I was 24 when I fell pregnant with my first son Charlie. I worked and a lot, and didn’t really know how to cook.
I alternated between eating fast food and ordering take out, and diet food and shakes. If I wanted to make a meal at home I would go and buy a flavour sachet or a glass of stir fry sauce, and follow the instructions on the back.
To teach myself how to cook from scratch, I started with the easy stuff – baking biscuits and cakes, and slowly worked my way up to more complicated dishes like spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and stir fries. I know to a lot of people these seem like easy dishes to make from scratch, but for me I found it really challenging. I made lots of mistakes, and inedible food, but I got there in the end.
Fussy Eater or something else?
The problem was, Charlie wouldn’t eat the meals I made.
He was happy eating crackers, cereal, yoghurt, chicken nuggets, sausages, chips, fruit, sultanas, biscuits etc but if I put a meal in front of him, he just wouldn’t eat it. I found it frustrating, and didn’t know what to do. I knew he needed to eat veggies and wholefoods to be healthy, but I couldn’t work out how to get him to eat them.
I just thought Charlie was a picky eater until one day I gave him a ham and cheese sandwich and I watched how he ate it. He pulled it apart, separated each item, and after a thorough investigation he would eat each piece separately. It was a sensory issue, Charlie couldn’t stand his food touching!
Charlie couldn’t stand his food mixed together in a stir fry, but if I got a sectioned plate and put rice in one section, meat in a different section, the sauce on the side etc then he would eat some of it.
Not the veggies, but at least he ate the rice and the meat, and that was something, it was a start. The first of many baby steps it took to get him to start eating vegetables on a daily basis.
I began deconstructing his meals, and putting them on a sectioned plate, or a sectioned lunchbox and he ate some of it.
Another thing I noticed is Charlie would always eat his grains first and most of the time, refuse to eat anything else. He would be quite happy just living off bread, crackers, cereal, pasta, and rice. Charlie would fill up on those foods, and not have room in his belly for anything else. So, I slowly started decreasing how many grains I gave him, and increased the volume of veggies, meat, and fruit.
When Charlie was old enough to start communicating his thoughts through speech, he was able to articulate how foods made him feel. He told me “when I put cucumber in my mouth, it makes me want to throw up.” Another sensory thing! It’s not so much the taste of cucumber that puts him off, but the feel of it.
Charlie wasn’t refusing to eat his veggies because he was naughty or difficult, he was doing it because the texture or taste made him feel ill. While I still do get frustrated sometimes with his picky eating, I try to be compassionate and reasonable, and think what if I was in his shoes? What if there was a food that I found so disgusting, but someone bigger than me kept insisting that I eat it, and getting cross when I refused?
At the same time, I know how important it is for kids to eat their veggies, so I started experimenting with hiding them in Charlie’s food. I still put veggies in front of him at lunch and dinner time, but I also hide veggies in his food, so I knew he would get some veggies in his body!
More Baby Steps
Like most kids his age, Charlie struggles to eat green vegetables, like spinach and cucumber, so I began hiding them it in his banana smoothie in the morning.
I started out making a smoothie with banana, dates and raw cacao powder.
Then I added in a few spinach leaves, and slowly increased them each time, until I was up to a cupful.
I then slowly started decreasing the amount of dates I put in his smoothie, until now he has nothing.
I am in now in the process of slowly adding cucumber to his smoothie, at the moment we are up to half a Lebanese cucumber.
Worms and Parasites
This sugar free smoothie recipe also contains Paw Paw, aka Papaya, flesh and seeds. My kids won’t eat Paw Paw on its own, but they will drink it in a smoothie. Not only is Paw Paw full of nutrients, but some people use it to prevent or treat parasites.
It’s very common for children to pick up worms and other parasites, especially when they start going to school or day care. I add the seeds to my kid’s smoothies because they are nutritious, and I figure prevention is better than cure. If you are pregnant you may want to leave the Paw Paw out, to find out more about eating the risk with eat Paw Paw during pregnancy click here.
One of the things I have learned from having three kids is,
Everyone is different. What works for one kid might not work for the other. You just have to keep trying new things until you find something that works for each individual.
Leo prefers his smoothie green, so first I make it without the cacao powder, and pour some for him into a Sippy cup with his medication. He is on some very bitter tasting meds for his Candida Overgrowth and Leaky Gut, hiding them in his smoothie is the only way I can get him to take them.
I then add in the raw cacao powder, and pour some into a cup for Charlie, before pouring the rest into icy pole molds for Max.
They all like to consume this smoothie recipe differently, and I don’t mind – just as long I can get some greens into them I am happy!
Chocolate Green Smoothie
An easy way to get fussy eaters to enjoy eating their vegetables!
- 1 big ripe banana
- 1 cup raw baby spinach washed well
- 1 medium lebanese cucumber washed and chopped
- 100 grams paw paw skin removed and chopped
- 2 cups water or more if you like it runny
- 1/2 cup ice
- 1/4 cup coconut cream
- 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder if you want to make your green smoothie chocolate flavoured
Add all ingredients to your blender for 60 seconds or until smooth and fine.
Pour any leftovers into icy poles molds or ice cubes and pop into the freezer until set.
When all of my icy pole molds are full I pour leftover smoothie into ice cube trays and use store them in the freezer for when I am low on food and need to make a quick breakfast or snack.
If you have a sensitive stomach, ice cold foods are not your friend. When I make this recipe in my Thermomix I warm it for 20 seconds/ 37 degrees and, when I make it with my Ninja Bullet I leave it on the bench for 10 minutes.