Column: Dealing with the fussy eaters in your family!

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When it comes to organising your meals for the week, you may find there are many issues that can interfere with making this easy.

Hands up who can relate to – not enough time? It may be that your working hours are long and getting home to create a gourmet meal of Gordon Ramsey standards with a list of ingredients as long as your arm just won’t happen.

How about another issue that provides another layer of complications to “what’s for dinner?” – following a weight loss diet?

You may be able to relate to the quick rush into the supermarket, frantically trying to find the healthiest, most nutritious option, but then give up and come home with the shop meal deal because it was the easiest thing.

The one problem that I hear about the most, though, the one that causes the most stress with organising the family meals is - FUSSY EATERS!

To come up with just one meal that everyone round your table will all eat is a challenge, but coming up with a whole week of dishes is insurmountable.

With three children of my own and a wealth of issues experienced with picky eating, fussiness, fads and just plain annoying behaviour, I have had to come up with my own inhouse system that I do pass on to clients and it’s one that I have used for years.

If you attended my last workshop on Healthy Lunch Boxes, you will already be educated on the Three Food Rule and I hope you have tried applying this to your family.

As the evening meal is something we ought to be using as a celebration of our family life, it’s a real shame many of us have conflict over a plate.

What is the Three Food Rule? My family members are given three foods they are each allowed a free pass on. This means, these three foods will never appear on their plate, with no argument. This requires thought and prioritising from them if there are lots of things they won’t eat.

For example, my eldest son has the following – aubergine (too soft), pumpkin (also too soft) and sweet potato (just wrong, apparently) and I will make sure when I cook, these ingredients aren’t used.

Obviously, the more children you have, the more foods you could have on your list but there is still a positive to this.

Children (and adults) can be picky, but it really isn’t possible to eat our favourite foods every day (I’d look like a piel de sapo melon!) so this Three Food Rule allows us to work out the difference between a food just not being our favourite and a food we really don’t like.

Part of growing up and learning to live with others is about not turning your nose up at foods that just aren’t your favourite.

Accepting the meal, enjoying the time at the table, the chatter and respecting the time and effort used to make the dish is essential. It’s basic good manners.

You will need to be strong, patient and unrelenting to create this new ethos, though, if you have had issues with fussy eaters for many years.

Go in with this new way of thinking determined and ensure your family knows you mean business.

Yes, there will be arguments at the beginning.

Go into the Three Food Rule accepting this. Have the response “It’s not on your list, it’s just not your favourite” and change the subject. Most of all, have confidence.

If your child is fit, healthy and the right weight and size for their age, accept their missed meals and shrug.

They won’t starve, they will eat, but don’t let your boundaries be changed.

So, run into the supermarket and make your dinner lists with a new found energy. Using the Three Food Rule opens up a huge array of ingredients, makes food planning easier and creates a no-nonsense approach to meals.

I will return next time with a recipe and a tool box with how to create less combat at your kitchen table.

Food should be enjoyed as a family as it brings us all together.