Monkey Ate Pasta!!!! (and how we made mealtimes happier)

I’m sure the title of this blog left a few puzzled looks in it’s wake. It sounds daft right? Why on earth is this loony excited that her son ate pasta? If you have read about any of our, erm, challenges with Monkey’s Fussy Eating over the past 7 months then you may have an idea why this statement makes me so ridiculously happy that I ran around upstairs waving my arms in the air with glee after dinner. If not then I will explain.

At 13 months old Monkey went from a Pasta-lover to a Pasta-phobe. It wasn’t just pasta – almost overnight loads of his favourite meals slipped out of favour. When you served them up, the look on his face was like you had scraped s**t of your shoe and put it in front of him. I actually think he would have been more interested in that than some of his previously favourite meals. It made me so miserable when I would try and make something he would like and he would just pick at it or put it in his mouth then spit it out, or just sit there screaming and wailing and refusing to eat.


Cue months of googling and desperation. Months of mealtime battles verging on force feeding. Months of misery. How did my baby who ate a more varied diet than me, who ate nearly everything put in front of him, suddenly stop liking so much food? We’ve had ups and downs, it hasn’t all been quite that hideous but you get the idea. I know that I am not the only parent faced with this nightmare at mealtimes and thankfully I found lots of support on-line and with friends and family.

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Before the days of fussy eating – eating everything!!  

We tried lots of things but we weren’t always 100% committed to it if I’m honest. We were subconsciously pandering to him by giving him food that he likes rather than face a battle, but that backfired as he soon stopped eating some of the meals that we were previously so sure he would. I was giving him too much at snack time because I didn’t think he would eat dinner anyway – can we say self-fulfilling prophecy? So hubby and I had a serious chat about it and decided enough was enough and have gone down a hard line and followed the following advice.

How we made mealtimes happier with our fussy eater:

Cook one meal for all the family. It feels cruel (and depressing) making a meal that you’re pretty sure they won’t eat – but you have to give them a chance and as I said giving him foods I thought he would eat didn’t always work either. Do not offer an alternative if they won’t eat it and do not give any pudding. This terrified me at first but honestly he has gone to bed without any tea a number of times and  slept through the night absolutely fine.

No food until the next meal/snack time. I guess older kids it may be mealtime but because of his age we felt too cruel saying nothing til 6pm if he doesn’t eat lunch at 12 (cruel for me having to cope with the misery that would entail anyway). A couple of times we have re-offered the missed meal again within say 1/2 hour of the meal but that’s it, and snack time is a good few hours after lunch anyway as it’s after his nap.

We have cut down his snack sizes, we made sure that there was always a big enough gap between a snack and a meal – to make sure he is hungry enough at mealtimes. He never drinks sugary drinks anyway and we have cut down the milk he was drinking before mealtimes, and increased dairy at other times.

No reaction whatsoever whether he eats or not. We initially were praising him when he ate well but then I read that that can put pressure on them so we stopped and it has made a HUGE difference. We praise him for using his fork and spoon well and we just keep saying how yummy our food is, and we talk about a lot of other things, but NOT about whether he is eating his food or not. If he doesn’t want to eat it he gets down but we stay to eat and he gets nothing else and no reaction. 

When he is finished he is finished. He doesn’t have to clear his plate. All part of ‘no pressure’. If he has tried everything and eaten pretty well then we offer him pudding – some fruit or something usually but occasionally a treat if we have one.

Get him involved with food preparation. You can read a bit more about this here – initially it terrified me, and still does in some ways – but all the time spent in the kitchen definitely makes him more interested in food and more likely to try it. In fact he would like to be in the kitchen all the time now because he associates it with yummy food!

The main rule -DON’T GET STRESSED! Nope, don’t.  Just don’t! Even when he is crying, or playing with his food or picking at it and pulling a disgusted face. No stress. Deep breaths. Actually we found playing with food is a good sign – touching it at all is a step in the right direction and one step closer to the food going in his mouth. Some things even go in and out of his mouth a few times before he finally goes mmmm, yum, yum and scoffs the rest. Sometimes he gets down and then comes back again. We just leave him to it and I figure we will worry more about manners once the good eating has solidified!

It hasn’t been plain sailing by any means – there have been very difficult days and even whole difficult weeks where he has been surviving on 2 meals a day (breakfast + either lunch or dinner) every day, resulting in a grumpy little monkey. BUT – the light at the end of the tunnel is that his eating has improved SO MUCH!

He eats baked beans again – which he had started to refuse. He eats tomato sauces again which he had refused for months. He eats sweet potato which he had gone off recently. He LOVES soups – all flavours and colours. He loves his Veggie Burgers again. He loves having a fruit pot for pudding. And the biggy – he ate a whole meal of pasta and he LOVED it!

I’ve been thinking about a post like this for a while but there was one thing holding me back. Pasta. We have played with it, cooked and dried. We have served up a variety of shapes and colours of pasta, different flavour sauces, plain, cheesy, nothing. No can do. I was trying to reconcile myself to the fact that maybe he just doesn’t like pasta? It’s possible right? But urgh, all of the meals that we have with pasta, will he not eat any of them?

Then, tonight, we tried this amazing recipe for Roasted Garlic One Pan Mac and Cheese from Taming Twins. He was in the kitchen while I prepared and actually enjoyed eating a lump of cheese for the first time I think ever while I was grating some. He then tried some out of the pan and loved it. We sat at the table and he LOVED it. Scoffed the lot. Couldn’t get it in his mouth quick enough.

My tummy was doing somersaults and I was grinning from ear to ear. Daddy and I were shooting happy, mushy looks at each other, holding hands across the table and feeling so darn proud of our little boy who was eating pasta. Trying so hard not to break the rules and gush our happiness to Monkey, no pressure, no pressure, no pressure. It’s making me well up as I type this, how ridiculous right?

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Mealtimes now are the complete opposite of what they were, they are a happy place and one of my favourite times of day. When up until recently they have been the time of day I have dreaded more than any other. Previously the site of tantrums and tears – mainly from me – now they are a place of smiles and giggles and cleared plates and puddings.

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I’m not saying that now he will eat absolutely anything that we put in front of him – but it is a HUGE step in the right direction. He may still go hungry some nights but that’s ok because he is getting such a good varied diet all the rest of the time. Yay!! 🙂

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88 thoughts on “Monkey Ate Pasta!!!! (and how we made mealtimes happier)

  1. What a massive breakthrough and worth all of the changes you made to get him back on the road to eating the food he loves! (well…loved but now hopefully loves again!) #MagicMoments

  2. I definitely agree with cooking one meal for all the family. I remember not really liking some of the meals my mum gave me, but that’s just life. As long as everyone gets their favourite at some point in the week I think it’s fine. #parentingpinitparty

    • Exactly, you can’t please everyone all of the time and we try to make really tasty meals every day. I’m sure there has to be some meals he will prefer but he needs to learn that he can’t demand his favourites every night. Variety is the spice of life! 🙂 xx

  3. awww honey i am so so glad Monkey has turned the corner and its starting to eat more for you, there is nothing worse than struggling to feed little tots!

    thanks for linking up with #MagicMoments x

    • It was a huge step for us and he has eaten pasta again since so we are so grateful for your recipe! 🙂 Ooh yummy will look forward to trying that 🙂 xx

  4. That’s brilliant – my wee girl is by far the fussiest eater out of my lot, but I just let her get on with it, she eats when she’s hungry – but that’s a lot easier to do with your third 🙂 Having said that, I’ve had some stressful days when I feel like she’s eaten nothing! I’m so pleased to hear that Monkey is making such progress x #MagicMoments

    • Oh it really is! Honestly it’s been a nightmare and I’m not sure I’ve coped that well either! A lot of anxiety and guilt!! Thanks for the kind words xx

  5. First off, I am so happy for you, as I know how much it’s been a real struggle for you and his eating. We have the same problem now in this house. Buba use to eat everything in sight, now his favorite meals he turns his nose up at. We spend hours at the table begging him to take a bite. So frustrating, hair pulling all the time now. I hate meal times. He won’t eat pasta at all either. I am going to try this recipe see if it helps. I know what you mean when you say it melts your heart he is eating again because I am suffering from it too and it would melt my heart just to see him eat one bite of pasta willingly. Thank you so much for linking up! Your little one is way too cute, in all your fabulous photos.

    • Thank you! I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through something similar, hope you find something that works for you soon xx

  6. I know exactly where you are coming from. Monkey would eat anything until the day he hit his 2nd birthday. The last 2 years have been interesting at times, stressful, tearful and so on. But we keep chugging away. One day I might be able to persuade him that potato in any form other than chips are not the food of the devil! #SSAA

    • oh it’s so frustrating isn’t it!? Ha ha I hope things improve for you!Funny how it seems to be the simplest of foods that are the worst, pasta and potato, who’d have thought? xx 🙂

  7. Aw that’s absolutely amazing! I’m so excited for you! G won’t eat pasta, he did to start with until 10 months but now he spits it out and dry heaves. The same with fruit and veg now too. He’s 22 months and becoming so difficult to feed, I am certainly going to take what you’ve said on board and see how he gets on

    • Thank you! Aww I’m so sorry you’ve been going through it too, its such a nightmare isn’t it? Monkey was like it with so many foods too. I know every kid is different but I hope that what we did works for you too, it wont be easy and it’ll take some time but it’s really worth it when they start eating again!! 🙂 Good luck! Xx

  8. I had the same with my Monkey so I sympathies! all good now though, and nice to see your Little man is progressing 🙂


  9. Well done! I too have had many battles with my fussy eating son, made worse by his dairy allergy which narrows his choices.

    At times it has driven me to despair.

    Phew eats ok now but is still fussy. I will take your tips and show them to my husband to see if we can use some to help encourage him to try new things. #pocolo

    • oh my goodness that must make it so much harder, as it’s even more limiting so I’m in no doubt you’ve despaired over it! I’m glad he’s better but it’s always worth trying something! Good luck and I hope it works for you! xx

  10. It’s great that you persevered until he became ‘unfussy’ again. It can be such a challenge at meal time. My son loves seafood unlike my daughter. Now I regularly make them a stir fry with chicken and prawns. One meal for me to cook. One meal that makes them both happy.

    • Oh that sounds like a great idea, you have to do whatever works for you and your family don’t you and at least that way everyone is happy 🙂 xx

  11. That is great! I am sure you are so happy and relieved, and you have every right to be. Our youngest is a very very very fussy eater, and every little thing we manage to get him to try or more than that – love feels like winning such a huge battle.
    You are right about the no pressure rule. We also found it helped him to start eating at school, because he will try more there, and also we were recommended a star chart by the cognitive psychologist, though I have to say we didn’t do it.
    Good luck!

    • Thank you, oh we really are! I am completely with you there and hope you are winning more battles than you lose! Good luck to you too 🙂 xx

  12. Sounds like you’ve had a tough time but I’m glad things are looking up. My son is only seven months and only starting weaning but already I find myself getting stressed about how much (or little) he is eating, even though I know I shouldn’t!

    • Oh it is so difficult isn’t it because you just want what’s best for them. Thank you, we are so relieved things are on the up! 🙂 xx

    • You are more than welcome and I really hope it helps! Every kid is different but it really has made so much difference to our lives! Good luck and I hope she eats better soon xx

    • Oh I really hope it works or you, they’re all different but it’s worth a go. I know what a nightmare it can be so wish you the best of luck! Really hope it helps xxx

  13. Well done you for sticking to it and good advice for other parents. We only had one sticky period where my eldest stopped eating but we were tough. She went on naughty cushion, had no dinner and no attention. It took 4 days before she decided to be “a good girl” at meal times and we’ve had no trouble since. Definitely agree that you should only cook one meal and offer no alternatives 🙂

    • Yeah sometimes you have to take the hard line sometimes, it would be so easy to give in and let them eat their favourites but you just make it harder in the long run I’m glad you found a way that worked so well for you too! xx

  14. Ahhhh bless, I’m glad for you all that things are improving!!! Must be horrible that sudden change, I have always thought I’m so lucky that Arthur right now loves to eat anything but this is a good reminder for me to not take it for granted!! x

    • Thank you so much! It was really hard – I thought we were doing everything so right and it was going well then suddenly a switch was flipped! It’s taken a long time to get back on track but it’s a relief we have finally done it! xx

  15. The joys of the food battle, I also have the battle scars. Feeling like you are force feeding your child is not where you want to be. I’m so glad you have been able to turn a corner, we have also been there, don’t say anything but LOOK LOOK LOOK at what he is eating ;0). Your advice is perfect, there is nothing worse than having to cook two dinners. If we feel Ethan hasn’t had enough or any dinner we always offer milk before bedtime, this doesn’t happen that much now. Congratulations little monkey on making fantastic progress and eating all your pasta.

    Thanks for linking up with Small Steps Amazing Achievements :0)

    • you are so right and it always helps to know you’re not the only one who’s been through the battles – or are still going through them! I hope you are winning more battles than you are losing! Thank you and thanks for hosting xx

  16. How amazing is this!! Fussy eating battles are tough as we are making slow progress through one ourselves so EXCELLENT to hear that your little man has overcome a hurdle. You must be so proud!

    Thanks so much for sharing and linking up with the #MMWBH xx

    • Thank you, we are honestly SO chuffed and he is doing so well. Of course there are some things he’s still not keen on but mealtimes are so much less stressful now! I hope you are winning more battles than you are losing! xx

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  18. Having a very random eater at home I can totally sympathise with your emotions. We tend to follow your steps but even at aged 8, her diet is less than fantastic I have to say! Well done on getting through it though and I hope you are still enjoying happy mealtimes xx

    • Thanks Iona, we still have ups and downs but are definitely in an up and definitely do better when we follow the tips! Shame about your daughter, it can be so difficult can’t it? We’ll see how Monkey gets on as he gets older! xx

  19. Where were these tips 10 years ago. I now have a 12-year-old picky eater. Love your strength in this battle. It’s easier now, she’s old enough to make her own if she won’t eat what I make for the family. Funny how pasta becomes appealing when the alternative is cooking for yourself!

    • Thank you, believe me it isn’t always easy but t does seem to be paying off at the moment! I love blogs and the internet for parenting advice I have to say, not sure where I’d be without them! Sounds like a plan with your daughter and hope it pays off 🙂 xx

  20. Your excitement oozes from this and what a wonderful post it is too! We tell our little bear that ‘pasta make you go faster!’ and make up rhymes to most foods to coax her! #TheThemeGame

    • thank you, ooh I do love that we did get Monkey to eat a whole bowl of spaghetti the other day (for the first time) and I think telling him it was Peppa Pig’s favourite food definitely helped with that! 🙂 xx

  21. Some great tips for fussy eaters… Cooking just one meal for the whole family is a good one – I remember a few hungry evenings myself! We are lucky that Mushroom eats well – when he sits still long enough! Glad you’re making good progress #thethemegame

  22. I left this window open and hubby saw it and read it and he said your Little Monley is like our son. The only difference is that he is still a fuzzy eater up until now. We went to his new school last Tuesday and I am so stressed when I notice how its a dinner. I dont know how my son would react to food there. I am so scared that we would make a booboo. Good thing that most of the kid there are busy playing with each other so my secret is well still a secret. I still spoon feed my son otherwise he wont eat. I dont know how to solve this problem and I only have few more months to solve and make him eat by himself. I need to do it before September.

    • Aww bless, sounds like it is really difficult, we really struggled for a long time, although Monkey wouldn’t let us spoon feed him, he would turn his head, scream or spit it out so that was never an option for us past a certain point. Make some rules, stick with them and persevere, I really hope you find a solution that works for you and your son! xxx

  23. Oh wow so pleased on the progress. My 4 year old is still a fussy eater, 19 month old eats literally everything (was trying to eat my lipstick the other day too!)-I think the key for us was not to make meals a big deal and not ever force him to eat and he’s getting better daily. Such cute pics! Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

    • You’re absolutely right – it is so easy to worry and fret and then make mealtimes so stressful, which has completely the opposite effect you are going for! Hope your little man continues getting better 🙂 thanks for hosting! xx

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  25. Great post and I’m sure this will be so useful for A LOT of people. I can’t imagine how stressful it must have been for you when he was refusing to eat anything. You’ve done really well to get back to this point, long may it continue. 🙂


    Jenna at Tinyfootsteps xx

  26. Wow good for you! It is so easy to get caught up in being stressed about it when they go through these phases, but you took advice and dealt with it amazingly by the looks of it! Big mummy pat on the back for yourself I reckon!!!! x

  27. I can totally relate to this! My little one has also pulled the picky-eater 180 on us! She was a great eater…and then suddenly she wasn’t. It can be so frustrating! Glad yours has starting turning it back around! Going to try your method and see if it will work with mine 🙂

  28. So glad that you managed to turn the corner with Monkey this one and got him to eat pasta again. Great tips here. I remember Jessica going through a similar stage and I went through a phase of feeling like I was running a restaurant offering several options but now dinner is what it is and either she eats it or she doesn’t. She still has picky eating phases (we have a bit of one going at the moment where I silently wonder if my children are on a hunger strike as Sophie is entering the picky eating age too) but these are much shorter-lived if I don’t react to them and mealtimes are less stressful for me too. Lunchtimes I will often do a little platter with a few different things which means that usually both girls will at least eat something and they both like fruit in between meals.

  29. I’m so impressed with the resolve you showed to get to this stage Caroline. I wish I could be that tenacious! Instead I tend to give in to requests for a lot of c**p in order to stave off the tantrums and misery. It’s a vicious cycle really and the problem is that if I give in to one I have to give the same to the other as well. I wouldn’t buy all these crisps and things but the husband seems to stock this stuff everywhere when I’m not looking – in bulk! We have got to a point with JJ where he will try things (he doesn’t have to eat them if he doesn’t like them) and I think he eats quite a variety at school now too with the free dinners – he often comes home with a dinner ladies ‘special award’ sticker which must be a good thing I presume?! EJ is now going through a weird phase of hardly eating anything. He’s always been better with food than JJ too so I don’t really know what to do about that either. I think you’re so right about ‘no pressure’ though – I have gone mental in the past when JJ hasn’t eaten a lovingly prepared casserole but even as I was doing it I knew that it would backfire on me – possibly long term – aaargh! Such a blooming minefield 🙂 I like the way you’ve put your main points in different colours by the way. Great post and perfect for The Truth about too. Xx #thetruthabout

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  31. We’ve been going through exactly same with our little girl. She decided to eat some rice a week ago, first time in about 8 months and I nearly cried! Picked up some great tips from your post. Like you have done loads of research but a lot are unclear about pudding if refuse main meal. Hope things keep getting better for you all!

    • Ah yay, so pleased for you, it can be so hard can’t it? We still have ups and downs but a lot depends on how strict we are with the rules tbh! When we slack off, his habits get worse again :/ xx

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  35. wow what a turn around. We follow some of the things that you do with my 4year old otherwise he would live off snacks and never eat a whole meal. Thanks so much for linking up and hope to see you again #weaningwednesdays x

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