The Snack Trap

jelly babies

I realise lately that one of my major battlegrounds with my children is in the arena of food. JJ has always been a fussy eater, preferring baked beans to any other kind of veg, refusing to eat rice, and for quite some time pasta, hating peas, shunning pretty much anything green really. He is also a fiend for demanding unhealthy snacks and I have had very little opportunity to curtail this trend as his father is a lifelong ‘bad snacker’ and huge multi-packs of crisps, cupboards full of chocolate bars and ice cream are always ‘appearing’ in the house unannounced! On the two days of the week when the hubster is alone with the children for any length of time he invariably takes them to the Golden Arches ™ for lunch – I know this because our house is absolutely littered with Happy Meal toys!

It is also a very rare occurrence for us all to sit down together as a family to eat a meal as the hubster’s random and varied shift patterns mean that he is generally hungry at all the wrong times, and I often cook different meals for the children and eat my dinner after they’ve gone to bed.

Lately they’ve been having their meals out in the garden and this has only proved a negative for JJ’s eating habits as he tends to have one mouthful before running off to park the Little Tikes car, shoot head first town the slide or cycle laps of the lawn. Nothing I say can prevent this from happening (he’s suddenly into the “if you say/do that I’m not going to be your best friend” phase – essentially my name is mud for even hinting at an intelligent and sociable pattern of calm and focussed mealtimes!).

His little brother is much better for eating up and trying more variety of foods but he can’t help but pick up on his brother’s bad habits and want to join in.

I will readily admit I am weak-willed, a bad mum, who invariably caves and loses this battle.

I envy others who can parent with their partner as a team and maintain a united front – I feel that this is one key area in which it would be so helpful to break bad habits and instil good ones. Healthy snacks only in the house would be ideal, but I fear that even with this measure in place it would be a hard slog to de-program a child who has come to expect everything from Wotsits to Jelly Babies on demand at any given moment.

I feels like I’m making excuses but I find it very difficult to find the time to lovingly prepare healthy meals that my kids will most likely, eat. Working part time means that the children are all over me when I’m around and they need constant supervision at this age. The last thing I feel like doing after they’ve gone to bed is use any of my precious left over time sourcing and preparing toddler meals.

However, I have had a little success lately and in the past, with a couple of hidden veg recipes. I stumbled across the website of a woman who dubs herself ‘The Sneaky Chef‘. It’s all incredibly American – her real name is Missy Chase Lapine!! But I quite liked her coloured purees. Purple – blueberries and raw Spinach leaves blitzed; Green – steamed spinach, broccoli and peas); White – cauliflower and peeled courgette. I have in the past made her chocolate brownies with the purple puree (sneaky spinach – tee hee!), and lasagne with the green puree sneaked into the tomato sauce and the white sneaked into the cheese sauce! I actually made the lasagne (minus sneaky white puree) last week and just as an example of how fussy JJ is, even though he likes carrots, he made me pick out all the finely diced pieces he came across because he didn’t like the ‘crunchy’ texture (which frankly amazes me as those babies had been fried, boiled and baked during the course of preparation!).

Another recipe that I tried out last week was a new one for me (recipe here!) although not dissimilar to an Annabel Karmel recipe I tried last summer – Sainsburys Little Ones chicken burger with grated courgette and sweetcorn in the patties (I also substituted grated apple for grated carrot as I know JJ has a love-hate relationship with our little orange friends). I thought this might go down quite well as they tend to enjoy food which is easy to pick up with little hands and dunk generously in ketchup! EJ did so well, finishing off his two burgers whilst JJ did at least (eventually) get through one and a bit with a bit of broccoli & carrot on the side – broccoli getting another look in thanks to pre-school!

I really liked this recipe as it is pretty much a meal in a burger with the chicken, fruit & veg, breadcrumbs and an egg in there to bind as well. I’ll definitely make these again, although maybe not immedidately as the children are also wont to go off things previously enjoyed for no apparent reason other than over-familiarity!

I have to say that I always feel happier when healthy food has gone in – I feel like a better mother, I feel calmer and more in control. So when I read about other people’s children snacking on pro-biotic muesli bars and happily swigging pure water it still gets me down, but at least I know I’m trying (unless its a bad day and then all I want is happy children and I’ll just have to live with the sugar rush!).

*Just as a footnote to this – I have to share this question from JJ yesterday as he carefully examined a half chewed jelly baby: “Mummy, why does sugar hate teeth?” – difficult to answer but gratifying to know that this fact is bouncing around inside his little head!).


31 thoughts on “The Snack Trap

  1. Oh hon don’t beat yourself up so much! You are NOT a bad mum. You’re doing your very best often on your own. I think we’ve all inadvertently fallen into the snack trap at points – being aware of it and conciously trying to change things is the first and most important step to actually changing xx

    I have a few healthy recipes here if you need inspiration:

  2. This is a very interesting post. It sounds to be as though you’re on the right track already: knowing it’s not good for them and making some healthy meals. Don’t beat yourself up about being a bad mum but just slowly introduce some better habits. Unfortunately none of this comes without some steely determination but you can do it! Perhaps try talking to your husband first and be united in it? Kids copy their parents really.

  3. There is so much I would like to write here that I think perhaps I should do a whole post so will be brief and say that I know exactly how frustrating this can be. Take heart though -my first child would eat anything at weaning stage but then refused all fruit and all vegetables, I think as a reaction to his brother arriving. Now at aged 20 he will try anything, loves cooking, encourages me to cook new dishes and eats extremely healthily even though he’s away at Uni.
    I’ll get writing about what we did and link up to your post. in the meantime, it sounds to me like you’re being an amazing mum trying lots of different things to encourage your children to eat healthily so be proud of what you ARE doing and don’t feel guilty about what you’re not.

    • Oh that’s so good to hear that they grow up to be normal eaters after all!! I don’t consider my husband to have particularly normal eating habits – he’s not as bad as JJ but he is a fussy eater and there are lots of things which are off his list. *sigh*. It makes me wonder what *his* mum & dad did or didn’t do…I’ll be very interested to read your post! 🙂

  4. you are not alone. 😉 . At one point my little one only wanted Nick Nacks ( a type of crisp/chip you get here) I replaced Nick Nacks with “Sour Cream and Chived flavoured mini Rice Cakes from Vital” Now I feel much better if she eats these since they are at least healty.

    • Oh yes, the sneaky snack swap! I am aware of Nick Nacks! We have Wotsits, Hula Hoops, Skips, Quavers – basically any kind of fried potato based snack *sigh* and unfortuntaely there is no way JJ would let a rice cake pass his lips! 🙂

  5. Don’t beat yourself up honey. We’ve all been there and the snack thing is a slippery slope. I was in a biscuit disaster zone not long along but I managed to erase them from the kids diet in 3 days. I just stopped buying them. I bought savoury wholemeal crackers instead and weaned them onto them with ever decreasing drizzles of honey, but these days they normally just have them with butter. It was a hard 3 days, but they forgot about the biscuit tin surprizingly quickly – much quicker than I did! As for sneaky veg, it’s a tricky one. I tried sneaking some calliflower into a cheese sauce the other day but my 3 year old said it ‘smelled funny’ and wouldn’t go near it. He’s like a sniffer dog when it comes to searching out unwanted veg! Good luck and stop beating yourself up. You’re trying your best and you’ve got the right attitude. That’s all you can do. x

    • Wow – savoury wholemeal crackers sound quite nice. I would eat that! I have to say that I do get asked for apples and bananas as a snack sometimes or they will eat yogurt raisins and I’m starting to buy Organics oaty bars again (they went off them for a long time – that over-familiarity thing). So its not all bad. I know what you mean about the sniffer dog thing – I have fallen foul of that before too – its either the smell or the slightly altered texture – little bloomin’ food detectives!!

  6. Oh my – you are so not a bad mother hun! You are trying and it can be really hard. My youngest is the same, she is so picky and as I have a 16 and a 14 year old that often buy there own junk food it makes it really hard to get the six year old to eat something healthy! All you can do is keep trying and hopefully your persistence will eventually pay off 🙂 #sharewithme

    • Thanks so much Denise – its nice to know I’m not alone on this battleground! And it is harder when there are older children (or husbands who sometimes might as well be one of the children 😉 ) bandying naughty snacks around! Oh well, I’m sure it’ll all come good one day…

  7. Ah honey I feel your pain but as everyone else has said, you’re doing your best and that’s all any of us can do! The fact that you care enough to even think about it proves you are not a bad mother, at all! Food is a constant issue in our house and we take a pretty hard line with snacks, mainly because both hubby and I are fussy eaters and we want to try everything we can to make sure Monkey eats healthily. But it feels like a full time job in itself sometimes and I’m not gona lie, there are days when it’s just easier to let him eat peanut butter on toast for lunch and then fish fingers and chips for tea. I celebrate hugely when he happily eats something like a homemade veggie burger (he doesn’t always) as I know he’s got some veg in. No matter how hard I try though I swear there are some things he will NEVER eat and when I see my friend’s kids eating sandwiches with leafy lettuce in, I sink a little inside. Some kids are always going to be fussier than others I think. We just have to try and get the best food in them that we can, but it’s not easy, especially when, like you say there’s bad food always around!! God knows how I will manage his fussy eating when we have a second child to think about too! Sorry for the mega long comment but chin up, you’re doing well! xx #sharewithme

    • Sounds like you and the husband have at least got a united front. I sometimes have *weeks* where its easier to let him eat beans on toast for dinner every day! At least I know that’s one of his five a day! It was a bit like this the first couple of months after EJ was born – JJ’s diet was the first thing to suffer – that was one of the ways he chose to protest! I know exactly what you mean about sinking a little bit inside. I think ‘don’t be so smug!’ when I hear anyone expound on their toddler’s love of cucumber and cherry tomatoes! I have a friend who is a bit of an earth mother who says her daughter’s favourite foods are sushi and raw fennel. Now that just strikes me as either weird or just plain showing off! Bloomin’ baby led weaners!! 🙂

      • Lol and OMG she can’t be serious? Surely? If so then that is plain weird! I wish Monkey would eat beans, he has a random few days where he likes them and then months where he won’t! Like you say at least it counts as 1 of 5 a day! Soup is our winner at the mo as he loves soups – and they are packed with veggies, phew! We had burgers last night and could only get him to eat some burger (we struggle to get him to eat meat) if we put some inside a plastic hot dog bun. Wouldn’t touch it otherwise! Honestly, some days it’s just about whatever works!! xx

  8. Ah, honey, I know exactly what you mean. The boys were great, although I don’t believe in withholding treats as I think this causes more problems in the long run, but the wee girl is awful and I find it really hard to say no as I’m on my own with her all day and there is only so much whining I can take! At least most of the snacks she wants are fruit, so not bad in themselves, but then she won’t eat a meal! Argh, I really do feel your pain 😦

    • At least you are in control and can limit the bad snacks that come into your house. I’m convinced that if I had a health food loving partner then we could have got a handle on this better Or maybe if I’d baby led weaned and not been so scared to introduce foods that he might hate and throw across the room. Can’t help but feel its all my fault but then again, as Tracey from One Frazzled Mum says, all is not lost, they may just come around eventually!

  9. hahah I love his sugar hates teeth question. Brilliant! I can relate so much to this with Buba he is a nightmare to feed at the moment. Somedays he goes to bed without his dinner as he point blank refuses to eat anything. I used to panic when I was a first time mom about what goes in his mouth and how much. I would have gave him every snack in the world just so he wouldnt starve to death during the night. Not going to happen. I have two now and while Missy Moo eats everything in site, I am so laid back now about what Buba eats. He will not go hungry I hate the worse diet growing up and probably still do but didn’t do me harm. As long as they have nutrients somewhere in their diet throughout the week. I am happy. My midwife told me it doesn’t matter whats eaten in one day its the average of the whole week. Doesn’t help I still get frustrated, mad and down right give up and give him weatabix for dinner because that’s all he wants. lol Not a bad mom at all! Just a mom and we all can relate to this. I think. Great post though. Nice to get comments of others and what they do and try. Garden eating is the hardest for us too but so tempting with the nice weather. So many distractions. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

    • Ah thanks Jen – nice to know I’m not alone in this battle! I guess we all just do the best we can in the end. My Mum always used to say to my nieces (at least one of whom was a particularly fussy eater and wouldn’t eat anything she considered to be ‘wet’ ie gravy, sauce of any kind), as long as you try new things its OK not to like them and not to eat them. Its the willingness to try that matters. I always have to remember that because now my niece is a good eater and will have most things. Thanks for hosting hon! X

  10. I so identify with your amazement when you see a child drinking, nay, even *requesting* water. *Honestly I tried!!* Mine just weren’t buying into it.

    • I feel doubly bad about this Denise, because my step-daughter is a complete martinette about it having been brought up by a dental nurse!! We were forbidden, on pain of death, from giving her anything to drink other than water or milk when she was little, until the point where she is now old enough to baulk at the mere mention of the L word (lemonade) and take us rudely to task for letting JJ even suggest it, let alone drink it! She above all makes me feel like a bad mother fighting a losing battle – whilst her mother did everything right of course !!

      • LD#1 hated water so much she would actually not drink and stay thirsty. Although now she is into healthy eating and living it’s back to the water! But I agree that they know what they like and sometimes they just don’t like the sensible stuff and there is nothing you can do about it.

  11. What a great post. I honestly don’t think there are many mums that face these issues because eventually all kids come into contact with ‘bad’ foods and us mums do have to choose our battles to balance our busy lives. My son ate fish fingers, waffles and beans for a number of years. He’s 6ft now, rarely sick and has over time become aware of what a healthy diet is and knows he needs to eat more variety. It will get easier #sharewithme

  12. You are so not a bad mum! My husband is not a healthy eater, no fruit at all and barely any veg, but he is good at the united front thing and he’s here for mealtimes, which I do think helps. Little Man is fussier than Boo, and asks for chocolate on an hourly basis. She will happily snack on fruit and breadsticks, he wants chocolate & biscuits! So, they have both. They do like their fruit which is good, though less interested in veg. They eat a lot, so I think they get good stuff in there amongst the chocolate?! Oh, and they only drink milk at bedtime and then water all day (with the odd delight of a Fruit Shoot on a day out!) – it’s all they’ve ever had & I only drink water all day, so that’s dropped lucky for me. I’m sure it’ll change when they start school and are surrounded by cola drinking pals, so I’ll take it while I can! It’s all a balance, isn’t it? Sounds like you’re doing pretty well, and I like your sneaky veg things!

    • Thanks Jocelyn – glad its not just me with a bad snacker for a hubby! 🙂 My two love innocent fruit smoothies and I was happy to give them these as drinks every day until I realised that they are so bad for teeth and also not so great for EJ’s digestive system – he needs less fruit juice/squash and more water really. Easier said than done! Don’t be so sure that your kids will go off good things when they start school – my stepdaughter has been brought up to drink water and milk only – with almost religious zeal – and she is like the police of her own self nowadays, refusing any sugary drinks at all no matter who else is having what! Having said that I do remember her being a little upset at a party once (she was about five) when every other child was given a Fruit Shoot and she was sooo conflicted back then! My two only have milk at bedtime though, I’m pretty strict about that one as I don’t think there’s much point in anything with sugar after they’ve brushed their teeth – but I’ve told JJ that even milk has sugar in it so he is aware of that.

  13. I have this same problem in our household. Sometimes I feel like I am using mu husband as an excuse to how bad my motherings skills are. But he is really a snacker and my son adores his Dad and copies him hence hin eating more junk food as well. I am like you trying to make him sit on the table and eat. I have been doing this for the longest time but its still not working. I am not giving up on it… yet. I am also trying to make him eat veggies. But the real thing that I am hiding from people is that I spoon feed him on the table. I am trying hard, very hard, so hard for him to eat his own food but its just not working. He is going to be 4 soon and we are still doing this. I am .. still woking hard to have him eat by himself, behaved on the table. Its a battle mostly mine. I would want to not see it as a war but it really is. #ShareWithMe

    • Merlinda I think you’re beating yourself up worse than I am!! Let me just tell you I was spoon feeding JJ up to and probably beyond the age of four because he’s just been a bit lazy and uninterested and I just wanted to get some food into him one way or the other! With EJ there I’m sometimes doing alternate spooning into alternate mouths!! You’re definitely not alone on that. The thing is I know he is capable of doing it on his own and in a social setting like school he will because there literally won’t be anyone there to spoon feed him! X

  14. Ugh, mine are terrible eaters. We hide veg all the time and they just seem to know! I try not to stress but its not easy sometimes. They all eat in the end and luckily fruit is popular round here and they know there are no ‘treats’ if they haven’t eaten dinner. Hope yours improve for you!
    x x

    • Well at least you sound like you are strict about not letting treats get substituted – I really try to do the whole ‘nothing else if you don’t eat what you’re given’ and he will nearly always eat at least some of what he’s been cooked but I always cave and give him lots of top up snacks and dessert afterwards.

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