to the shops alone and pick up milk, bread etc if we run short.

At most stages of the shop to table experiences they are included

Where Does Our Food Come From?

Many kids don’t know where food comes from.  For the past 12 years, we’ve been privileged to grow vegetables at our allotment, so the kids have been able to sow, grow and eat from scratch.

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Paul on our Shamba whilst we were living in Tanzania. I’d taken my class for a tour around the school searching for food, including the banana and papaya trees. Paul spoke with them about the food he’d grown.

If you don’t have access to a garden or the opportunity to plant a few seeds,  maybe see if you can visit a friend who does, or visit an allotment, garden centre or working farm. Most schools do have gardening projects, however I would say it can be rather tokenistic and dependent on the energy and enthusiasm of the staff member in charge.

Encourage children to look also at food labels and consider the ingredients, and even world maps to plot which country food has come from, they might enjoy this clip here. 

luke and me

Getting down with the potatoes in 2007 at our allotment in Woking, UK, loved that brolly too!

Look forward to hearing from you to learn more about what inspires your family eating habits, as it would be great to share it with other children,  schools and parents too.

Also,  love to find out more about you and what you LOVE to do, my linked in profile is here.

Workshops and 1:1 support for children and families listed in my newsletters at yogarascal.com tending to blog etc over there more at mo.

Jane Tyson
Solving World Problems Playfully!