Fussy eaters in the family?
It’s normal for children to be fussy eaters – that is, to not like the shape, colour or texture of particular foods.
It’s also normal for children to like something one day but dislike it the next, to refuse new foods, and to eat more or less from day to day.
This all happens because fussy eating is part of children’s development. It’s a way of exploring their environment and asserting their independence. And it’s also because their appetites go up and down depending on how much they’re growing and how active they are.
My experience of feeding a fussy eater
Ah, terrible twos. I personally wanted to rename it terrific twos but with my son’s tantrums and eating habits, I couldn’t. Every day was a struggle. It’s not because he was eating air but because he was very particular about what he wants to consume! He would choose rice over oats, puffs over veggies, and biscuits over fruits.
Handling the stress of picky eaters at mealtime is a struggle for many families
As a mother, and someone who studied nutrition, I wanted a variety of healthy foods for my child and refused to give in to the monotony of this menu. I started reading & researching on the topic and discovered that I was definitely not alone and that this was all normal and part of most children’s development. These are a few of the tips that I have gathered through researching for my own family.
Top Tips for Feeding a Fussy Eater
- Eat together.
One of the simplest things you can do to encourage great eating habits in your child’s early years is to sit down together for family meals. Toddlers learn how to eat by copying their parents and other children. Try to offer him the same food you have. If you like it, your toddler may be happier to give it a try.
- Get rid of any distractions!
“Dad placed a great deal of importance on mealtime. He had a very strict rule. When the family starts to eat, the television is definitely turned down.”
Seriously though, turn OFF the box and put the handheld technology away (that means you too, mom and dad). Children get very easily distracted and overstimulated.
- Maintain consistent rules
It’s very important that parents of fussy eaters maintain clear and consistent food rules in the house at all times.
So if your child refuses a particular food that they have previously enjoyed, don’t be fooled; IT’S A TRAP! They’re hoping you’ll offer up something sweet as an alternative. If you do fall for this, your child will quickly learn that refusing vegetables results in something else being offered. So consistency is the key.
However, if your child continues to reject the meal, it is probably because they are simply not hungry. Toddlers have small stomachs and grow at a slower rate than babies, so it is completely normal for them to eat a lot one day, and very little the next. That leads me to…
- DON’T USE THE FORCE!
Whatever you do, don’t force them to eat, or insist they finish everything on their plate. By doing this you’re risking creating a major issue around food, as well as generating a power struggle over something that’s really not worth it.
- Presentation is everything
Toddlers and children are very observant. Before they even start eating, their eyes are observing what has just been put in front of them. If it looks gross, they’re going to think it tastes gross.
So keep it colourful, neat and interesting. It literally takes an extra minute to re-arrange their food into a smiley face, or make the Triforce out of veggie sticks.
Also, try preparing foods a different way. If your child hates steamed cauliflower, try mashed or roasted cauliflower.
- Introduce new foods gently
Offer your toddler just one new food at a time, and try not to make a big fuss about it. Give him a taste before putting a whole serving on his plate. Just a bite is enough. This way he won’t feel overwhelmed, and it won’t seem like a waste of food to you.
Bear in mind that you may need to offer a new food between 10 times and 15 times before your toddler’s willing to try it. If he becomes reluctant to have a particular food, stop offering it for a while. You can always try again when he’s a little older.
- Avoid empty calories
Avoid empty calorie snacks like crisps or soft drinks and keep a supply of healthy snacks on hand – maybe have a low shelf in the fridge with cut up fresh fruit and other healthy foods. When little ones are hungry, they won’t wait.
- Prepare a meal together
Getting your child to help with meal preparation, no matter how little, will lead to them being more likely to eat the food as they now have an ‘ownership’ of the meal and feel proud about helping out.
At the store or market, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. When you get back home, encourage your child to help you put the food away, arrange the fruit, or rinse the vegetables.
IT’S NOT ALWAYS EASY, BUT IT’S WORTH IT!