Tough love: how to tempt fussy eaters

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Sandy (or 'Auntie', as many people call her) is our FIFO Survivor. Her husband works offshore in oil/gas and they've been together for more than 30 years - many of them as a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) family. In that time they've raised two beautiful daughters (both now in their 20s) and moved more than 19 times! Sandy wanted to write for Mining Family Matters to show you can survive FIFO.

I loved a recent article by Jamie Oliver, about getting tough on kids who are picky eaters.

One of our daughters decided at a young age that she would try to defy me. Ha! Did she not realize who would win? The meal was served warm the first two times, then over the next three days it appeared cold. And who ate it?

They quickly learnt I cook only ONE meal in this house. Apparently, 59 per cent of Australian children eat a different meal to the rest of the family.

I didn't go to the extreme of serving up Brussels sprouts and broad beans every night. I picked a meal that each family member liked and cooked them on different nights.

And I have always been strict on the '5 plus' a day. Sure, I had to hide the vegetables when they were really little. (You know -  they started pureed and hidden, then the carrot gradually got a little chunkier so it could be seen.)

I’m not one for pre-packaged food either. Some contain extreme amounts of sugar and salt. I have just picked up a "healthy"  bar from the pantry. It contains about two teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt.

From my experience, once a child has learnt they can manipulate you over food, there is no going back. They know they have you beaten.

We have been lucky in that the girls would give most things a go. The oldest even tried cobra on a recent overseas holiday. Sure, the younger daughter loves nothing better than a pie or a sausage with sauce, but she can also have a very refined palate.

I have involved the girls in the cooking and their grandparents in the growing of produce. Being typical Kiwi girls, they have spent time on a farm and out shooting for ducks. You know - real hunting and gathering. So they realize where food comes from. There was a stage they would not eat vegetables unless Grandad had grown them. We still have a vegie garden and they enjoy being able to pop out and harvest something from there.

Number Two daughter has always been a cook and Number One a little reluctant. But she now lives with me. Talk about a little Nigella and Jamie rolled into one! Turns out she never cooked when she was younger as there was already two cooks in the house. Why bother! Now she sends me to buy ingredients I have never heard of.

The main thing is that they love food, and I know that a bit of tough love in the early days was the very best thing for them.

As Jamie Oliver says: "To love a child is saying no sometimes. It is much easier to give in, but the minute you give in consistently you are in trouble."


More from Auntie Sandy:

If you've got a question for 'Auntie' Sandy or would like to make a comment about FIFO living, we'd love to hear from you. Click here!