Why is my child difficult to eat? We ask a nutritionist.

Not only is Louise Blanchfield a food expert, but she’s also a mother of two who has first-hand experience with tough meals.

Originally a physiotherapist, over a decade ago Louise embarked on extensive research to create a diet to help improve her husband Richard’s autoimmune disease.

The couple also posted a gluten-free and dairy-free cookbook to help others with a similar condition.

Based in Freuchie, Fife, with their son (15) and daughter (17), Louise transitioned into a nutritionist and is now Food Physio.

Since the pandemic, she has taken her business online with clients across the UK as well as overseas.

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Louise Blanchfield with her husband Richard and their two children.

meal mission

I spoke to Louise about some of the issues that parents and guardians can face when it comes to keeping little people happy at the dinner table.

Louise also shared one of her favorite family recipes, which you can find at the end of this article.

She explains: “From birth, children are attracted to sweet and salty foods. Sweeter things tend to be high in calories, which is essential for growth and survival.

“Meanwhile, the salty stuff has the mineral content needed for brain and nerve development.

“Their tastes start to change when they reach their late teens and stop growing.”

From birth, children are attracted to sweet and salty foods, which can be a factor in refusing certain meals.

Louise adds that the reason young people tend to dislike bitter foods has to do with a survival instinct – they can be toxic.

She continues, “From a psychological perspective, saying no to food is one of the only ways a child can exercise control. They don’t control much else in their lives.

“I was reading a research article that said the tendency to reject food or the reluctance to try new foods peaks between two and six years of age. This is when they try a little harder.

New taste buds

Another interesting fact shared by Louise is that children develop new taste buds every few weeks.

The taste buds die and regenerate. As they age, their turnover and sensitivity decrease.

The taste buds of children regenerate more often than those of adults.

Louise says, “Children’s taste buds change every two weeks. So you have to make them try something at least three times, because by the third time, the taste buds will have adapted.

“What’s important with kids is having the rule that they have to take a bite and then if they don’t like it they’re allowed to say they don’t want it anymore.”

Louise’s tips

First and foremost, Louise says, “Eat what your kids eat – don’t expect them to eat a plate of healthy food while you eat a burger and fries!”

And while she can adapt a meal if there’s a particular ingredient her kids don’t like, she tries to make sure the whole family eats a similar dish.

“If we cook a meal that they don’t particularly like – for example salmon – we will have a piece of fish, fried potatoes and vegetables and I could give them another piece of meat.”

Get your kids involved

When her children were young, Louise used to create a finger buffet that included things like carrot sticks, pepper sticks, olives, chunks of cheese, and a boiled egg.

She says: “Before, I let them choose what was on the plate. The more choices you can include them, the more likely they are to eat the food.

Smoothies are a great way to “hide” good ingredients.

‘Hide’ ingredients

“The other important thing is if they don’t eat it, hide it. That’s where smoothies and soups come in,” Louise continues.

“Kids often love making smoothies because they love seeing it come up in the blender.

“One of my children didn’t like to eat onions, so I made spaghetti bolognese, but the onions, carrots and peppers I used to mix.

“I fried them like you normally would, then put that in a blender with the tomatoes, garlic and whatever you like, then added it to the meat.

“That way they still get all the goodness and they just think it’s tomato sauce.”

Family recipe

For Louise, chicken fajitas are a family favorite. She and Richard will eat them with gluten-free tortillas.

You can mix the chicken with the different flavorings in advance and marinate or chop and mix everything in the frying pan before turning on the heat.


Chicken fajitas

For 4 people

Chicken fajitas.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • ½ small jar without pesto of red or dried tomatoes
  • 1 gluten-free chicken stock cube (crumbled) or pot
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric and ginger
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 large onion, halved, quartered and layered separately
  • 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • To serve: tortillas, fresh cilantro, plain yogurt, grated cheese, guacamole, etc.

Method

  1. Add and mix all the ingredients, minus the vegetables, with the chicken (leaving the vegetables for later) and marinate for a while or simply mix them directly into a frying pan and turn the pan to high heat. Whichever way you do it, immediately spread the chicken pieces evenly and flat using two wooden spoons.
  2. When they sizzle, don’t touch them for about a minute and you’ll see the sauce dry out and start to char against the bottom of the pan – if the chicken is thinly sliced ​​it will cook, don’t worry.
  3. At this point, turn each of the pieces over with your spoons (use long-handled spoons as it will spit grease at this point – if not, you’re not sizzling well!). After another minute on the other side, pour some water into the pan and stir to replenish the fajita sauce around the chicken
  4. Throw in the vegetables and sauté for about an additional minute – with the high heat the vegetables will cook quickly. Add a little more water if the sauce has disappeared and is starting to char again. Stir and reduce until well coated.
  5. Serve the pan on the table and let people make their own tortillas with the other fillings. Or you can serve them yourself if you have smaller children.

Get in touch

Would you like to share your delicate meal stories? Are there any other topics you would like us to cover in our Mealtime Mission series?

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