Are great recipes the answer to fussy eating?
I have been watching an interesting – but not surprising – trend on social media. If I write a blog, it rarely gets as much reach as a recipe that I post. In fact, frequently recipes get 2 – 3 times the views.
Both blogs and recipes take me a fair while to put together:
– Blogs – take research and then the time to write, edit and post with images etc.
– Recipes – involve an idea for something I feel may be a win for a fussy eater, then time to test, adjust, perhaps even cook a few times to perfect and then time to photograph and post.
If recipes get more views does this mean they are more helpful in resolving fussy eating?
Are recipes really the answer to fussy eating?
And why is it that recipes usually get double the attention of a blog?
1. Personal preference – If you asked me which is the most valuable, I would say the blogs every time. There would be some bias in that though as I love to both write and read and I know that’s not everyone’s comfy space
From an experience perspective though, I know that if you are just beginning your push to resolve fussy eating, the most important things to do are not focused on what foods to serve.
That would never be where I’d start if I was working with a family to help improve eating.
2. Quick fix – Recipes may be seen as an easy or even sensible way to get a picky eater eating. The problem is that a child is not eating widely, so logically, the solution to that is finding foods that they will happily eat.
Although there is some truth in that, generally, it is not the solution. Sure, it’s important that we provide foods that are in the comfort zone for a child.
However, cooking all the Pinterest-worthy, ‘every picky eater will love this’ recipes is not usually as helpful as we wish.
3. It’s manageable – Recipes may seem manageable. In the midst of the ongoing frustration, stress and worry of parenting a fussy eater, finding a new recipe to test may seem a step that is do-able.
This is particularly true if you have a child who is very anxious around food, or one who point blank refuses to even entertain the thought of eating anything that is not a slam dunk favourite.
We know, deep down, this is a far bigger problem than we’d like to admit, but providing a new food option is do-able. Working on all the other challenges emotional, physical and social seems a far bigger undertaking.
4. Blogs are confronting – Blogs are long. They take time to read and time to digest the information.
Often the message is not one we particularly want to hear either. The messages are not ones that say, “do these 3 things and your child will be chowing down the family meal next week”. And if they do, they are lying.
Fixing fussy eating is a process
As much as we may not want to hear this, it’s true.
Anyone who works with me will hear me say this over and over. It takes time, effort, and patience to support a child to eat more widely.
Not only is it a process, but generally, we do need quite a bit of guidance to help us get out of the hole we’ve fallen or been pushed into.
If your child has not eaten well for 1, 2 or 5 years, or if they have never really taken well to food, it’s unrealistic to think that they will magically just snap out of their fussy eating.
Moreover, if a child has gradually reduced their diet, or not added to their diet, for a few years, then turning that bus around is unlikely to be done quickly or simply and certainly not just by finding a great recipe.
Are recipes useful?
Absolutely, recipes are useful! It is always going to be easier to feed a child something that is within their comfort zone than a food that isn’t. The more comfortable we feel with a food, the more likely we are to eat it.
Finding recipes that are similar to something that a child already eats but enables them to take a small step in a new direction is one of the ways I support parents to take steps forwards with their child’s eating.
However, I also caution that a recipe is rarely the answer. It doesn’t matter which question you ask about fussy eating, a recipe isn’t the answer
Recipes are also a great way to gather momentum. If you have a child who is getting a little more comfortable and confident around new foods and is starting to show signs of wanting to branch out, then a new recipe can be magic.
It’s a good way to gently show a child change but in a way that is easier for them.
New recipes can also be a game-changer for parents. If we are stuck serving a familiar rotation of foods, then having some new recipes can make us feel so much better.
I speak with many families where everyone is over the menu options. This is counter-intuitive on many levels.
Why we need new recipes:
1. Boredom – being bored by your food options works against better eating. If we, as the parent, are bored, then what sort of example are our children following?
A big part of our job is role modelling, showing our child how to joyfully eat a wide variety of foods. This is challenging if we don’t look forward to meals.
2. Change – a big part of supporting a fussy eater to eat new things is by showing them gentle change.
If we are eating the same meals over and over again that works against this. Our child builds a comfort level with the 5 meals we serve, but then if we introduce a new one, it’s a shock to the system and often brings the shutters down.
Seeing change is also important for social flexibility. If our child is comfortable seeing a range of foods, even if they are not yet eating them, it makes eating in new environments with different foods on the menu easier.
The first step to accepting something new is seeing change.
3. Challenge – it’s really important that if you do have other children, you are expanding their diet. I frequently see siblings accept less foods over time as they watch a picky eater in action. If we are not serving variety, we are exacerbating this issue.
It’s also important that as parents we are challenging ourselves. It’s a great way to teach our child important lessons around food by the way we do things. If we always have the same sauce on the pasta, for example, what message does that send to our plain pasta eating child?
Are blogs are better?
Although I do think recipes play a part in supporting a child to eat more widely and well, I feel there are critical learnings in blogs that should not be ignored.
Throughout the blogs I write I weave advice that is based on my experience and the experience of the families I work with. Much of this is not just important, but critical in supporting a child to eat more widely.
Yes, I get that it’s a pain to read something that is a few pages long, but there are always some really important lessons included in my blogs.
If you would rather hear them, you can go to Medium and search selective eating and you will find my latest blogs with an audio option so you can listen to them instead!
Do you prefer blogs or recipes?
Judith, MA Cantab (Cambridge University), Post Grad Dip Psychology (Massey University), is an AOTA accredited picky eating advisor and internationally certified nutritional therapist. She works with 100+ families every year resolving fussy eating and returning pleasure and joy to the meal table.
She is also mum to two boys and the author of Creating Confident Eaters and Winner Winner I Eat Dinner. Her dream is that every child is able to approach food from a place of safety and joy, not fear.
Learn more about Judith here: https://theconfidenteater.com/about/