Toddler trials and tribulations and avoiding them at mealtimes


My two year old is very wilful which I love. Why would I ever want her to be a compliant follower? I want her to be fierce and strong and kind too.

We have tantrums and frustrations regularly. Quite often over getting undressed, “I want to do it” she tells me through cries and stamping her feet. it’s tricky to try and get your elbow out of a sleeve isn’t it!

Parenting makes me want to be the best person I can. In the midst of these moments I try and draw on strength to keep the boundaries in place with kindness so I am doing so with an understanding heart. That way I hope teach my children how to be strong and kind too.

If the boundaries are allowed to be pushed we end up in a power struggle where no one wins, and I don’t want to go there.

But I’m not moaning, because most of the time, she’s just about perfect to me.


This is the age (usually from around 18 months depending on the child) when fussy or picky eating can start. And this is what’s happening for me! So I am having to remind myself of the basic advice that I usually give to parents. It’s pretty simple.

Start as you mean to go on

As long as your little one has been able to play and explore food from weaning age, had a wide variety of different (unprocessed) healthy foods, not been given salty/sugary foods regularly, then fussy eating shouldn’t be a problem long term.

From what I have experienced, children who have only ever been spoon fed (no finger food) and especially readymade meals can tend to be fussy eaters. Imagine if all that you’ve eaten has always had similar taste and texture and you’re not used to touching food. You would be a fussy eater too.

Whether you wean traditionally with  a combination of finger food and purees/mashed food or go down babbled weaning route, either of these approaches will give your little one a good start.

If your child won’t eat veg at all, there is a great resource designed by Dr Lucy Cooke at UCL. The pack is called Tiny Tastes and costs £7.99 including p&p. It’s been evaluated and the results, showed this approach had positive impact on children’s eating habits. Findings were published in the peer reviewed journals including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Psychology Science. For extreme fussy eating you need to speak to your GP who can refer you to your local dietetics service.

New foods

Up until around 18 months babies are open to trying new foods. Research shows that giving a new food once in the first year can double a baby’s intake of that food when a parent offers it again at mealtime.*

When toddlers start to walk and become more mobile, some develop neophobia (a fear of new foods). Academics think that young children have evolved in this way to prevent them from eating toxic or poisonous substances that they might come across in their immediate environment. So any food that they do not recognise as ‘normal food’ is seen as a potential danger and is a means to protect them from being poisoned. It tends to peak at between 2 and 6 years old but older children can be neophobic , particularly if parents/carers limit the variety of foods they eat.**

So you have about a year from weaning to introduce as many different foods as possible. And as much as possible.

Food refusal

For some children refusing to eat food they’ve happily eaten before is a great way to get your attention. So don’t give too much, just tell them it would be great if they do eat it. And if they do give them lots of praise and if they don’t then take the plate away at the end of mealtime without saying anything. Vying for attention with a sibling can be another motivation.

Sometimes too,  it can be a way to exert their independence.

It’s all about taking the charge away from food (i.e. keep it neutral) so that it’s not something they can use to get a reaction out of you.

I do find this particularly hard, I pretty much cook from scratch all the time, so when food’s pushed away, I have to keep a poker face.

If your child refuses to eat their main meal then do offer them a pudding, as again this keeps things neutral. You just need to make it something that nutritious! So something that’s fruit based and/or dairy based. And not high in sugar, that’s right, not high in sugar!

Never withhold food as a punishment.

Also if they’re hungry just before bed and this is may be due to not eating enough at teatime, then make them something plan like bread and butter.

Refusing old favourites

Sometimes children will suddenly hate or dislike something they’ve happily eaten for ages. It’s possible their tastes have changed, but sometimes it can be a way to get attention/exert independence. So the best thing to do is still offer the food, a little on their plate (not touching other foods if need be!) and praise them if they eat it or take it away at the end of the meal without comment if they don’t.

Try it

If they tell you they don’t like something or they won’t eat it. Just suggest they try it and that they don’t have to eat it, just trying is enough.


Research shows that when children eat with their peers their more likely to try previously refused foods. Lots of parents will find children happily eat foods at nursery that they refuse at home, part of the reason for this can be because their being influenced by other children. So if you know any children who eat really well get them round for tea!


A good barometer is what your child eats with other people. If your childminder or nursery tells you that they eat well, then there may be a power play going on at home. So look for ways to address it.


So try not to change the foods you’re giving them,  don’t offer more appealing (salty/sugary) foods because you know they’ll eat them happily. This way they’ll just learn that if they refuse the healthy stuff they’ll be offered the treat stuff.

It can be so tricky – last week the toddler had molars coming through too which added another reason not to eat.

Writing this has helped remind me of what I need to do, if you’ve got any other ideas of things that help you please comment – its always good to hear about other people’s experiences and ideas!!

*Reference quoted in a section I contributed to Soil Association’s Nursery Food Report : Birch et al (1998). Development of eating behaviours among children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 101, 539-549. Quoted in Dovey TM et al. Food neophobia and ‘picky/fussy eating in children: A review. Appetite (2007) doi:10.1016/j.appet,2007,09.009.

**Reference again quoted in Soil Association’s Nursery Food Report : Rozin P, (1979) Preference and affect in food selection in JHA Kroeze (Ed). Preference, behaviour and chemoreception (pp 289-297) .


Green juice with watermelon rind and chlorella

IMG_3437Argh!!! This blog post has been sitting in “drafts” for ages. New job, demanding toddler and other things that keep me in the present moment means blog posts tend to languish in drafts or floating round my head!


Like most people with juicers I go through phases of using mine daily and then something will happen, a change in routine and then suddenly it’s back in the cupboard and forgotten about. Initially when I started juicing around 10 years ago, my juices were probably two thirds fruit to a third veg. And now they tend to be mainly vegetables with one or two pieces of fruit to add a little sweetness but not too much sugar.

Juicing is a great way to use up produce that would get thrown out (as long as it’s not too far gone!). This can make for some interesting juices, and you might find some tasty combinations.

Juices and smoothies made mainly from fruit have a high sugar content, so while they’ll be providing you with lots of vitamins and minerals, they will also be contributing to your sugar intake.

Don’t forget your straw

The one thing that’s missing from this photo is a straw, as I had run out of them. Straws help protect your teeth against any free sugars in the juice. If you don’t have a straw have a glass of water after your juice to wash away any lingering sugars.

In this juice:

1 stick of celery

¼ cucumber

Few handfuls of mint from the garden

2 apples

Half a fennel bulb

Chunk of ginger

Watermelon rind

Teaspoon chlorella powder

I would usually put a lemon in too (peeled).

Also I always put green some leafy veg like kale or spinach.

Watermelon rind

My lovely friend, Julie Ann put me onto the idea of using water melon rind in juices. It’s great as means you get no waste at all. The seeds too can be lightly toasted too. Watermelon rind is high in phenolic antioxidants, lycopene, flavinoids and vitamin C . Diets rich in all of these help to reduce our risk of getting cancer.


Chlorella is green algae. As a supplement it comes in a powdered or tablet form. It’s been popular for some time in Japan. And there is evidence that it could help removing heavy metals from the body.

It’s reported to be the richest natural source of chlorophyll which makes plants green transforming sunlight energy to plant fuel.

In one study (which is small) 44 pregnant women’s blood, fat stores, breast milk, placenta and cord blood were measured for dioxins. Half the sample took chlorella supplement and the other didn’t. The researchers found that women who took the supplement had 30% lower levels of dioxins, compared to the control group.

There is also research that suggests that chlorella helps to remove toxic heavy metals out of the body (not clear whether just from digestive tract or also from tissues and muscle). It is thought  that the cell wall binds to the toxins so that they are excreted with the cell walls when stools are passed.

It has a thick cell wall that human enzymes cannot break down, so if you buy it you need to ensure you are buying broken cell wall chlorella.

One study found that it may support immune system. You can read more about it’s possible positive effects at the Linus Pauling Institute page

It’s high in fibre, vitamin B12 (so a great source of B12 for vegans – Vitamin B12 is found in Meat, fish and dairy products in the main, so is a vitamin that vegans need to ensure they get enough of in their diet ).

It’s high in iron too. Because it’s from a plant source this means it is better absorbed alongside vitamin C, so including it in your juice as powder or taking the tablets with your juice is the perfect way to take it, as the juice will be contribute lots of vitamin C.

It’s also high in Vitamin D2 and iodine.

In terms of meeting nutrient requirements (for a woman aged between 19-50 years*), a teaspoon of chlorella will provide at least 100% of your recommended vitamin B12, and over a quarter of your recommended iron intake. It will also provide just under a fifth of recommended iodine intake (iodine supports thyroid function). Vitamin D2 is the plant form of vitamin D and is not so well absorbed by the body as far as we know but it may contribute some depending on how it’s stored and processed and metabolised by the body.

*If you’re interested in knowing how much of these nutrients chlorella would contribute to the diets of other age groups, send me a comment, happy to look this up for you (will be based on UK Recommended intakes).

Chlorella references

Information from Linus Pauling Institute :

Morita K, Ogata M, Haegawa T. Chlorophyll derived from Chlorella inhibits dioxin absorption from the gastrointestinal tract and accelerates dioxin excretion in rats. Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Mar; 109 (3) 289-294

Nakano S, Takekoshi H, Nakano M. Chlorella (Chlorella pyrenoidosa) supplementation decreases dioxin and increases immunoglobulin a concentrations in breastmilk. J Med Food 2007, Mar; 10(1) 134-42.

Weaning recipe #3 and family meal: Last of the Summer bean stew

Just made this for supper tonight. I’d forgotten how good it tastes (wasn’t convinced as I was cooking it but adding lemon and olive oil to the cous cous adds flavour without relying on salt, and the lemon rind lifts the sauce. I didn’t have red onions and I forgot the puree but it still went down well. Makes two meals for family of 4 and costs about £7 to make. The chickpeas and haricot beans provide good high quality protein, and it’s just a great, light Summer stew..

Annie's Dorset Kitchen

We had this this for supper a few nights ago. The photo above is of the leftovers we had for lunch the next day. I didn’t have time to chop the stew up into smaller pieces for my baby (this stew works best with chunky vegetables) – I am always in a last minute rush when I make meals – so I gave her chickpeas and haricot beans and some veg to eat with her fingers along with the stew which had been briefly whizzed.

Now that she’s 9 months old she’s really honed her pincer grasp and sits absorbed at the dinner table picking up small pieces of food. Some of those pieces of food she casually drops on the floor but most do end up being eaten.


Peppers and courgettes are only just in season in the UK but not for long. I  buy organic (as much as…

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